Entertaining oneself on a rainy weekend

Every now and again I get a masochistic urge and pop into the writers-readers discussions on LibraryThing. The reason why I call it a masochistic urge is that 95% of the people talking on that group are the kind of pretentious amateur writers who drive me up the wall. Yes, I am an amateur writer but I really hope that I don’t take myself that seriously!

Today was one of my days and so I popped in to see if there was anything interesting going on. There was a very interesting discussion Creative Commons and writing, which I quite happily read through. Then I stupidly clicked into a discussion on “Anyone can get published”. At first it was an interesting discussion on the pros and cons of self-publishing with people actually discussing intelligently rather than descending immediately into name-calling and eye-poking. The conversation moved into the territory of what we read and why and in the middle of that, up popped the usual suspect with his usual tricks.

Someone had confessed that their main motivation in reading is to be entertained. This is like a red flag to a bull to certain people on that group and I was absolutely right. A couple of posts later came the usual “well, I never read to be entertained. I want to be challenged and forced to think with everything I read and just wanting to be entertained is the most shallow motive I’ve ever heard for reading!”


I am firmly on the side of entertainment. I believe that the primary purposes of writing – be it fiction or non-fiction – is to entertain and communicate. Obviously I am irredeemably shallow.

It’s great if a book makes me think or has some deeper meaning to it, but it needs to pick me up and take me away and entertain me while it’s doing so.  If all I’m doing is going “Hmm, this author has really challenged me with that incomprehensible sentence” or marvelling at the author’s sentence structure and deep and meaningful thoughts then it hasn’t worked for me. I analyse everything as I read or watch it so I want an author to pull me in so deeply that I’m not doing that.

Shallow, yes. But a hell of a lot more fun, I feel!

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cliff Burns
    Jan 20, 2008 @ 15:45:33

    Arch: I think you might be alluding to some of the posts I’ve made on LT on this whole issue of writing for entertainment. It is a good discussion and subject for debate. I’m a literary writer and I prefer to feed my mind well-crafted, intelligent prose that challenges my preconceptions and breaks new ground. As an author, I learn from the masters, not hacks. I hope I will always be “the usual suspect” when people are seeking the views of a published author with the professional credentials 95% of the “writers and readers” (far more of the latter than the former) on that particular forum could only DREAM of having…

    P.S. I wouldn’t necessarily celebrate being “shallow”, especially if you have aspirations of being taken seriously as a writer or an intellect. Unless, of course, you plan to be the next Nora Roberts or Janet Dailey…


  2. eleanorstrousers
    Jan 20, 2008 @ 15:55:34

    I agree. I’ve always thought that good writing should be invisible. What I mean is that if I’m reading something and thinking, “Wow! This is really well written,” then the story has gotten lost in a bunch of tricks and flourishes.


  3. scgreen
    Jan 20, 2008 @ 16:04:36

    Three cheers for reading enjoyment!
    If it wasn’t for the the fact that I enjoyed reading for the entertainment it brought me, I would never be attempting my own novels today. That might make us irredeemably shallow, but who wants to be in over their heads in the deep end?
    Good post!


  4. archerygirl
    Jan 20, 2008 @ 16:32:14

    Cliff: I think you might be alluding to some of the posts I’ve made on LT on this whole issue of writing for entertainment

    Yes, it was you that I was alluding to 🙂 You found this post fast! I appreciate that everyone has different motivations behind their reading and their writing. In fact, that’s what makes it so interesting for me to read the blogs of different authors. I just find it grating sometimes when I see people slammed (and I’m not saying that you were slamming in that thread, just a bit fervent) for wanting to be entertained by what they read. I love a book that has something deeper to it and I want my fiction well-written. I tend to run as fast as my little legs will carry me from mass-produced template books like Mills and Boon or Harlequin and I outgrew Danielle Steele a long time ago. Plenty of people love them and I’m just happy that those people are reading something, anything.

    I don’t want to be thinking about *how* the book was written as I’m reading it, that’s what should happened afterwards, and I never pick up a book just so that I can learn from it.

    My reading tastes make me shallow in some circles, I know that. I’m not aspiring to be Nora Roberts (please, never let me be that!) but I certainly won’t be the next Aldous Huxley or Charles Dickens either. I’m not even aspiring to be the next Tolkien, despite being a fantasy writer. I’d be quite flattered to be called the next Lois McMaster Bujold, though 🙂 If what I write entertains people then I’ll feel that I’ve succeeded, however shallow that makes me, and I’ll just hope that one or two people out there might also be inspired or made to think about what I’m writing as well.

    eleanortrousers and scgreen: Thank you for the support 🙂


  5. Cliff Burns
    Jan 20, 2008 @ 20:16:08

    My posts, whether or LibraryThing or my blog, are not intended as personal attacks on individuals. Obviously, I feel very passionately about writing and reading–after all, I spend 8-10 hours a day, 360 days of the year in service (servitude?) to the printed word. My heroes are Celine, Joyce, Beckett, Borges, Pynchon, scribes that push the envelope and don’t conform to tired old themes and approaches to literature. If I come across as intense, I plead guilty. However…if you ever feel I’ve slighted you or belittled your views, you are free to contact me by leaving a message for me on my LT profile and I would respond with alacrity and, I’m sure, a sincere and heartfelt apology. I’m not the ogre some folks seem to think I am and a careful reading of my posts will reveal me as a person who devotes a lot of thought to my views and avoids personal attacks (unlike some of my fellow post-ers).

    I wish you well…


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