How do people determine what "good" prose is? Is it all based on feel? Is it all subjective or are there objective ways to judge the aesthetic merit of literary works? Though I've enjoyed reading literature for quite a while, I still find it difficult to consciously discern the subtleties between decent prose and great prose besides a vague visceral feeling. Thanks in advance for any input.
An old book I read on prose divided written prose into three different categories.
Where everyone starts. Unrefined and structured in a way that is difficult to read. Poor choice with words and the pacing is all over the place. Most fan-fiction, junk period pieces, /lit/ posts and children's writing falls under this catagory
The next stage. This is prose which aims to communicate ideas effectively and efficiently. Finding the best words to communicate your ideas and concepts. Knowing how long to make your sentences, knowing how long to make your paragraphs. Knowing to avoid using vague and abstract words to label things. Most academic works are written in competent prose. Most of your top selling pop lit, fantasy and science fiction is written in this manner (although a few break into the next category).
The final stage and the stage that takes the most amount of work to achieve. Where the conventional rules for efficiency are understood, but can be bent, broken and twisted for emotional effect. The author develops his own personal style that isn't purely efficient, doing many of the things that incompetent authors do, except doing them in his own desired way for artistic effect. Something like a run on sentence being used for anxiety, or the vagueness of word choice being used to highlight a characters confusion.
Your 'good' prose would be personal prose. Where the work is better off by breaking beyond simple, clean cut competent wording, using techniques, errors and word choices that incompetent writers, but making them work in a way that works emotionally instead of coming off awkward and weird.
Maybe, but I'm still curious about prose specifically. Obviously, there's a subjective component to it, but is that all there is? Are there any modes of more technical/objective analysis out there?