What makes “good” writing?

The first time I sat down at the computer and wrote out “Chapter One”, I was reading Twilight. Now, I’d already watched the first film without knowing that it had been a book beforehand, and when I found that out I was quite annoyed, because I always prefer to read the book first. But when I did start to read the book, it was about two hours later and I was halfway through it that I realised I was completely in love with Bella Swan, completely in awe of her feelings for Edward Cullen and actually considering buying a plane ticket to visit the small town of Forks, Washington. I will, one day. It’s on the list.

My question: What was it about the characters, about the location, about the story, that made me feel almost depressed about the fact that it wasn’t real?

Twilight is universally loved and loathed. In equal measures. Being what they would call a “Twi-hard”, though I don’t actually like this term, I’m one of those who love it. But I keep hearing people saying that it’s “poorly written” (sometimes in meaner words than these). My first thought about this is: “wow, people are rude”. My second is: “who the f are you?” Bit harsh, maybe, but it’s true.

Is it ever somebody’s right to say that somebody else’s writing is bad? What is it that makes good writing?

Since I started wanting to be an author, I’ve grown more considerate. Before this, I would happily say that a book or a poem or a film was “crap”, with absolutely no justification for my loathing for it. I now find it incredibly rude, because who am I to say that it’s crap? Why am I, one person in a world of billions, stating as though it’s fact, that what I’ve just watched or read is “crap”?

You might think I’m reading into things too much. I might well be. But nowadays, if I don’t like what I’ve just watched or read, I’ll say that I didn’t like it. I might even say that I hated it. And then I’ll reel off my reasons as to why. It’s still not nice, necessarily, but at least I’m not stating as though it’s fact, that it was crap.

For instance, I wasn’t sure how I felt about 50 Shades for a long time. At first, I was into it. I thought Ana was hilarious. Her language – although terribly colourful – made me laugh. The story was gripping; most of the characters held my interest. Please note how I say “most”. There was one character who just didn’t sit right with me – one extremely central character – and that was the one thing that makes me look back and say that while I didn’t dislike 50 Shades of Grey, I didn’t exactly like it either: Christian Grey.

Can I just inform everybody here that this is my opinion, and my opinion only. I’m not speaking negatively about E.L. James’s writing, because as I’ve already made clear, I don’t believe in doing that. But when I was reading her book, I just couldn’t build a rapport with Christian. And that was a problem with me.

It sounds shallow, but given the whole subject matter of the book, I do think this is an important factor: perhaps it was because I didn’t think he sounded attractive. For example, his long, thin fingers made me want to squirm. Perhaps it was because each time I tried to picture Mr Grey, I’d imagine him blonde and sort of Matthew McConaughey-looking, so every time he was described as “copper-haired”, it threw me off. Or perhaps it was because he was just that little bit too confident and authoritative for me, and I couldn’t imagine him being the scared young boy that Anastasia sometimes saw when she looked into his eyes. That was it: I didn’t believe his character. Which was why I couldn’t fall in love with the book.

Can I just repeat that I am in no way saying that E.L. James’s writing is bad? Again, I am one person in a world of billions, and most people I’ve spoken to who have read the book have loved it.

But this brings me back to my point: what makes “good” writing? I don’t think there’s an answer for this, because it’s highly, highly subjective. My question should probably be: what makes you fall in love with a book?

I’ve realised that for me, it is absolutely the characters. I can read any story, as long as I feel like I could spot the characters in the street, walk up to them and make friends. I want them to make me laugh. I want them to make me want to cry. If they’re young, I want to feel protective of them. If they’re older, I want to look up to them. If I can’t, it’s most likely a no-no.

So, my question to you readers: what makes you fall in love with a book?

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