Monday, January 30, 2012

Quality over readers?

I have returned! But, before you read this blog post, please make sure you've read this one: Disappointment. It can be considered a prologue to this one as it introduces the main question we will consider. Should we sacrifice quality to make something that our readers enjoy?

Sometimes the human heart refuses to be challenged. Sometimes the human mind does not want to exercise. It is a good thing to have our hearts challenged. We need to get out of our comfort zone more often. It is a good thing to exercise our mind for we cannot learn if we do not exercise with something new. In writing there is a challenge. It is the challenge of interweaving take away value and pleasure. This can be done easily and smoothly, but there are times when it is difficult.

The writer can craft a rich, aesthetically pleasing story that is read by hundreds of people. But if the writer does not add any take away value (something to be learned from the story) all he really gave those readers were a few moments of pleasure that they will ultimately forget within a short amount of time.

The writer can create a story where the take away value is seen everywhere. The writer can create a story that is flooded with value and things to be learned. But, my dear friends, this makes for a rather boring story. This kind of writing is found in textbooks and cliche, dry novels, particularly Christian ones. I do not want to pick on Christian novels since there are many good Christian writers (myself being one) and novels out there. But, in brutal honesty, many Christian novels seem to be terribly cliche and the values are so vivid that the reader chokes and dry-heaves on them.

So, now that we see both extremes of the question, what is the answer? I believe that at no time should we ever sacrifice the quality, and by "quality" I mean take away value and memorability, of our writing in order to create something the reader will read. If you, as a writer, have something to say to the reader (even if it is a touchy subject) then just say it! It does not matter if you get many reactions or few reactions. If you believe it will touch someone whose heart is willing to be challenged then it was worth writing.

Remember, fellow writers, you always need to interweave take away value and the pleasure/enjoyability in your writing. But you also must remember never to sacrifice quality to give the reader what he wants. If you have a message say it! The quality is always inside the message of the work.

Joshua A. Spotts

P.S. I apologize this was not posted sooner. I meant to post it on Saturday, but I did not have any internet access that day. Sunday I spent with my family. This evening I spent writing this for you.


  1. I'd add that this isn't necessarily a "Christian problem". A lot of what is called "contemporary" literature (which is shoved down the throats of public school students, which I used to be one of) is simply awful.

    Just to give you some examples, Bone, by Fae Myenne Ng, and The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier both bombed, IMO. I couldn't really relate to the characters, and I just wasn't interested in the stories. I'm sure other former public school students can give other examples, but my point is that secular writers can also write novels that are overly didactic and are unenjoyable.

    1. Why do writers need to thrust their beliefs into their stories? If a someone is truly a Christian, then wouldn't Christian values and attributes naturally be in the story? A character might have a major moment where he forgives someone who harmed him. In the right context and story this becomes a beautiful and memorable moment. The message should be subservient to the story, otherwise why wouldn't a writer just write an essay?

    2. You bring up a good point here, Eldritch. I believe that the moral values of writers will always find some way into the writing. Also I agree with you. It is the message that is found within the story and it is the story that presents the message. But writers should not skip around their message, fearing the repercussions.
      Thank you for your comment. I really look forward to reading more of them.


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