There has been a lot of discussion lately on the merits of story telling vs good writing. While it behooves us, as writers, to position our words on paper in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, precise adherence to the rules is not always necessary and can actually disrupt the reading experience. Let me explain.
As I read, each word or phrase immediately forms an image in my mind. As those images come together, a motion picture of the story develops. If the images fit together, then the motion picture continues without interruption. However, sometimes those images are out of order and I have to stop the movie and re-wind. Story comes to a halt.
The general rule is that you should always write in the active voice. This works fine for action scenes but does not always work when writing descriptions. For example; let's say you want to describe a castle and where it is located. In active voice, you might write "The ancient castle sat on a pinnacle of rock'. As soon as I read 'ancient castle', my mind conjures up the image of a castle, maybe on a river or in the center of a city. Who knows where my mind will place it. Then I read that it is located on top of a pinnacle. Now I have to completely re-imagine a different castle that would fit on top of a pinnacle. Motion picture stops.
Now, if you wrote that same description in the passive voice, it would go something like this: "On top of a large pinnacle of rock, sits an ancient castle". As I read this, my mind forms an image of a large pinnacle and automatically positions the correct shape and size of castle on top of the pinnacle. The motion picture continues without interruption.
For me, another rule that will stop the story in its' tracks is showing vs telling. While showing can add dimension to a story, some writers will try so hard to show me something that I have to stop and re-read to make sure I understand what they are saying. In those instances, I wish the writer would just tell me that the character is 'boiling mad' and get on with the story.
When I'm reading, I always picture the author sitting across from me, drinking coffee or sipping on a beer, as they take me for a ride in one of their tall tales. If that writer starts to take on the aspect of an English lit professor in a suit and tie, I will get bored and leave.
I don't believe I am alone in this, considering how some of the most popular fiction writers of our day, receive the harshest criticisms. Critics complain that their writing is abysmal and does not meet current standards.
I don't know about you, but I would much rather produce a whale of a story that, hopefully, thousands will enjoy, than a grammatically perfect piece that only a few will appreciate.
Do you read stories the same way? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences while reading.