October 17, 2017, 09:24:35 PM

Author Topic: Is "Talent" Subjective?  (Read 2678 times)

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Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #75 on: August 10, 2017, 11:47:53 PM »
Exactly. Now, you're getting it. Since objectivity requires things to be "in the realm of sensible experience" of ALL people, nothing is objective. Everything is subjective because everyone functions based on "reality as perceived". There is no such thing as "reality independent of the mind" when judging talent (or judging anything).

So, if you disagree with me then you prove the point that everything is subjective (because not ALL people agree).

The problem with what you're saying is that then, by your definition of life, NOTHING is good, nothing is bad, objectivity doesn't matter because everything is filtered through entirely subjective filters.
So the books you defended earlier, 50 Shades and Twilight, are not good, or bad, they're just what you perceive them to be. Which is good I take it, while I see them as rather bad, but by your words they are nothing in themselves. Just pieces of paper with ink on them, ready to come into existence as someone picks them up.

You do the same thing that Descartes did, however. He basically proved that the only certainty he could have, was that he thinks, and therefore he exists. The problem with that being that he had a very hard time proving that anything else was real as well.
It's not a tenable option. There are objective perceptions of writing because there are rules to writing.
Grammar and Orthography are the most basic ones.

If everything is subjective, then "wRitin lik Dis...." is not bad, and probably beautiful and appealing to someone.

For all that this is sadly possible (there are book written in texting slang being sold), we're discussing mainstream, published authors and their work, and getting a work published normally implies you respect the basic rules of "writing something people will want to buy".

Since such rules exist, it means there has to be some objective element to the craft.

Also, you can't say "There is no such thing as "reality independent of the mind" when judging talent (or judging anything)"
Because one can judge many a thing, and most of them are a reality independent of the mind. From deforestation to murder through the quality of a big mac...
Spoiler for Hiden:
And you're battling windmills with such arguments. "Oh everything is subjective, let's not imprison that serial killer, he saw each crime as Art and I kinda agree it was cool and esoteric."
That's not how society works.

This : "So, if you disagree with me then you prove the point that everything is subjective (because not ALL people agree)."
Is also kinda wrong. I'm not proving anything by disagreeing with you. And just because people don't agree doesn't make a thing untrue. No amount of people spitting on Botticelli's talent will make him less of a talented painter.

If you want to get into finicky philosophy, let me introduce you to the term of Zombie.

Quote
A philosophical zombie or p-zombie in the philosophy of mind and perception is a hypothetical being that from the outside is indistinguishable from a normal human being but lacks conscious experience, qualia, or sentience.
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/zombies/

So I could argue that I only have proof of my own existence, and nothing in the world can prove to me you have qualia and sentience. Hence, disagreeing with you only proves you wrong, and only my opinion matters.

Alright, joke aside.
Disagreeing with you does not mean things are subjective. Because not everything is subject to your opinion and taste.
F = G*((m sub 1*m sub 2)/r^2) is the formula for gravity, and your opinion on it is irrelevant, and so is everyone else's. The only way you can disagree with this is through some hard maths, and good luck with disproving gravity.

There is also, indeed, the possibility that you might be wrong. You could defend to the death that a sentence is correct, while every dictionary argues against you that it is full of typos.

In our original argument "is there an element of objectivity to talent in writing, and if so how big", your opinion might be "yes", but someone else thinking "no" doesn't mean that "everything is subjective".
Gravity is still holding you to your chair.

We are debating whether the craft of writing is objective or subjective... and thinking now, why it can't be both?

Let's put this one to rest :

The craft of writing, like any craft, is objective. Its value and appreciation are subjective.

What do you think of that, for a clean start on the topic?  ???

Let me defend it :

Making a perfect chair is an objective craft, and joinery takes years of practice (especially the japanese way!). But no two chairs will appeal to the same people.

Your hard sci-fi :



Their romance novel :



Regardless of preference, both require skill to create (or else we'd be excavating those from prehistorical sites all over the place), and that skill took generations working out on objective knowledge, like making joints, manipulating wood products, and calculating whatever maths you need for that shit to hold your lounging self, all of this took us a while to acquire (or else we'd be excavating those from prehistorical sites all over the place).
Whether you'd rather have one, the other, or a leather poof, is unrelated.
Discussing talent in this case is only a matter of knowing how we'll define it, and then whether we believe in it or not, and applied to writing or not.

I think we really can't say "I like curvy chairs over angles, I think that designer has talent". Now that would be biased.
We need to find what elements mark talent.

Though to be honest, since talent doesn't guarantee a publication, or reader notice, and publication and reader notice do not guarantee a writer's talent, I'm loathe to see the point of the entire conversation!  :-\ Feel like it's a bit hard for me to say that though.  ;D
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Offline Not Lu

Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #76 on: August 11, 2017, 01:42:56 AM »
Exactly. Now, you're getting it. Since objectivity requires things to be "in the realm of sensible experience" of ALL people, nothing is objective. Everything is subjective because everyone functions based on "reality as perceived". There is no such thing as "reality independent of the mind" when judging talent (or judging anything).

So, if you disagree with me then you prove the point that everything is subjective (because not ALL people agree).

The problem with what you're saying is that then, by your definition of life, NOTHING is good, nothing is bad, objectivity doesn't matter because everything is filtered through entirely subjective filters.

Once again, I have never said that. All I have said is that talent is subjective. That different groups use their own subjective measures to judge talent. Ironically, they claim their measures are objective (likely because it's important to them that they are right - but now I'm imposing my subjective measures in judging them).
 
So the books you defended earlier, 50 Shades and Twilight, are not good, or bad, they're just what you perceive them to be. Which is good I take it, while I see them as rather bad, but by your words they are nothing in themselves. Just pieces of paper with ink on them, ready to come into existence as someone picks them up.

Once again, I did not, at any point, defend 50 shades or Twilight. Nor did I ever say that they were good works. Nor did I say they are nothing in themselves. What I said is that millions of other people liked the work and that it would be beneficial to writers to find out what the authors did to make the book resonate with so many people.

As a side note not relevant to the conversation, I haven't read either of them because they didn't interest me.

You do the same thing that Descartes did, however. He basically proved that the only certainty he could have, was that he thinks, and therefore he exists. The problem with that being that he had a very hard time proving that anything else was real as well.
It's not a tenable option. There are objective perceptions of writing because there are rules to writing.
Grammar and Orthography are the most basic ones.

If everything is subjective, then "wRitin lik Dis...." is not bad, and probably beautiful and appealing to someone.

You made a huge mistake there. "wRitin lik Dis" was way too creative. I found it kinda cute. Now If I tell others about it, it will become a trend and before you know it everyone who is anyone will be writing that way.

Also, you can't say "There is no such thing as "reality independent of the mind" when judging talent (or judging anything)"
Because one can judge many a thing, and most of them are a reality independent of the mind. From deforestation to murder through the quality of a big mac...

Once again, you prove my point. Deforestation is abhorrent to some, but not to the starving farmer who is cutting down trees to make farmland with which he'll feed his family. Note: subjective judgement based on circumstance. Also, though most people find murder wrong, the murderer finds merit in the practice.

On the subject of big macs, NOW YOU'VE GONE TO FAR! DON'T DIS THE BIG MAC.

And you're battling windmills with such arguments. "Oh everything is subjective, let's not imprison that serial killer, he saw each crime as Art and I kinda agree it was cool and esoteric."
That's not how society works.

Once again, you're proving the point. You're using rules that "society" has pulled out of their fanny and calling them objective. Societal rules are clearly subjective or else every society would have the exact same rules.

This : "So, if you disagree with me then you prove the point that everything is subjective (because not ALL people agree)."
Is also kinda wrong. I'm not proving anything by disagreeing with you. And just because people don't agree doesn't make a thing untrue. No amount of people spitting on Botticelli's talent will make him less of a talented painter.

More subjective judgement posing as objective fact.

Disagreeing with you does not mean things are subjective. Because not everything is subject to your opinion and taste.
F = G*((m sub 1*m sub 2)/r^2) is the formula for gravity, and your opinion on it is irrelevant, and so is everyone else's. The only way you can disagree with this is through some hard maths, and good luck with disproving gravity.

People used to believe the the formula for gravity explained the movement of all bodies of matter. Now, scientists have proven that the formula breaks down (doesn't work) at the molecular level. Once again, what once was posed as objective fact is now unknown and subject to interpretation of the scientists trying to figure it out.

Let's put this one to rest :

The craft of writing, like any craft, is objective. Its value and appreciation are subjective.

The purpose of art is appreciation (the crass would also say art is for value).

Offline Lanko

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Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #77 on: August 11, 2017, 02:41:49 AM »
Quote
The craft of writing, like any craft, is objective. Its value and appreciation are subjective.

And then it comes down again if the objective parts are merely the definition of a concept and what said concept does.

For example, Flashback: an interjected scene or point that takes the narrative back in time from the current point. Now let's practice it. I write what I ate today and start another chapter that later I couldn't sleep because of what I ate gave me stomach pains.

But that's not a flashback. You can point it out and explain why using the definition, like with the gravity formula, I can't prove it's incorrect. I will go and correct it. That's objective, in both learning it and applying it.

Now, there's more in how to do it than just writing something to nail the concept and how I keep learning how to do it is an entirely different matter.
I can end a chapter and start a new one when switching to a flashback scene, like Mark Lawrence does. I can have characters reminisce past events while still doing things in the present time and without paragraph or chapter breaks, like GRRM does. Like Rowling, I can use a timeturner to go see past events, or a memory storage spell/device like the pensieve as a plot device to see flashbacks of Voldemort's life.

We'll all learn what a flashback is and what is supposed to do. And you can say if I executed it right or know the correct definition. That's learning the craft, alright.
But so is finding out (or creating) new ways to use a flashback. That's also learning and improving the craft. And this is subjective. We may not even come across the same methods, or even if we read the same books, not notice them or think differently in how effective they are.

More importantly, you can't tell me, or prove it, that using time travel is using flashbacks incorrectly. Or when not starting a new chapter when a flashback begins. Or give me exact numbers of how much flashback is too much that will make me reduce their amount.

Again, this is subjective to each one of us. And isn't that also learning, applying and improving the craft? Isn't it part of the whole continuous process?

So there is objectivity and applying the craft... and also subjectivity.

But what's more important? For me, specially regarding someone as talented, it's the subjective part that matters more or at least the one with the most impact when doing it.

I think you also said in another post that there was no subjectivity when creating art in any form. But what about our stories and the themes, the characterization, the plot, the worldbuilding, the tone, the narration style, etc? Aren't those choices subjective?

What we value and appreciate is indeed subjective...but you say that as if what we value and appreciate didn't influence what and how we write, whether it's how we approach a theme or how we use elements like POV, tone, narration style, etc.

Again, what's the objective part of say, flashback, one of the elements of the craft? The definition of it and if you used it correctly by writing something that happened in the past?
I and anyone else can in 2 minutes learn that and even write something to prove it. If that's all, then just like that me and a lot of people are just as well-versed in flashbacks as GRRM, Shakespeare, Rowling... because what else they do with it, how they do it, and how well we think they do it, that's what gonna make the difference, that's what gonna make them stand from everyone else who also knows the concept and what it does, and that it's totally subjective, isn't it?
« Last Edit: August 11, 2017, 02:53:11 AM by Lanko »
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Offline Bradley Darewood

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Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #78 on: August 11, 2017, 08:31:05 AM »

On the subject of big macs, NOW YOU'VE GONE TO FAR! DON'T DIS THE BIG MAC.


Since you all seem to be ignoring everything I said about objectivity/subjectivity/art/talent but not my comments about memes/gifs etc. I'll just leave you with this very important link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcJFdCmN98s

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Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #79 on: August 11, 2017, 12:50:13 PM »
This has been an interesting discussion! We've gone from Talent to Subjectivity/Objectivity and Concept. And as interesting and contentious as these are, there's still Literary Device (and all the other Devices), Skill, Technique, Effect, and the really specialized terms relating to writing/literary arts: pathos, bathos, etc.
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Offline ultamentkiller

Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #80 on: August 12, 2017, 06:51:09 PM »
Justin Jordan, a comic book writer friend, offered probably the most in depth (and savage) of the reviews floating in my fb feed:

Quote from: Justin Jordan
Things I have learned reading 32% of Ready Player One
1. This book is godawful
2. There's literally no plot for the first 18% of the book. A fifth of the book. LITERALLY. NO. PLOT.
3. This book is godawful.
4. The author either doesn't know how far 5 kilometers is, or hasn't thought through the effect of limiting the people on a particular world, a school world, to a not very fast walk. Although later the character sprints.
5. As yet, the nostalgia is.....listing things from the 80's. Not anything about why these things are special, or what made them interesting, or anything. Just....listing them.
6. I've read seven other books while getting to 32% of Ready Player One.
7. Even if the rest of this book is amazing, it's not going to make up for this 32%.
8. Even if Spielberg makes a movie worse than 1941, it will still be better than the source material.
9. Seriously, what is wrong with you people.
10. This book is godawful.

Gonna be honest here. Comments like this (your FB friend, Bradley) really annoy me, and not just because I enjoyed the book. BTW, this is not directed at you specifically, Bradley, just a comment on the Internet at large.

Because of the social nature of the Internet, there is an annoying tendency of folks to try to one-up each other in how they insult things, *especially* once someone (like an author) finds mainstream success. As soon as an author gets a big deal, rather than congratulating them and saying "Hey, good on you, fellow nerd, you've made it!" the tendency (because of jealousy, or another reason) is to pile on and say "Well you don't deserve that. Your book is terrible and you're a terrible writer." It happens so often.

Ready Player One's success as a book (and the fact that it's now coming out as a movie) have made it the latest target of Internet scorn, and honestly, it makes me sad (and it would even if I didn't like the book).

Basically, here's what I see:
- One person says (quite reasonably) "Eh, I read Ready Player One, but it just didn't grab me. Wasn't for me." Totally cool! What we like is subjective.
- The next person, wanting to one up them, says "Yeah, Ready Player One was really poorly written. I DNF'd it on the first chapter" (quality writing is incredibly subjective, but okay, you didn't like it)
- The next person, wanting to one up both, says "Yeah, Ready Player One is a steaming pile of crap and the worst book I've ever read anywhere in the whole of existence. Reading it is like having hot pokers shoved in my eyes while a sabertooth tiger rips out my intestines". Like seriously dude, what?
- And so on and so on...

Again, I'm not just saying this just because I personally enjoyed the book (what books people like are subjective). I'm saying this because I wish we spent more time building each other up (as readers and authors) instead of tearing each other down. When an author who wrote a sci-fi/cyberpunk book selling an insane number of copies and got a movie made by WB and Stephen Speilberg succeeds, I wish we'd say "Good on you, Ernie Kline, even though I didn't personally like your book" instead of "This book is a steaming pile of garbage" with the implication that the person's success is undeserved.

I dunno. Maybe it's just me (the last example I can thing of where people trashed a super-successful author and her work was Twilight by Stephanie Meyer) but I wish we wouldn't pile on like this. Twilight is actually a perfect example because I *didn't* like it. It wasn't for me, but I'm glad so many people enjoyed it and hope it got them into reading more SFF. I'm also glad for Meyer and wish her all the success in the world.

Am I off base here?

EDIT: To be super clear, I think everyone should clearly state their preference on books (I liked it, I didn't like it) etc and authors should be ready for that. I just see Internet comments, specifically, spiraling into absurdity because people want to one up each other on how thoroughly they can trash the latest book to succeed.
I think you're missing the point of the Facebook post. Yes, he didn't like the book, and I completely agree with everything he says. But he's not attacking the author or the fans because he hates them. He's insulting a book he regards as little more than paper with filled in lines and making me laugh about it.

Oh sure, if you go in depth with people they can tell you why they didn't like something. But why do we always have to be thoughtful? Can't people insult something for the sake of humor? Because insulting is very fun at times! Half of jokes are insulting. Does that mean we should stop making them?

Yes, you see this in writing because of the Internet. But I doubt the Internet is causing these things to happen. People naturally make jokes and insult things we don't like. It's just who we are. Is it something we shouldn't do? Maybe. But no one's going to stop soon. I love making fun of things to get laughter out of a group. It's one of the things that makes me smile. Am I doing it because I truly believe the book is overrated? Of course. Am I happy they're making a movie out of it? of course, because I'll like it better than the book. Am I confused as to why people rave about it? Of course. So I'll make fun of it and laugh, because it makes me feel better when people laugh with me.

Call me terrible if you like, but I hope these guys continue posting stuff like this about anything they don't like, even if it's something I do. If it makes me smile, that's all that matters.

Online Nora

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Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #81 on: August 12, 2017, 07:27:45 PM »
Thing is, not any review is the same.

There are emotional/sensational reviews : "Ahhh, this was like a can full of compressed orgasms!" or "I had to cover this in salt, holy water and exorcise it by fire, it was this vile".

Those are general, expressing emotions, trying to get a nod, smile or chuckle out of whoever will read them.
If you found the reviewers and sat them down and told them to write a short, objective review of the book, they'd probably go into details of what they disliked : "Weak prose, clumsy dialogue, apparent lack of plot..."
An objective/serious review ought to focus on those aspects only.

And I think a good review contains a bit of both. Once you've told what irked you, you can wax lyrical, especially if you want to express how the book made you feel. Or, I guess, if you have a big readership hoping for a show.

Attacking other readers for it isn't ever justified, but it's hardly a feeling we can help having. We can not voice it of course... But who hasn't put down something that was so atrocious, you wonder who gave it the green light for publication, and who the hell enjoys it?
I won't throw the stone. That's how I feel about most women's magazines and sensational press like the Sun. People's mags, etc.

We have liberty of expression, and so long as it doesn't fall into hate speach or hate campaigns, I can't see why we'd be against it. Today it might be on that book you love, tomorrow you might be ranting on a book you hate, and quickly forget what it was to be in the shoes of someone who liked it.
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Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #82 on: August 12, 2017, 09:29:52 PM »
The same rule goes for reviews that also goes for stories:

Show, don't tell.  8)

Whether you like something or not usually matters little to other people. Reviews should ideally give an impression of what to expect and leave it to the readers whether that sounds like something they want to read or not. When I want to get information about new videogames I've heard about, I always go looking for reviews that gave it a 4 to 6. Those tend to be the ones that put the most thought into what's actually there and argue what about those is good or bad. Anything with a 0 or 10 is completely useless.

I had a training course last week for my gardener training and we were taught to arrange plants in a large pot according to certain rules. Because even when the customer selects a collection of plants that we find absolutely dreadful, we still have to be able to arrange them in a way that looks good to people who like that combination. Whether we like the end result doesn't matter. But by following a set of rules and patterns we can make something that fits other peoples' tastes even if we think it's ugly.
An ideal review should also follow such rules so that reviewers can provide us with information we need to make our own (preliminary) judgement, regardless of whether they like the work themselves or not.
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Offline ultamentkiller

Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #83 on: August 13, 2017, 04:28:10 AM »
I need to apologize.
For some reason, I saw that there were 2 pages of discussion, not 6. So I wasn't tracking things when I wrote that post. Your discussion on objectivity verses subjectivity was absolutely fantastic, and I am not near smart enough to weigh in. but keep it up. I feel like I'm interrupting something beautiful.

Also, I did not mean to suggest that all reviews should be humorous or whatever. I simply enjoy the humorous insulting ones but would not rely on them to judge a book.

Carry on!

Offline Lanko

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Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #84 on: August 13, 2017, 05:41:21 AM »
For me, when it comes to OBJECTIVELY judging "talent", there are three things we can judge objectively:

1) Is the language clear and readable? (you may not like it, but you can still understand it)
2) Is the book riddled with typos, or clean? (you can count # of typos per book)
3) How well has the book sold? (# of copies)

IMO, these three statistics (most importantly, number 3) are the best OBJECTIVE measure of if a writer is talented. Everything else is subjective difference of opinion. Talent, as I'm defining it, is the writer's ability to succeed in their chosen profession (writing). Those with talent succeed. This is not to say those who don't succeed lack talent (and I acknowledge luck plays a part) but that people who claim successful writers lack talent are being disingenuous.

I was thinking again about this. Talent in something as subjective as art can't be measured. Yes, you can point a typo or what brush you should have used, etc. But nobody reads or create stories because of techniques and craft concepts. People read and write to escape, to experience new things, to wonder... to feel. That's what makes the difference. That's what matters, all things considered.

However, we still try it to measure it somehow. Why? My theory is that the world is too harsh, too unpredictable and too... aimless (forgot the word I was gonna use. Oh well). So by our own very human nature we try to make some sense of it. To have some proof we can have at least control of some things. The more logical oriented minds even more. In fact, in a lot of things we need to be able to objectively know it.

We can measure financial success. The performances of athletes down to decimals of seconds. Our health status. The prices of things.

Something like talent would be no exception. No one can say someone is talented by running some checklist on a story. And that's where sales numbers and popularity come in. No, they don't tell that someone is talented, but they are the only information we have to serve as a measurable parameter.

If there are millions of writers out there, and that one is at the top of the sales chart... then they must be talented. Right? Well, not exactly (and that would be subjective).

Clear and readable language along with lack of typos aren't good parameters either. There are tons of writers out there that have those but that evoke no emotion or amazement. Or fail too much at some other element that good prose or perfect grammar doesn't matter. And while these can make you enjoy a story more or even not make you abandon a novel with a bad story, they won't change the essence of a story.

Let's use 50 Shades as an example again. If it had a fantastic level of prose, no typos and awkward sentences, if every word repeated dozens or even hundreds of times were not used more than five times and all the commas properly placed... It would still be the same story. The girl who meets the guy and sign a pseudo-BDSM contract. The problematic aspects that raised red flags to a lot of people would still be there. Ana, Christian and José would still be the same characters.

I'm sure there are people who quit it because of the writing. But reading most of the complaints about the book, they would still hate it anyway regardless of the level of writing. Bashing 50 Shades because of this for them is simply beating the dead horse.

Then one could suggest how characters, situations and tone could've been done. And then it's when it's no longer objective (if even the style correction above was) but subjective, as the story is no longer James', but someone else's view in how things should be handled.
We can tell her the amount of typos, the misplaced commas, cut enormous repetitions of words...but how to write a character or solve a situation, that's an entirely different thing.

And then about the whole thing that started the topic... 

Basically, here's what I see:
- One person says (quite reasonably) "Eh, I read Ready Player One, but it just didn't grab me. Wasn't for me." Totally cool! What we like is subjective.
- The next person, wanting to one up them, says "Yeah, Ready Player One was really poorly written. I DNF'd it on the first chapter" (quality writing is incredibly subjective, but okay, you didn't like it)
- The next person, wanting to one up both, says "Yeah, Ready Player One is a steaming pile of crap and the worst book I've ever read anywhere in the whole of existence. Reading it is like having hot pokers shoved in my eyes while a sabertooth tiger rips out my intestines". Like seriously dude, what?
- And so on and so on...

Again, I'm not just saying this just because I personally enjoyed the book (what books people like are subjective). I'm saying this because I wish we spent more time building each other up (as readers and authors) instead of tearing each other down. When an author who wrote a sci-fi/cyberpunk book selling an insane number of copies and got a movie made by WB and Stephen Speilberg succeeds, I wish we'd say "Good on you, Ernie Kline, even though I didn't personally like your book" instead of "This book is a steaming pile of garbage" with the implication that the person's success is undeserved.

Indeed it's harsh to say "this book is pure garbage and I can't believe it was published", but maybe that's what they really felt when reading it. What we like is subjective, after all.

But since objectivity came to appear here too, if it's possible to objectively say it's good, I'd say even saying "This book isn't for me, I didn't like the characters because they made some decisions I couldn't agree, the style of prose and the dialogue didn't work for me, maybe it'll work for you", that isn't objective either. It's just a well-educated subjective opinion in why the book didn't work for them according to their tastes.
   
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Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #85 on: August 13, 2017, 06:48:15 AM »
Quote
The craft of writing, like any craft, is objective. Its value and appreciation are subjective.

And then it comes down again if the objective parts are merely the definition of a concept and what said concept does.
*snip*

I don't think it does. I think the idea of what a good flashback and a bad flashback does have objective meaning, as do the various corollaries of "If you do X, then do Y to counter balance".

I think there is a Common Standard of what constitutes Good and Bad when it comes to various parts of writing and that we are able to talk objectively about Good and Bad when it comes to that Standard. Measuring what someone had written against that standard is harder to do in terms of "This is Objectively Right and that's all there is to it" but one can certainly be objective in terms of putting aside whether you liked the book as a whole and measuring what was done well and what wasn't. And I think that to a certain extent, you can objectively measure the quality as lying in a certain part of the spectrum.

And the reason I believe this is that, because if this is not the case, how comes people are so often able to agree on what a book does well and doesn't do well when one person likes the book and another dislikes it? Hell, how comes we're all able to have so many conversations about books without having to stop every five seconds and ask "Excuse me, how do you define good worldbuilding?" How comes there so many points of similarity between creative writing curricula everywhere?

And if there is a Common Standard, then it stands to reason there's more than the definition that fall under the category of the at least partially objective.


Also, since Lanko's slipped in a post since I started writing this...

"I was thinking again about this. Talent in something as subjective as art can't be measured. Yes, you can point a typo or what brush you should have used, etc. But nobody reads or create stories because of techniques and craft concepts. People read and write to escape, to experience new things, to wonder... to feel. That's what makes the difference. That's what matters, all things considered."

Craft and technique totally matter to providing that escape, that sense of wonder, that feeling. Storytelling is, at its finest, direct and calculated manipulation of the reader's emotions to get the desired effect. Provoking emotional reactions is a craft and does involve technique.

Take foreshadowing. One of the uses of foreshadowing is to prime your reader to accept a certain logic chain, so when Protagonist A suddenly guns down Protagonist B, you get emotional responses of sadness and awe, rather than "Wtf that makes no sense".

Or take the concept of Sequels and Sequences, which lays down when to have your characters have their emotional responses after their big conflicts, all in order to cause the reader to empathise more with them.

And so on. When you come down to it, most bits of Storytelling craft and technique are either about making Suspension of Disbelief easier, so 'Wtf' stops interefering with their other emotions, or about the best order to show things in order to provoke emotions.
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #86 on: August 13, 2017, 07:19:19 AM »
There's a slimmer, more objective use of 'talent' to describe someone who skillfully adheres to a doctrine or approach, such as a mystery writer who adheres to the 'rules' of a whodunit (killer is among the suspects; the method and motive are presented, but obscured). These are objectively defined and can be objectively seen.
Unconventional departures from this use (adherence to rules) are, in many ways, difficult to objectively measure, because they've literally left the yardstick behind. Deciding which are or are not "good", etc., requires using some other yardstick - such as popularity or other "success"-based measures.
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Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #87 on: August 13, 2017, 07:41:48 AM »
Quote
The craft of writing, like any craft, is objective. Its value and appreciation are subjective.

And then it comes down again if the objective parts are merely the definition of a concept and what said concept does.
*snip*

I don't think it does. I think the idea of what a good flashback and a bad flashback does have objective meaning, as do the various corollaries of "If you do X, then do Y to counter balance".

I think there is a Common Standard of what constitutes Good and Bad when it comes to various parts of writing and that we are able to talk objectively about Good and Bad when it comes to that Standard. Measuring what someone had written against that standard is harder to do in terms of "This is Objectively Right and that's all there is to it" but one can certainly be objective in terms of putting aside whether you liked the book as a whole and measuring what was done well and what wasn't. And I think that to a certain extent, you can objectively measure the quality as lying in a certain part of the spectrum.

Could you provide examples?

Yes, I certainly can put aside everything I liked in a book and what I didn't and why I think it was done well and wasn't.
But what other measure can I use other than my own preferences and views? And even level of understanding, whether the subject or the technique used. Or authorial intent.

We here can all choose a book or create a story to do this and even if somehow we end up with a 100% consensus on everything supposedly objectively analyzed, would be really fine to say it was an objective analysis or just that we found more people who shared the same subjective feelings and opinions when discussing the book?

And the reason I believe this is that, because if this is not the case, how comes people are so often able to agree on what a book does well and doesn't do well when one person likes the book and another dislikes it? Hell, how comes we're all able to have so many conversations about books without having to stop every five seconds and ask "Excuse me, how do you define good worldbuilding?" How comes there so many points of similarity between creative writing curricula everywhere?

Regarding the specific part I highlighted in red, it's easy. We're not interested in talking about the technique used or the definition of good worldbuilding or characterization when discussing what we liked and didn't in a book.

We talk about the reactions we felt. Readers, or at least I believe most of them, read to feel not to analyze (I mean here the craft, not that you don't think about what happened in a story).

And if there is a Common Standard, then it stands to reason there's more than the definition that fall under the category of the at least partially objective.

Common Standard is an interesting name. But what is it?

Another thing that I thought. In the past getting published was really, really hard. There was no self-publishing. Publishers didn't release a large number of books. Gatekeepers were various. If someone made in it was very usually perceived as a sign that writer was definitely, at least in his genre or to his target audience, very talented. Being traditionally published had prestige, which probably also added another factor to the "do you have talent" pool.

But today there's more than one million books being released and gatekeepers can be easily bypassed.

Anyway, those publishers, editors and agents had submission guidelines and even more guidelines regarding editing and etc.
They still do. I wonder if that would be one of the standard common, or a minimum threshold. Yet we all see the things that get published.
So if it can be analyzed in such a way of standard common or some quality control and that is objective, how come all those editors and publishers don't point it or use it on those works? Or is 50 Shades the very minimum threshold? Or a standard common?

Anyway, examples! On books or stories.

Craft and technique totally matter to providing that escape, that sense of wonder, that feeling. Storytelling is, at its finest, direct and calculated manipulation of the reader's emotions to get the desired effect. Provoking emotional reactions is a craft and does involve technique.

Take foreshadowing. One of the uses of foreshadowing is to prime your reader to accept a certain logic chain, so when Protagonist A suddenly guns down Protagonist B, you get emotional responses of sadness and awe, rather than "Wtf that makes no sense".

Or take the concept of Sequels and Sequences, which lays down when to have your characters have their emotional responses after their big conflicts, all in order to cause the reader to empathise more with them.

And so on. When you come down to it, most bits of Storytelling craft and technique are either about making Suspension of Disbelief easier, so 'Wtf' stops interefering with their other emotions, or about the best order to show things in order to provoke emotions.

Extremely interesting and I agree that storytelling at its finest is calculated manipulation. Though in parts.

We may know we need foreshadow so the reader will buy later (or even deduce early) what's gonna happen. We may know what foreshadow is and the purpose we intend to evoke with it. Now, and that's the important part, that will really break or make the story, is... how to actually do it.

And I mean the choices involved, not the skill with prose or anything else.

Because there are many techniques in how to do it, like earlier I used flashback. Mark Lawrence has Jorg directly telling us what he was doing. GRRM has the character thinking about the past instead. Rowling uses time travel.

So even though we know we need to foreshadow the event... how will we choose the approach. More importantly, how we determine it's the best one for what we intend?

And while everyone can analyze and say and agree you do need to foreshadow what's gonna happen, how to properly pull it off is a matter of choices, and one you won't be able to objectively say "it needs to be done THIS way with THIS approach" but rather "I believe it needs to be done this way". And that we'll be based entirely on our subjective views on the matter. Or how that's the way we wanted to write it, no other rationalized reason.

And when others read our story, they won't talk that we wrote a foreshadow in the right place. But what actually happened in it. And that's what's gonna make or break it. And it will be entirely their (and ours too) subjective reaction.

In the end it uses both approaches, since art requires technique but it's technique purely to evoke feelings and emotions (and regarding those, you can at best offer subjective advice).
But for me it's far easier to teach craft to someone who can naturally evoke feelings and emotions but lack knowledge of concepts and what they do than to teach someone who knows all the possible ins and outs of the craft to write truthfully about feelings and emotions. This person can and will learn... but subjectively in his own way.
 
« Last Edit: August 13, 2017, 07:52:10 AM by Lanko »
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Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #88 on: August 13, 2017, 10:43:45 AM »

Could you provide examples?

Yes, I certainly can put aside everything I liked in a book and what I didn't and why I think it was done well and wasn't.
But what other measure can I use other than my own preferences and views? And even level of understanding, whether the subject or the technique used. Or authorial intent.

We here can all choose a book or create a story to do this and even if somehow we end up with a 100% consensus on everything supposedly objectively analyzed, would be really fine to say it was an objective analysis or just that we found more people who shared the same subjective feelings and opinions when discussing the book?

For measuring devices, you have your own preferences and views, then you have individual expert preferences and views, then you have the consensus view. Sadly, there is something of an absence of consensus views available to use other than our own memories of conversations and the blunt aggregate ratings from Amazon/GR, but its better than nothing. So that's two subjective measuring devices and one quasi-objective one. It's like we're trying to measure someone for clothes but, while we all know what a metre/yard (country depending) is, someone's stolen all the measuring devices.

And that subjectivity means it'll never be wholly objective, and you'll never get say five people agreeing 100% on a book... but man, if you did, I'd call that proof of objectivity because when do five people agree 100% on anything? Either you hit the lottery or its proof of objectivity. But then, it would never happen. But I have seen a pretty near 100% consensus on Brandon Sanderson doing good magic systems, for whatever that's worth.

Anyway, an example. Lets use info dumps.

Definition - A big chunk of text that does nothing but tell the reader things about the story. Although even here's it a bit subjective, as some people include dialogue (I do, gods I do) and some don't.

But lets go further.

99% of people will tell you to be very careful when using info dumps as they can send a reader to sleep. 99% of people will tell you that you'll probably have to end up using them anyway in speculative fiction as elsewise you'll confuse the reader. I'd say that's an at least semi-objective statement about their usage.

Now a corollary - "Make info dumps into conversations between two people, and you're less likely to send people to sleep"

Sub-corollary 1 - "The conversation has to be natural. Don't have characters telling each other what they know, particularly don't have them go 'As you know' first, don't have them make random statements linked to the protagonist to slide us extra info" etc.etc.

Sub-sub-corollary 1 - "If you're going to do this a lot, have a character who doesn't know a lot about the world and give them mentors who do".

Corollary 2 - "The more little bits of information you can slip into ordinary scenes, the less time you need to spend info dumping"

Sub-Corollary 2.1 - "Readers might miss this, so repeat the information a few times if you want them to remember"

Sub-Corollary 2.2 - "Don't do this in fast-paced high stakes scenes like fight scenes".

Corollary 3 - "Make it super interesting and they won't fall asleep".

And so on. How much of this is objective you may ask? With the exception of 2.2 which I just made up, this is all advice I've seen given a few times at least. Everything up to corollary 2 I've seen given countless times (I got carried away).

But - here's the kicker, and before you say it - the relevance of these bits of advice about the Info Dump lies in the eyes of the writer, and that's all subjective. Someone might decide they'll never do Info Dump by Conversation and never need to know that bit. Hell, some brave souls might just go Info Dump free (and a few will make it work and be hailed as geniuses who've proven you don't need them, and no one will ever know about the vast majority who don't). But, the worth of this advice is still objective. I think.

Regarding the specific part I highlighted in red, it's easy. We're not interested in talking about the technique used or the definition of good worldbuilding or characterization when discussing what we liked and didn't in a book.

We talk about the reactions we felt. Readers, or at least I believe most of them, read to feel not to analyze (I mean here the craft, not that you don't think about what happened in a story).

Right, we're not (mostly).

But we still have to have a common definition for it to make sense. We aren't interested in the definition, but only because we all know it.

Besides, we do have more than a few conversations here about the technical side of writing, and they generally aren't full of asking for definition. And I'd add that's the case on the more writer-focused SFF forums I use too.

Common Standard is an interesting name. But what is it?

Another thing that I thought. In the past getting published was really, really hard. There was no self-publishing. Publishers didn't release a large number of books. Gatekeepers were various. If someone made in it was very usually perceived as a sign that writer was definitely, at least in his genre or to his target audience, very talented. Being traditionally published had prestige, which probably also added another factor to the "do you have talent" pool.

But today there's more than one million books being released and gatekeepers can be easily bypassed.

Anyway, those publishers, editors and agents had submission guidelines and even more guidelines regarding editing and etc.
They still do. I wonder if that would be one of the standard common, or a minimum threshold. Yet we all see the things that get published.
So if it can be analyzed in such a way of standard common or some quality control and that is objective, how come all those editors and publishers don't point it or use it on those works? Or is 50 Shades the very minimum threshold? Or a standard common?

Anyway, examples! On books or stories.

Well I'm glad you like the name, I just invented it :P

Because that's the thing. I'm convinced the Common Standard is a thing, but no one really talks about it. There isn't a set definition or anything, yet I might have 20 or so conversations about writing a day with people from all over the Anglosphere and beyond, and I can throw out a bunch of terms and everyone knows what it means, and I'll get fairly reliably consistent answers on whether Rothfuss/James has good prose, whether Sanderson has a good magic system and bad love stories, whether Lawrence's writing has a dark tone, whether this sentence ran on too long etc.etc. I do not see how this doesn't happen without a lot of shared assumptions about writing and stories.

I would also add that getting trad published i.e. published by a publisher who pays you money is harder than ever and for the most part is still a pretty good sign of a minimum level of quality. There's a few small publishers cutting corners but most times, it means the basic levels of craft are decent. Which still doesn't mean people will like it, but hey.

It certainly adds a lot to prestige, I've had enough author friends comment on the difference in response they get for being trad published.

But, as a rule, I wouldn't say that the publishing gatekeepers are setting the shared assumptions that make up the Common Standard. Unfortunately I struggle to explain the idea better than I have already.


Extremely interesting and I agree that storytelling at its finest is calculated manipulation. Though in parts.

We may know we need foreshadow so the reader will buy later (or even deduce early) what's gonna happen. We may know what foreshadow is and the purpose we intend to evoke with it. Now, and that's the important part, that will really break or make the story, is... how to actually do it.

And I mean the choices involved, not the skill with prose or anything else.

Because there are many techniques in how to do it, like earlier I used flashback. Mark Lawrence has Jorg directly telling us what he was doing. GRRM has the character thinking about the past instead. Rowling uses time travel.

So even though we know we need to foreshadow the event... how will we choose the approach. More importantly, how we determine it's the best one for what we intend?

And while everyone can analyze and say and agree you do need to foreshadow what's gonna happen, how to properly pull it off is a matter of choices, and one you won't be able to objectively say "it needs to be done THIS way with THIS approach" but rather "I believe it needs to be done this way". And that we'll be based entirely on our subjective views on the matter. Or how that's the way we wanted to write it, no other rationalized reason.

And when others read our story, they won't talk that we wrote a foreshadow in the right place. But what actually happened in it. And that's what's gonna make or break it. And it will be entirely their (and ours too) subjective reaction.

In the end it uses both approaches, since art requires technique but it's technique purely to evoke feelings and emotions (and regarding those, you can at best offer subjective advice).
But for me it's far easier to teach craft to someone who can naturally evoke feelings and emotions but lack knowledge of concepts and what they do than to teach someone who knows all the possible ins and outs of the craft to write truthfully about feelings and emotions. This person can and will learn... but subjectively in his own way.

Ultimately, yes. The choice of how to do the foreshadowing will be a subjective one.

But all the info about how to do it is and your choices and the ramifications of your choices is mostly objective. And just because there's a variety of choices available doesn't mean there isn't objective information available about them helping you pick the right way.

And just because most readers won't be talking about the Foreshadow, or the use of the Info Dump, or how much the Villain was used to mirror the Hero, or Scene Length, or proper ordering in a Sequel, or great use of the Three Act Structure and a bunch of other stuff... doesn't mean it isn't incredibly important. If you do not structure your story right, then no amount of great ideas, prose, characters and so on will save you (999 times out of a 1000) because they're buried under reader frustration. Sure, when the readers love it, they'll be talking about Characters and Ideas and shizzle... but they were only able to love it because those parts got the right stage to shine on. People turn up to a music festival to see the bands, but there's no bands without a lot of logistics.

Besides, I'd also say that Ideation and Characterisation are also parts of the craft subject to the same objective standard with subjective measuring tape.
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Offline Lanko

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Re: Is "Talent" Subjective?
« Reply #89 on: August 13, 2017, 01:13:56 PM »
Well, this is interesting. What you believe it's objective I believe it's subjective and vice-versa  ::)

Again, even using Sanderson (and ignoring the contrary views on magic systems) we might have a case of simple shared feelings and opinions of what they liked.
We can like the magic system, the plot twist, the big reveal, the style of battles, etc... It's possible to be both subjective and objective, if we consider why it worked for you and many others as "what you enjoyed", even explaining why with mostly feelings or r why we didn't because a character acted stupidly for plot convenience and why or that revolver model the character used only carries 7 bullets but the character shot 14 times and that absolutely killed it for you.

The corollaries you provided are exactly what I've been talking in previous posts. We get the definition and what it does. Then comes the advice, which for you is objective and for me subjective, even if it's something like "try to avoid large info dumps because tend to slow your story" because how exactly is too large? And slows by how much? We do it by instinct (our own belief) of what is too large and too slow.

"You can use it as dialogue between characters, but it make it look natural". How do I know it's looking natural?  "Make it super interesting!" Well, shit... again, how the heck I know it is?
"Don't do it in fast paced battles". This one is actually pretty solid but look how it uses "don't" and a specific, clear situation it can't be used. This one was pretty objective exactly because it doesn't sound like general advice and doesn't have the ambiguousness of "make it look natural, make it interesting, make it short..." it says "don't" instead of "try to avoid". On the other hand, it also looks like a rule. But maybe actually one needed for that specific situation. Or maybe it's still subjective because I'm the one who uses it almost as a rule...

I'm also convinced, like you, that Common Standard exists. But for you it's objective. For me it's subjective, intuitive.

Why? Because I believe when most of us, if not all, open a book and see it's badly written, or bland characters, too slow or too frenetic, disjointed... we can do it by intuition. Specially if we read a lot and have a lot to compare with. Or maybe even that is not really needed.

Even readers without any intention of writing can do it. They may never even come across or care to know the concepts of the craft, but they just feel and can say why X didn't work for them and nail it exactly (the feelings I mean) without ever touching the technical aspects of it. That's what most reviewers, even paid ones, do.

Even the decisions on what technique or approach to take is for me subjective because you are going mostly with what you believe is right, without fully knowing it is. Yes, we can create some absurd examples to say no, but in the most cases, it's on your instinct.
You even said "unless you structure your story right" and I'm gonna reply with "How do I structure my story right?" Tons of possible choices. Which one is the right one? The one I believe it is... save something that can really only be done a certain way, but I can't think of one right now.

Another example? It isn't rare to see a 1* or 2* star review saying that they had problems with X about a book, then another with 4* or 5* saying it's totally justified criticism or even pointing it out on their own review. So problem pointed, agreed and even explanations to why. Objective and to the point, right? Yet, two different reactions, even while recognizing the problem. Pure subjectiveness.
Well, with this example, is more probable that both approaches work in conjunction, but ultimately it's the subjective one that stands out more, for both writer and reader, at least that's how I see it so far.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2017, 01:17:18 PM by Lanko »
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