I was reading a thread on AbsoluteWrite that mentioned that while Stephen King’s storytelling skills may be flawed, apparently he is one of the best writers around. I have read a few of his books, but I could never really get into them. His writing is also a bit too simplistic for me. But this got me thinking about what I prefer in a book: good writing or a good story? And this is with the assumption that the quality of the writing doesn’t ruin the quality of the story, and vice-versa.
For me, I prefer the story any day over the writing. Books are about telling stories. Books can showcase the authors’ writing skills, but books are first and foremost about the story. I have read books with brilliant writing, but the stories were so dull that not even the writing made the book memorable. In fact, there were a few books with brilliant writing whose stories were so dull I stopped the book before I even finished it. I would have given these books bad ratings. No amount of good writing would have influenced by ratings in the least.
I also think brilliant writing is subjective for every person: To an extent. Blatant bad writing is blatant bad writing and this will kill the story for me, but I’m not talking about books with blatant bad writing. In any case, to me, brilliant writing and a good story go hand-in-hand. How can a great story happen without brilliant writing? I still prefer a great story over good writing because I have read books with grammar errors, but they weren’t enough to kill the story for me. The book just needed another proofread. For others, even if the writing is sub-par, but the story is stellar, they are able to forgive the book for its weakness in the writing department. Look at Twilight. The writing is fairly bad, but even some experienced writers will argue it has a good story (and I won’t argue whether or not I like it). And then there are others who are so by-the-book with grammar that starting a sentence with a conjunction seems sinful and might even ruin the story for them.
The point is, the mistakes I find in books are not going to ruin the book for me, especially if the story is strong. I’ll wish the book would have had another proofread, mostly for the writer’s sake because of the reviewers out there that nitpick, but it won’t kill my experience or even influence the rating I give.
I am a writer who wants both my writing and story to be memorable, but at the end of the day, I want the story to be remembered because stories influence people more than good writing. With a good story, the writing can be marveled as well. But I just can’t marvel the writing without a good story.
So, what takes precedence for you? The story or the writing?