It’s not the what, it’s the how

As I’m sure anyone following my blog for a while now has noticed I’m becoming worse and worse at posting regularly. I think it’s because I don’t realise how fast the days go by. It feels like I wrote my last post yesterday, and figuring out what your next post is going to be about can sometimes be impossible. Either because you want to write about so many things or none at all. But then I remembered a theme that has been recurring throughout conversations the last week or so.

I was doing an assignment for Swedish class where we were supposed to compare to different writing styles from the same eras. I realised after looking back and forth between the texts that even though they both played out in the same time and were both a peek into the darker side of society, with poverty, crime and oppression of the individual, they were extremely different as in regards to atmosphere and language.

“Why?” I asked myself. How can two authors, living during roughly the same time, writing about the same social class and somehow wanting to explain the hardship that these people went through, manage to get two such different outcomes?

There could be many answers. “The voice of the author”, geography, upbringing, religious or philosophical views or any number of things could play into the reason as for why two people writing about the same thing can write so differently. But to me the real difference lies in what a person sees, what a person chooses to tell and not to tell, the details that capture or upset.

For example, Stephenie Meyer could simply have started the Twilight books with “There once was a young, insecure, clumsy teenage girl, and then there was a sexy vampire boy, and it sort of just rained all the time and they fell in love…” but instead, she tells the story differently, holding suspense and mystery alive, letting young, insecure teenage girls – and many women far past their teens – feel like this could be them, and this is in fact about them, and they life they should have, and BAM, there you go, best-seller. Appeal to the audience and the audience will come. (Btw, I’m not saying I think Stephenie Meyer is an outstanding author, though I will admit I have seen a noticeable progress in her work from book 1 to 4 in the Twilight series. I am only saying that she knows what people want to read, and she writes it.)

Or to better explain, you could send two journalists to the same country. Let’s say Mexico. Now one journalist might send back an article about how lovely the weather and the scenery was, how great the food, how friendly the people etc. The other might instead send a tense piece of work about the drug lords, poverty and slums. Both these images would be true but if you had never been to Mexico, or don’t know much about it, it might well shape your entire view on what that country is like.

So is it with all authors then. If I tell you a firsthand account on how boring Swedes can be and all the negative things about the Swedish culture, and then one of your American friends go to visit and rave about how gorgeous the place is and how friendly and exciting the people, who are you going to believe? I say you always believe whomever is telling you what you want to hear. When we see someone express things the way we would or see things from our point of view, we are a lot more likely to believe them than the perhaps more qualified person who turns into a moron in our eyes because of his opposing views.

But no matter who writes something, what matters is not what they write about, but how.

 

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3 thoughts on “It’s not the what, it’s the how

  1. I know exactly what you mean about figuring out the content of your next post. It seems like the harder you have to think about one post… the quicker time passes to the next one.

    I think this post is a perfect example of the point it’s trying to make; I would never have thought this topic would interest me, but, as always, your writing makes it worth a read. Bearing that in mind… don’t you think the world deserves to see more of your writing? We all know you can do it, and we all know you’re very busy, but I sincerely hope I will see your name on the spine of a book in the library someday… perhaps even in fiction.

  2. As said above, I agree with the days flying by and struggling to find that next blogpost topic!
    I always look for something in class discussions/content…kind of rough when a professor goes off lecturing. One sidedness is fairly boring; little to no writing inspiration comes from that!

    Anyways! I would have to completely agree with your point here. I would even take it a step further and say that in fields like reporting/newscasting/journalism, it’s dangerous to sell what people WANT to hear instead of what they DESERVE to hear. I know this wasn’t really the point of your post, but what would you say about authors such as Charles Dickens and his writings on the impoverished…still became a prominent writer for depicting the underbelly no one wanted to see. Does writing in the media have a duty to be honest or to give news the best way it will be well-received?

    (BTW! I am not putting words in your mouth that your argument strictly suggested that the writers who give their audience what they want to hear are somehow innately giving false information! I just wanted to hear your opinion on the duty news-writers/journalists have to their audience!)

    1. I would most certainly agree that if you are a newscaster/reporter/in any way involved with the media and conveying information from a source to the world, it’s your responsibility to do that in as honest and uncensored a light as possible. However, if something which might be a very important event isn’t going to make headlines, media often ignores it completely. I fear that media understands completely the power it has over the views of the world and what people will come to believe is true or false, yet even though the power has been fully grasped, no-one is willing to understand the responsibility that comes with it. False information or misunderstandings can alter a persons entire life overnight. If I had such power in my hands I would make damn sure what I said was the truth before I said it.

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