Stephanie Burgis
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I woke up today feeling way, way more human than I had since Thursday night. Knock on wood, I think the migraine has finally Left The Building. Whew!

And my return to normal life was marked by a nice discovery (via Lisa Mantchev): Rich Horton included my Strange Horizons story "Locked Doors" in his Virtual Best of the Year - 2007 recommended reading list. (It was in some pretty awesome company, too!)

Not much else to report, since my weekend was devoured by the Migraine From Hell. The best side-effect was that I did a lot of reading, and right now I'm re-reading Sarah Monette's The Bone Key, which continues to be one of my very favorite short story collections. It's also a great example of how to do a lot of writing challenges right, which ties into something I spent a lot of this weekend thinking about.

As writers, a lot of us want to use gorgeous language and give our readers pleasure from the sheer style of our writing, but it's even more important for me as a reader to have a strong emotional connection with the characters themselves, or to find some other immediate compulsion that absorbs me and pulls me into the story. That's why there are a couple of writers I admire tremendously for their use of language, but whose books I just can't read - despite the drop-dead, beautiful style that makes me want to swoon, I'm never absorbed in the actual story or the characters' dilemmas, I feel distanced from what's going on, and I eventually give up and put the book down, because really, life is Too Short. This happened again this weekend with a book I was trying again after a failed attempt last year. The language was so beautiful, I admired it so much...but I gave up on page 123, having pushed forward about 80 pages further than I'd managed on the first go-round.

On the other hand, there are plenty of writers whose books I'll willingly read for the great stories and characters, but whose writing style feels awkward or haphazard to me. (In those cases, I don't tend to put the book down, because I still want to find out What Happens...but I won't often re-read those books, either.) My personal ideal is the kind of writer whose language thrills me AND whose stories scoop me up and pull me along, right there with the characters, and Sarah Monette is one of the authors who does this best: beautiful writing mingled a sense of immediacy and passion and compulsive storytelling that never lets me stop.

What about you guys? What matters most to you? Do you care about the language/style? Alternately, do you even care if there's much of a story/character-hook, so long as the language is gorgeous? And which would you rather do without, beautiful writing or compelling storytelling?

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