Jump to content

Welcome to Christian Writers!

We are a friendly community built around Christian writing, publishing, reading and fellowship. Register or sign in today to join in the fun!
quietspirit

The Dumbing Down of Readers

Recommended Posts

As for people preferring videos over reading - I'm one of them.

 

I can absorb more information, faster by watching a video.

 

With my writing, 3D Printing, woodworking, golfing, work, and being a dad I have ZERO time to sit down and read.  Not to mention that I use my eyes every day writing code.  It's hard to relax into a book.  So I listen to audiobooks.

 

My reading is utilitarian.  I'm researching stuff all of the time.  I'm not going to read a book from front to back when I need just a nugget of what that book provides.

 

There are those of us who are just attuned that way.  I'm in the autistic spectrum.  People with that condition may struggle with things like reading words, but you'd be awestruck how much they can retain by listening or seeing.  And, paradoxically, some of them can write well, but have a total aversion to reading.  I'm one of them.  So is my son (who tested out of several levels of College-level English right out of high school).

 

The irony is that both of us - my son and I - did horrible in public schools when it came to English.  While I may not be Hemingway, I'm not exactly Fredo Corlenoe either.

 

(I'm schmat!  I know things!)

 

Don't fault people for trying to do things better and faster.  It's in our DNA.  If it wasn't, we'd still be banging to rocks together to make fire.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, RockyMtn Gal said:

seeking a way to do something about it and hoping you had some ideas. 

 

The only idea I have is nothing original. It's simply know your genre.

 

Each genre has it's own set of styles and reader expectations. These also change over time. I recommend reading the current best-sellers in your genre, even if you have to choke down every word. I'm NOT advocating copying writing styles. Rather, compare any similarities in things like overall structure, tense, POV, word count, chapter length, average paragraph length, sentence structure. Also compare plot structure, pacing, character development, and genre tropes.

 

Again, not I'm not advocating copying an authors writing style, or ideas, but get an understanding of the overall framework that you need to write within. Also, these suggestions skew to fiction as that's what I write. I imagine non-fiction has it's own subset of genre frameworks.

 

11 hours ago, RockyMtn Gal said:

Shouldn't that be part of the adaptation instead of just accepting it because "That's just the way it is"? 

 

Why not? If you understand the genre framework, then you can bend the rules and shake things up a bit. That could be how your writing style stands out from the others. 

 

Not to toot my own horn, but one of my books took a genre trope in a different direction. I started in the usual framework and then changed things up. This was noted by a Publishers Weekly review that concluded: "This is an intriguing new slant on apocalyptic fiction, and fans who are tempted to snub it because it breaks away from genre expectations should set aside their concerns; they're likely to enjoy it far more than they expect."   Music to my ears.

 

The only other idea I have is to consider releasing your book in audiobook format. This too might necessitate tweaks to make sure things translate well into that format. I admit that I haven't yet done this with my books, but I want to. I just need to invest time to study the current best-sellers to see how they do this. Besides, Morgan Freeman is very difficult to book as a narrator. ;) 

Edited by Accord64
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, Accord64 said:

But as writers, what does this mean?

As writers, unless our subject matter is to teach how to read, it's generally not our problem. After all, by the very nature of words, our audience is people-who-can-read. They've chosen what they want to read, (unless our books happen to show up on a school's must-read list), and our writing fits them. Generally speaking, that means it's not a chore to them to read what we write.

 

Now as an MG writer, I can sneak in a little education into my story, but I can do that because my protag was so sheltered he never found out he shouldn't ask questions, and he knows very little about most things. So I was able to hint at one of the main problems with how reading is taught today, without preaching. (The main problem is something that's been going on for 30-50 years now. Reading is taught by memorizing words instead of teaching phonetics and meanings to prefixes and suffixes.) Protag got stuck on the word "pretentious," and someone tried telling him he had no "pretense." So a brief moment to explain how the words are related. But even I can't waste novel time to teach, because that's not what the audience wants when picking up a novel.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Spaulding said:

As writers, unless our subject matter is to teach how to read, it's generally not our problem.

 

Wait, what??  Sorry, I react this way because later in your post you state:

 

2 hours ago, Spaulding said:

Now as an MG writer, I can sneak in a little education into my story,...   So a brief moment to explain how the words are related. But even I can't waste novel time to teach, because that's not what the audience wants when picking up a novel.

 

So as an MG writer, you obviously took time to understand your audience. Therefore, didn't it become your problem? 

 

As a writer, I want to better understand current reading trends within my genre, so my writing will better resonate with readers. I think it's a problem all writers should come to terms with. 

 

   

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't write for the bottom line, so I may not have room to talk, but I would say the best solution to start with would be to "be the change you want to see". In the story I posted about the calculator, in all the schools I worked at, I made sure my students were able to understand and work basic math problems without the help of a calculator. At one school, my principal originally supported my policy of no calculators for the entire first semester, but reneged on her decision around November/December. When I told my students they could use calculators if they wanted to, first they asked me why the change, then they told me they didn't want to because they didn't want the crutch or to go back to their previous ignorance. I was so proud of them. My students always seemed to met/surpass my highest expectations - and I always sought to set the highest expectations I could for them. I am so sorry this discussion seemed to insult the common populace or readers, that, in least, wasn't my intention. It was more of a statement of our falling standards, not the intelligence of our students. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think we can use the limited word vocabulary in a creative way to still write an interesting and compelling stories.

 

My books are geared toward the YA reader, so I do try limiting my vocabulary to less multi-syllable words. This way they don't have to find a dictionary to find out what I mean. It isn't my job to educate, but to entertain and bring others to Christ.

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
33 minutes ago, Bob Leone said:

 It isn't my job to educate, but to entertain and bring others to Christ.

 

I don't know that anyone is arguing for including grammar books with their novels.

 

You, and others, are right that the purpose is to entertain. I agree wholeheartedly. This is not something that can be fixed from the top down anyway, though I do believe we can help readers in small ways. 

 

For my part, I was trying, and failing, to make the case that adjusting too much to fit the audience may impact the overall quality--word usage included.

I am not arguing that a novel must have fancy words to be any good.

 

Warner Brother's Looney Tunes are simple, but well put, very witty, and arguably timeless. Even though it was originally meant for adults, people of all ages still enjoy it. 

In contrast, SpongeBob's animation, word usage, and comedy dredge the bottom...but it sells.

 

1 hour ago, Bob Leone said:

 

My books are geared toward the YA reader

 

Out of curiosity, how much have you had to adjust your writing style to fit the ever changing YA audience (assuming you've had to that is)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
36 minutes ago, RockyMtn Gal said:

how much have you had to adjust your writing style to fit the ever changing YA audience

Not too much. I try not to use the ever-changing popular teen vernacular. Although I did have to come up with a way to present text messaging in my second book. Since I have five kids (now grown up) and five grand-kids, I do have access to a youthful perspective.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest

I just joined hope u don't mind me participating in this post. I also don't use computer editing for my writing at present. I am kept accountable on another site that has a limit to how many characters u can post.

I am going through the same problem with my writing. And have been for ages. Its a journey. I have learnt so much and still learning. There is a literacy problem and crisis. I could see it coming decades ago. I use to get upset about it. People use to get upset because they didn't have the time to read what I had written and they were busy. But the hidden problem was they had trouble with literacy I didn't realise then. I do now.

How God wants me to handle it, and he has wanted me to be more direct in my communication and a lot more concise. Patient and understanding.

So I am now going to learn how to be more direct and concise in my writing that brings forth healthy communication. I have joined another forum to help me learn to do that. I understand what the problem is with being two wordy, but I also understand when we are writing classically with a flourish as the writers of old did. If u look at the classical writers in history, centuries ago, some of the length of their sentences, was like a paragraph per sentence. As u discovered.

GW

I hope u find ur solution, help and way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/17/2020 at 1:07 PM, Bob Leone said:

Not too much. I try not to use the ever-changing popular teen vernacular.

Could you imagine?!

 

Would be like trying to read a foreign language even five years from now 😂!

 

Talk about needing a dictionary.

  • Like 1
  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is an interesting thread. 

My addition to it would be the consideration of language itself. We write words but language dictates in large part what can be written.
 

I took Hebrew in college and loved the language, no vowels, written from back to front, read from bottom to top. It caused me to think in a different pattern. It is truly a thinking language. Without vowels the mind had to place them.

 

When I write concerning scripture one of my deepest needs is to go back to original language to find intent and I find a richness of understanding concerning principles of truth. It is amazing what is found in the Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic. (Please don't confuse Aramaic with Arabic,  Aramaic is still spoken in a few towns in Iraq and other eastern countries solely by their Christian population).

 

The language we speak today is a dumbed down language. Paul speaks of a language spoken to him that could not be repeated, The depth of that encounter caused him to write about it. It couldn't be repeated  because it was a heavenly language. Paul did not have the capacity to repeat it, but when it was spoken to him, revelation of meaning accompanied the words.

 

Writing is about communication and as Christians we want Gods presence to accompany our words. We want to tell a story which leads to a revelation in the hearts of the readers, of comfort, or strength or confirmation we want to strengthen our readers and hopefully carry them to new personal heights.

 

 

Edited by James Kessler
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, James Kessler said:

The language we speak today is a dumbed down language. Paul speaks of a language spoken to him that could not be repeated, The depth of that encounter caused him to write about it. It couldn't be repeated  because it was a heavenly language. Paul did not have the capacity to repeat it, but when it was spoken to him, revelation of meaning accompanied the words.

 

Writing is about communication and as Christians we want Gods presence to accompany our words. We want to tell a story which leads to a revelation in the hearts of the readers, of comfort, or strength or confirmation we want to strengthen our readers and hopefully carry them to new personal heights.

 

Excellent James! This is the focus of my writing also. In my scriptural non-fiction, I try to teach readers how to access those revelatory aspects of truth. I do the same in my fiction, writing stories that attempt to show readers how truth impacts their lives in a heroic fashion. 

 

In my tradition [and yes, I'm very leery of traditions], this aspect of sharing revelation is called the anointing. It's tapping into the same power Jesus did as the the Anointed One, Messiah, Christ. It's what makes the Bible living and active. The bible isn't magic, but if you ask the author [the Holy Spirit] to lead you into the truth, He will use the words to touch us in that deep way, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and the spirt.

 

But it doesn't just happen, and it can't be figured out intellectually. You need to seek Jesus, and ask for it. You need to allow the Lord to guide how you express Truth in your stories so He can use them to impact readers. Of course, the question is: does he change the words to compell readers? No, that would be magic. The Lord never overpowers the will of the reader.

 

But if you humble yourself, pray, and write in His power, His Presence can accompany your words. At least, I think that's how it works. I do know it does work though. He is an amazing God.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree wholeheartedly about the power of the Holy Spirit's guidance. I can't tell you how many times I've read over something I previously wrote and stood amazed of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. It's as if someone else wrote it, and many times it's as if it was written for me, a reminder for myself of God's goodness and truth. It reminds me of how unworthy a vessel I am, and how much I do rely upon Him for everything, including being able to write and to word things in a comprehensible fashion even. I know for a fact that without Him and His leading, I would not be able to write anything of worth, no less anything remotely intellectually comprehensible. 

 

Quote by Eric Ludy - "The time to speak is when the Spirit of God boils the message so hot within you that it must come out. The time to write is when God Almighty presses his thumb against your heart and forces the words out like a steaming geyser."

 

Please don't interpret me wrong, I am no prophet and I am no saint, and I am certainly no muse, but if I write anything good or worthy of note at all, it is because God is faithful, not because of any talent of mine. 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, davidbergsland said:

@Jared Williams YES! Somehow it's been kept a secret that this type of living is a large part of the normal Christian life. It's available to anyone who seeks the Lord and becomes intimate with Him.

Even more rare is fiction which shares this level of living with its readers. Increasingly, my focus is on this type of writing for myself and for all people with the call of God to write. It's such a joy to find a book which provides this for the reader. Even better is when that book shows me a new way of drawing closer to Jesus.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, davidbergsland said:

Even more rare is fiction which shares this level of living with its readers. 

 

It's rarity is likely due to the target audience. This would play much better in the realm of Christian fiction rather than other fiction genres aimed at a general audience.

 

  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Accord64 said:

It's rarity is likely due to the target audience. This would play much better in the realm of Christian fiction rather than other fiction genres aimed at a general audience.

 

Typically true, but not always. It is possible to instill biblical truth in fiction aimed for the general populace. I may not be able to give many examples of what I mean in writing- but there are some - C.S.Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia,  Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, some of Ted Dekker's books... These have had a lot of appeal to the secular world. We can also see some parallels in other artistries, such as song writers and bands who aren't considered a purely Christian band, such as Lecrae, Evanescence, TFK, etc. (Some examples of bands who've made it big in the secular scene that are Christians) My examples are limited and I know there are many more out there, but hopefully my point is clear? 

 

But I do see your point. Target audience can be tricky, and it certainly seems more difficult nowadays than before. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I understand your point. I've prayed about it a lot. But prophetic realities seem to have passed that option, in my opinion. My focus is on strong Christian witness to a general audience—Christian, nominally Christian, and heathen.

 

To take but one of your examples, Lord of the Rings. That was a life-changing series for me. Yes, Tolien and Lewis were believers. But I was stunned years later—after I came to belief and met Jesus personally—to hear believers espouse LOTR as Christian fiction. It's no more Christian than Balaam's donkey. The same people usually say Star Wars and Snoopy have Christian themes. Narnia at least has some relatively direct allegory. But I've never heard of a conversion experience from either of those series. I've also never heard them called Christian unless the reader was already a believer to start with. Granted my experience is limited, but after 75 years I've seen a few things.

 

My experience is that there are very few books which are functionally Christian—with the power to change lives. I remember my wife's amazement [after reading hundreds if not thousands of Christian romances] when, to her joy she was reading one where a character actually went through a transformative introduction to Jesus. 

 

I agree that these things might add a little to the pile of experience leading a person to turn toward the Lord. But, my conviction is that we simply to not have the luxury of that much time before it's too late for any reader. So, my focus is writing non-fiction and fiction which might lead fairly quickly to a conversion.

 

Yes, only the Holy Spirit can do that. But can I write something which the Holy Spirit will back up in real time? That's what I'm looking for.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, davidbergsland said:

My focus is on strong Christian witness to a general audience—Christian, nominally Christian, and heathen.

 

That's an odd definition of "general audience." I dislike using the word "heathen." It has a negative and often demeaning connotation. I prefer the term "secular."  I write to a general audience, and never want to insult or put people down for not being Christian.

 

3 hours ago, Jared Williams said:

Typically true, but not always. It is possible to instill biblical truth in fiction aimed for the general populace.

 

Yes, and I do this, too. But I think Dave was talking about something having more of an unabashed, straightforward approach. If you can do this and reach a general audience, great! But in my experiences, this type of approach rarely resonates with those types of readers.

 

My approach comes from what CS Lewis once said: "The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature."

 

This hasn't always played well in Christian circles. I've been criticized for being a nominal Christian bending to worldly views, or watering down the gospel by not clearly presenting it in my stories.

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

  

Edited by Accord64
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hear you. I believe it was Charles Finney who was led to Christ by reading Williams Blackstone's Commentary on the English Law (the definitive law book of America's early jurisprudence). Now that is impressive! The story is that there were so many biblical references in Blackstone's law book that Finney decided to go out and purchase a Bible, read it and came to Christ. If my writing can do that, it would be incredible! 

 

That being said, I also have learned the hard way over the years that, like you said, 

1 hour ago, davidbergsland said:

only the Holy Spirit can do that.

I love the verse, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow." It's a constant reminder to me that it's not my job to convert someone, only to be faithful in what God has called me to do. I do see your point that there is limited time left, and that puts an urgency to the gospel (not to mention that the gospel has tremendous power in it as it's God's word!). I also see the other side, though... everything a person reads, sees, hears, and surrounds himself/herself with creates a narrative for that person about reality. If even the smallest thing I write can plant a seed of change in that narrative for that person towards Christ, it can mean a great deal of difference in the long run of small changes and influences - that only God can orchestrate, but the bottom line remains the same whether it's writing in distinct terms or vivid analogous terms, writing for the Lord - with prayerful consideration for the Holy Spirit - is - I think - a must. 

 

The end may be very, very near, but a wise saying I hear often from my pastor is, "Plan like you're going to live forever, work like you're going to die tomorrow." You never know how even the smallest seed may affect someone else's life forever. but all that aside, I believe God has called all of us to witness and bring Him glory, but how we are called to go about that is different to each person. I am heartened to hear you feel led to write in a way that can bring dramatic and direct change to a person's life towards Christ, and I think and pray that I have been called to a similar calling (there is a conversion scene in my book that I hope is transformational), but I also recognize that a lot of Christian authors write in more subtle ways, and I think they can have transformational impacts in their own way too - as called and led by the Holy Spirit... 

 

(sorry, I kind of went off and ranted there, I didn't mean to come across as arguing or disagreeing with you... I hope it didn't... I just wanted to clarify a bit of what I think..........) 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Jared Williams said:

- C.S.Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia,  Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, some of Ted Dekker's books...

These are all good books to read, however there is not a clear salvation in Jesus message in any of them. They use types. For example Chronicles of Narnia: we know that Aslan is supposed to represent Jesus. There are many books out there that proclaim good vs evil, and many good virtues. However that is not our commission from God. I think that you can have an entertaining story that appeals to the non-Christian yet make the Gospel clear, and even using the word Jesus. Now I humbly am going to give an example of my book. “They Don’t Cast Shadows” the heroine is a non-Christian. Her best friend is a Christian. In the story the heroine gets Saved (clear gospel presentation) and that is when her adventure begins. She receives a spiritual gift of seeing the spirit world and finds that her hometown is over run with demons. With the help of a young man (her eventual boyfriend) and her guardian angel, they battle the demons almost resulting in her death. All of that to say that I have had a half dozen non-Christians tell me that the enjoyed the story and it gave them something to think about. My second book which is being edited by the publisher the hero’s roommate is a non-Christian. Through encounters with the demon-possessed and battle for their college, the roommate gets saved and learns that even though all of your sins have been forgiven you still have to pay the consequences of your past actions. 

Edited by Bob Leone
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/16/2020 at 12:15 PM, Accord64 said:

 

So as an MG writer, you obviously took time to understand your audience. Therefore, didn't it become your problem? 

(Sorry didn't see this until today.)

 

MG -- middle grade. 2nd to 6th graders. Different than writers who write for anyone over the age of 11. And I am writing something for them, not teaching them how to read. (Am teaching them to think for themselves though.)

 

On 2/16/2020 at 12:15 PM, Accord64 said:

As a writer, I want to better understand current reading trends within my genre, so my writing will better resonate with readers. I think it's a problem all writers should come to terms with.

I do understand the writing trends within my genre, (and age group.) Right now it is to teach children that believing in God is ridiculous, the earth will die before they finish college, (but they have to go to college anyway), homosexuals and other deviant sexual "choices" are the way to go, and "diversity" means everyone but white European males. And on equal footing with all that manure, I'm also catering to the gatekeepers -- parents and teachers. If they don't like it, children will never find it.

 

I will cater to parents and teachers too, but a wild mustang injected with caffeine cannot buck harder against writing trends for my audience than I am when it comes to what is trending for my audience. 

 

(Also, caught no anger from what you said. Caught your passion about the topic. Hoping that's what you're catching from me too, since I can't even think why I should be angry with you.)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/17/2020 at 10:38 AM, Bob Leone said:

I think we can use the limited word vocabulary in a creative way to still write an interesting and compelling stories.

 

My books are geared toward the YA reader, so I do try limiting my vocabulary to less multi-syllable words. This way they don't have to find a dictionary to find out what I mean. It isn't my job to educate, but to entertain and bring others to Christ.

 

I'm not saying your wrong. I think you made a good decision. That said, the only reason I don't use words that require a dictionary in my story, (often), is because grade school kids usually aren't reading by smart-phone yet, so they'd have to look up words the old-fashioned way. (And if they aren't near a dictionary, they'll skip it.) High schoolers do have easier access, don't they?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that people who proclaim that the readers are dumbed down or that the language had been dumbed down should be careful.  Christ did not speak of the voluminous transcendental resplendence of the Kingdom of God.  He talked about valuable pearl hidden in a field.

 

It's not the words you use, its the story you tell.  Just so long as it doesn't sound like a one-note symphony, you're good.

 

Oh, and mix up your sentences. No one wants to read something that sounds like a marching cadence.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.