Judging Quality

Posted on March 28, 2011 by

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WilliamFaulknerFor those of you who wish to read more about my opinions on the Amanda Hocking and DexRaven conversation, I have more to say on the subject, but I’d like to discuss the idea of quality a bit first.

at the start of things…

across the stars far away from our own planet not just thousands but TRILLIONS of miles away

you’ll find the [ JAKS ]

In the huge regions of outer space, the gigantic stellar star systems roll on on and on, in fact some species will never meet, some will be in their infancy growing, learning and thinking as they gaze into the night sky at the wonders to behold, that shining star, the outline of other planets or moons or or..

The people who have spread their wings and have encountered other alien races will be friends, allies or enemies; simple as that ! but all will have one common denominator in amongst their numbers which is where

you’ll find the JAKS

Actually its a short version of [JAKLAKLING ] though normally applied to males the [JAKLA ] being female.

All shapes, sizes, shades and so many to behold.. ! Some have body markings like tatoo’s, sometimes from birth, genetic or at some stage of growth as an infant into adulthood these marks may show or be given to them to signify who they are, a sign to others which might demand love or subservience ?

Hmm oh yes, slavers, slave owners they exist, cruel savage merciless traders who would sell their own grandmother to make coin or to command land or simply to get some peace and quiet … we’ll not go there !

This is bad writing. I copy/pasted it from an author’s website then changed it quite a bit to protect the author from malicious Googling. The italics are original to the text.

“Listen at you, now.” Luster said. “Aint you something, thirty three years old, going on that way. After I done went all the way to town to buy you that cake. Hush up that moaning. Aint you going to help me find that quarter so I can go to the show tonight.”
They were hitting little, across the pasture. I went back along the fence to where the flag was. It flapped on the bright grass and the trees.
“Come on.” Luster said. “We done looked there. They aint no more coming right now. Les go down to the branch and find that quarter before them niggers finds it.”
It was red, flapping on the pasture. Then there was a bird slanting and tilting on it. Luster threw. The flag flapped on the bright grass and the trees. I held to the fence.
“Shut up that moaning.” Luster said. “I cant make them come if they aint coming, can I. If you dont hush up, mammy aint going to have no birthday for you. If you dont hush, you know what I going to do. I going to eat that cake all up. Eat them candles, too. Eat all them thirty three candles. Come on, les go down to the branch. I got to find my quarter. Maybe we can find one of they balls. Here. Here they is. Way over yonder. See.” He came to the fence and pointed his arm.

Whatever one thinks of Faulkner, this text is superbly written. It is nearly impossible to deny the skill with which he walks the line between crafting a work of beauty and the clear indication that his narrator is of below-average intelligence or otherwise mentally hindered.

I chose Faulkner rather than one of my own favourite authors to illustrate that we as readers are capable of distinguishing clearly between authorial voice and the voice of a viewpoint character.

Many inexperienced writers claim that errors in their work are a form of artistic expression — that the reason their novel is unpublishable is because readers cannot distinguish between the art and the craft of their work.

As a few paragraphs of Faulkner demonstrates, this is a mistake.

True, one could argue that in the home galaxy of the JAKS, writing like the above excerpt is the pinnacle of intellectualism. I have no reason to believe that this is not the case; in a novel’s mythos, the author makes the rules.

But I don’t believe it, and neither do you. Even if we were to believe the author’s explanation, why does it matter? The passage is entirely indistinguishable from (forgive me) ungrammatical, uneducated verbal slurry.

I think that most amateur writers have eyeballed the competition. Since my signing, I have become one of the worst offenders — as I said in my previous post, I greedily devour unproven fiction, published and unpublished — figuring out what is up for bestseller status (the subject of a different post) and, more interesting to me, the psychology of the not-yet-successful author.

There are a few kinds of amateur author I’ve spotted. Most write the kind of fiction that will never quite be publishable, but is at least somewhat readable. Some write fiction that might be publishable, with a good editor and some serious grunt work.  A very few have a lyrical authorial voice that reaches out to me and makes me hope for their luck. The remainder write like the poor author of the above paragraphs, or worse.

In every group there are people who hope fervently that they are an undiscovered genius — and in every group, save the last, this pattern of thought is something I understand and deeply empathise with.

The latter group is one I seek to understand above all others. Their hope approaches delusion, but some of them cling to it so tenaciously, they have convinced themselves they are undiscovered masters of the art — as did the above author.

His website is filled with praise: written in a similar voice to his work, in quote marks, no sources cited. To make matters worse, it’s also a dizzying maze of Web 1.0 graphics and layouts, suspiciously grainy and bright “official” seals and images, and baffling introductory pages proclaiming his company’s dedication to quality and the charities that will share his profits.

I am only a curious onlooker; I am no psychologist, nor anything more qualified than a BA philosopher. However, for what my opinion is worth, I should like to offer it nonetheless, in the hopes that it will be momentarily thought-provoking or of some small interest.

I believe there are two explanations for phenomena like these — which may exist in varying degrees in different individuals.

The first explanation for this kind of behaviour is a deep denial of truths that is rooted in unpleasant emotions such as depression or fear. The person is first confronted with his desire to succeed, and then the inability to succeed — finally, unable to accept the hopelessness of his situation but unable to give up his desire, denies his incompetence as best he can for as long as possible.

This denial is, I think, made easier by modern beliefs (led by a culture of monetary meritocracy) that all persons can, if they want to really really badly, succeed to an equal degree. No, worse: that it is their Human Right to be the intellectual (or whatever) equal of their neighbours without putting in the work required. Perhaps even superior to their neighbours! Who says they can’t, anyway?

I digress: the point of fact is that denial must play some part in most such cases.

The second explanation is somewhat more involved and, fascinatingly, has some evidence to support it, known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. I would do a very poor job of describing this theory, so I shall hand over the stage to YouTube user TheraminTrees, a student of psychology (skip to about 1m10s if some political/religious rhetoric bothers you — after that time the video is entirely about the topic at hand):

I find this video fascinating. I hope to learn more about the subject at a future date, but until then, this explanation satisfies me.

Suggested Reading:
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values –  Robert M. Persig