21 October 2012

Professional Handling

Last month I had the opportunity to go the Utah Symphony.  I’d heard on the radio that they were performing Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky, which is one of my favorite pieces, and determined that I must go.  So I did!

I’ve said it before, especially about Kempo, being handled by a professional is a pleasure.  The performance was fantastic!  I felt the music flow through me and ignite my imagination as only a good concert can.  The drums rumbled my insides while the violins tantalized my other senses. (And I don’t actually like violins)  I even enjoyed the other pieces the symphony performed, which I didn’t know before going in.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to attend two community orchestra performances as well as The Scarlet Pimpernel at a semi-professional community theater.  All had their strengths and all had their weaknesses.  None of them compared with the quality that the professional symphony that I attended exhibited.

Now don’t get all uptight, I don’t ever go to a community event expecting perfection. Hello, I was in the band in high school, I’ve played in a pit.  I have all too much experience in the realms of what can (and will) go wrong during a performance.

But as I sat at one of the community events, I couldn’t help comparing the feelings I was having against those from the symphony.  During the symphony I never flinched because of a glaringly wrong note or someone playing out of place.  I never hid a smirk because someone missed their line.  The people in the symphony are professionals.  This is their job. This is their passion.  They’re obsessed, for crying out loud!

I often wonder how much readers know about writing books.  Do they flinch when they see a trope used poorly, or groan when the most obvious conflict in fiction gets pushed to the forefront of the story instead of something that is much deeper or more interesting? Do they understand that it probably isn’t their fault when they get bored?  Do they know that the author wrote that last scene in the hope that the reader would throw the book across the room and then run to get it to finish the chapter?  (Authors are mean, they do this stuff)

Can readers tell when they’re in the hands of a professional vs. an amateur?

I can.  But part of that is because I’m an author.  Like at a musical performance—I know enough about it to be able to hear the sour notes and see when the conductor is about to toss his baton at the viola section.  (In high school it was always the trombones.)

My guess is that readers know when they’re in the hands of someone who is still learning about writing.  They don’t always toss the book and walk away, and perhaps they hardly notice.  But I can guarantee that they know when they’re in the hands of someone who is practiced and professional, because they’ll give up sleep in order to finish reading a novel.

And that, my friends, is where we all want to be. Right? 


Lauren said...

Absolutely. Getting there is a long, hard fight, but it's well worth it.


Anthony Dutson said...

Agreed. But I also notice when professional authors are pushing an agenda. One thing I've never liked about Stephen King is his use of profanity and language. I'm no prude and can actually tolerate a bit of language and sex in a book, but it has to be well placed. I think some authors, and King especially, pushes it a too hard to make their writing 'honest.'

It's not honest. Just crude.

Antiquarian said...

I think it has more to do with the writer being honest to the characters than to what the author wants.

I've read many first books that were amazing (some even award winners) and I've read some long time well known authors that I hated with a passion.

Current case in point - the JK Rowling book is nothing but porn-offensive. It only proved she couldn't really write. My sister is burning her copy just to save some poor other soul from having to read it.

How about Stephen King? I remember when the "directors cut" version of the Stand came out. A friend said, "there is a reason he needs an editor. It's horrible".

So ya, there is a BIG difference between a good novel and 90% of what gets published. Like TV it's mostly crap and commercials.

Make you goal a good story and not the trappings of NYT best seller list and you'll do well. A best seller doesn't = worth reading.

-Jo- said...

It's true that not only new writers suffer from a lack of story telling bling. I always thought all authors got better as they went along. Sadly that's not the case. But I hope that my brutally honest friends (you know who you are) will keep that from happening to me. :)