When is a “Great Story” NOT about The Writing (Part III: Books I LOVE for the “Story” but the writing’s NOT bad!)

Illustration from 1819 edition of
Illustration from 1819 edition of “The Comic Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard and her Dog”
NOTE: We at T..A.A. don’t promote or endorse smoking. 
(Still, it fits, and it’s funny!)-Taurean Watkins, Editor-in-Chief, Founder and literary rat of  Talking Animal Addicts (T.A.A.)


If you haven’t read part 1, click here!

If you haven’t read part 2, click here!


Hi All!

I had a nice break, and a better than normal Mother’s Day, and a restful birthday yesterday, and it’s great to be back at T.A.A. again.



In part 2 of my series on Storytelling, I was honored that fellow middle grade author, Janice Hardy, was kind to let me share some of her points on storytelling that we discussed in private this time last year, little did she or I know at the time it would be great fodder for a more broad conversation, and if you’re a brave reader of moral-bending fiction, check out her “Healing Wars” Trilogy at: http://www.janicehardy.com


Today, I’ll share some of my own favorite books that while may not have the level of writing I personally strive toward, are still fun stories, and don’t worry, just because these books excel at story over prose, it’s not “bad” from a technical standpoint.


In other words, no out of place punctuation or nonsensical tense shifts, at least none I could read and pick up on.


Before I go into my picks, here’s another nugget of wisdom Janice gave me in the vein of part 2-


“I think to read like a reader you have to pay attention to what you love about the stories that isn’t about the writing. Focus on the parts that keep you up at night and make you recommend a book to everyone you know. If you can identify those aspects, and then get them into your own work (or read your own work with those ideas in mind), then there’s a good chance the book will become a more reader-friendly book overall.”


Again, I agree with Janice, but that said, I know from personal experience this is not easy to re-learn if you’ve been writing a LONG time, because writers really do read differently than readers (Who don’t write to publish) do, and because of this, it took me a LONG time to get back in touch with what she meant.


I still struggle here, but it’s not the “esoteric fortune cookie babble” it sounded to me when I first read it last year.


With those points above in mind, let’s get to it-


Remember, I’m not an agent or trained editor, so your millage may vary, but hey, if I thought the books were boring (Minor flaws and preference aside) I wouldn’t recommend it here.



Taurean’s Top 3 Book Recommendations for books where “Story Trumps Prose”

(In no particular order)


“The Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye” by Geronimo Stilton

I’ve kept my love of this series a secret for years; this was my guilty pleasure, my “Wimpy Kid” if you will. But of the many books I’ve read and loved in recent years, this is by far the most obvious example for me where character and story rise above the writing, that said, it’s not horridly written, even though the high use of adverbs in dialogue tags irks me a little.


While I can’t recommend this series to reluctant readers like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” with certain words and sentence structures more challenging compared to the aforementioned series, this is a great series to recommend readers who think animal stories for this age group are limited to Shiloh or Charlotte’s Web, and while both are fine books, tug at the heartstrings more than the need for a fast paced read.


That said, if you’re willing to invest in the audiobooks, they’re well produced and engage like those ‘ol school radio plays of yesteryear. (I have so much more to say about this book, but you’ll have to wait for my review in the near future.) But moving on-



“A Summer in the South” by James Marshall

A charming mystery story that’s almost more about the zany antics than the mystery, though that’s there, too. How this guy make simplicity not read boring is beyond me, and more power to him.


“Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat” by Lynne Jonell

This is a bit of a misfit pick in terms of the context of “Story trumps writing” books, because I do this is smartly written, but it’s not flowery, but it’s really the cheeky wit (Particularly of the Rat in this book) and Dahl-esque story that you remember most. With quirky illustrations by Jonathan Bean to round it off.


There you go, three books I love where story trumps the writing, but the writing still isn’t horrid, in my opinion.


Next time, my series on Storytelling continues with more authors sharing their thoughts on this often debated and dividing subject, what they did for their books, and more.


Please share your thought in the comments below. It’s great to hear from you, and now that I’m on WordPress, if you avoided commenting during my Blogger days because you hated entering those Caiaphas (I do too, believe me), you don’t have to deal with that anymore.


Special Thanks to Janice Hardy for allowing use of her opinions in this blog post.

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  • It’s good to see you posting again Taurean.

  • I’ve been following this series of yours, Taurean, and as you probably know, I greatly value quality in writing, so I agree with your points. I think you really got to the crux of the matter here by pointing out that even in the most story-centric stories, the writing should still be good enough to not be “bad.” If readers are taken out of the story by BAD writing, then the best story possible still loses some of its power.

    Personally, I’m aiming for better than “not bad” though. :)

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jami.

      I’m glad this series is engaging someone besides the one writing it. Like you, I personally want to be better than “Not bad”, too.

      But I can understand better now how readers can be more forgiving than our peers in the business at times, and that’s a blessing in disguise, even if it feel the opposite at first.

      Not to take away from readers who are very discerning for their own reasons, I’ve met both types in my journey, as have you on your blog, right?

      I hope this series on storytelling will help writers who aren’t as confident in their technical ability as I am at times see they’re NOT alone, while at the same time, recognize that it’s NORMAL to feel this discrepancy, and that even if they can’t be cerebral about their writing, it does’t mean it can’t reach a professional level, and that doesn’t mean your love of language and storytelling has to die because of not knowing the difference between 2nd person narrative and the omniscient narrator POV, and you know on this point I’m including myself here.

  • Janice Hardy

    Jami, I think you nailed it. Bad writing (varies by taste) is whatever pulls the reader out of the story. Small tugs can often be overlooked if the story itself is compelling, but the more readers are yanked away, the harder it is for them to engage, and the worse the writing will be considered.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Janice.

      While there’s inherent subjectivity involved (As Jami also said above), I believe for writers, there’s more than happenstance involved, there’s more to this than subjectivity.

      There’s a lesson to be learned, and not always for what NOT to do, but what TO DO in a different way, a stronger way, a less jarring way to get readers on your side.

      The more discerning readers are, the bigger the payoff is if you can win them over, and personally, that hope’s often the only reason I can keep going.