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"Bad" Writing

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Michero
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If you can read Atlas Shrugged and still demand proof that Rand is a skillful writer, nothing that I can say is going to make any difference.

Being a good storyteller is different from being a good writer. In terms of plot, ideas and execution, Atlas Shrugged is superb. But the writing in some specifc passages of prose can be dull.

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That's incorrect.  It's sometimes (though not always) understood that a simile is a kind of metaphor.  But what you have here is neither simile nor metaphor.  You're just describing what something looks like.

As for rewriting the passages--I think your version Eddie is better than both Rand's and the one I suggested earlier in the thread, simply because it adds even more clarity with a more appropriate number of words (i.e. fewer) for the amount of detail that is conveyed.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, but we should also remember AisA’s contribution. I think your last point is very important, that the ability to convey greater detail and meaning in fewer words is the hallmark of a great writer.

As for whether “looked as if they were the fury of the wind made visible” is a description rather than a simile, I take your point, although I think it’s a rather fine one.

I agree that technically, a simile is a type of metaphor. What I had in mind with the above passage is that Rand is drawing a likeness between the sweeping of the branches and the “fury” of the wind. But wind is not literally furious, so this passage seems to be more a simile that a description.

But I don’t want to belabour the point, since it’s a minor one. And if Rand had been a more skilful writer, she would have come up with a less clumsy construction.

Eddie

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Still, AisA, regardless of why Eddie is here, don't you think the rewritten version of the passage is superior to Rand's?

No, I don't.

Francisco looked silently out at the darkness. The fire of the mills was dying down. There was only a faint tinge of red left on the edge of the earth, just enough to outline the scraps of clouds ripped by the tortured battle of the storm in the sky. Dim shapes kept sweeping through space and vanishing, shapes which were branches, but looked as if they were the fury of the wind made visible.
Francisco looked out at the darkening plain. The fire of the mills was dying down. A faint tinge of red touched the edge of the earth, just enough to outline the scraps of clouds ripped by the storm. The wind howled. Branches swept and vanished.

I agree with Jennifer that the second version is clunky and journalistic. By removing the references to a tortured battle and the fury of the wind, it fails to suggest the danger of the storm. It is concrete-bound and naturalistic. Its image is closer to that of a camera than a consciousness.

It is quite clear why someone who considers the first passage "weak, superfluous, unremarkable, formless, oblivious, meandering, diluted and dull" -- but considers the second version "a sight crisper" -- would have difficulty with Atlas Shrugged.

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