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Konstantine
The Darkness Binding: The Traitor of Aka wrote:
Earlier, upon entering the cell, Atti saw a temptress was provided as part of the package deemed necessary in order for an individual to experience a night which epitomized hedonism. She stood alone in the cell, draped in nothing more than the effervescent veil of youth. Disinterestedly, her hips had begun to rock back and forth in a disjointed motion when she became aware of Atti's presence. Her slender, balanced face had been locked into a solemn stare at the floor, now rose until her eyes met Atti's eyes before they skirted away as if she were expecting someone else, perhaps someone to help. In a series of weak sounds composed with little air and no lust he instructed her to cloth herself. She put on a loose fitting dress which struggled to contain her grey complexion and sat silently, careful not to encroach on Atti's sacred last moments. Within an hour she was escorted out of the cell and led away still full of life, but devoid of sound.


If you made it to the end of that, congratulations! You've just enjoyed a free sample of an ebook that Amazon reviewers are saying "rivals the Courtney's and Hemmingway's of our generation."

Image

So what makes writing bad? In this particular sample, I point the finger at:

    - Telling not showing
    - Excessive verbiage
    - Confused tenses
    - Nonsensical turns of phrase
    - An absence of concrete imagery
    - Poor sentence flow

If you feel the need for a brain bleaching, here's some actual Hemingway.

A Farewell to Arms wrote:
In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.


But let's leave Papa behind and get back to the Bad Writing. This little baby sold 120 million copies.

Twilight wrote:
Since I didn't want to talk about the truly touchy stuff - my plans for the future, or treaties that might be broken by said plans, I prompted him.


Uh oh. Opening her parenthetical clause with a dash and closing it with a comma. Hekate is gonna hate this one. I especially enjoy the redundant comma in a list of only two items.

Well, it was a complex sentence, and those can be tough sometimes. Let's see how Nabokov handles a long sentence with multiple parts.

Lolita wrote:
She was only the faint violet whiff and dead leaf echo of the nymphet I had rolled myself upon with such cries in the past; an echo on the brink of a russet ravine, with a far wood under a white sky, and brown leaves choking the brook, and one last cricket in the crisp weeds.


Ahh. That feels better.

But enough picking on Stephanie Meyer. Now we move on to openings. Opening lines, opening pages. First, the good:

Pride and Prejudice wrote:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.


Wow, very irony, much clever. Surely #1 New York Times bestselling author Dan Brown can demonstrate an equally powerful opening.

The Da Vinci Code wrote:
Louvre Museum, Paris

10:46 P.M.

Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Saunière collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.

As he had anticipated, a thundering iron gate fell nearby, barricading the entrance to the suite. The parquet floor shook. Far off, an alarm began to ring.

The curator lay a moment, gasping for breath, taking stock. I am still alive. He crawled out from under the canvas and scanned the cavernous space for someplace to hide.

A voice spoke, chillingly close. “Do not move.”

On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.

Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils. The albino drew a pistol from his coat and aimed the barrel through the bars, directly at the curator. “You should not have run.” His accent was not easy to place. “Now tell me where it is.”


Renowned author Dan Brown, you're killing me! It's the first page, and already you've managed:

    - A clumsy infodump
    - Inappropriate verbs
    - Overwriting
    - Cliches
    - Muddled point of view

What do all these stinkers have in common? After all, each one is uniquely horrible, each a self-contained lesson on What Not To Do.

Yep...it's the fact that people actually liked them.

Why? Do people simply not read enough to recognize when something sucks? Maybe - a recent Pew Research Center report revealed that nearly a quarter of Americas hadn't read a single book in the past year.

But, of course, not everyone wants to read great literature, or at least not all the time. Sometimes you just want to read a galloping, breakneck piece of trash. Sometimes you don't want to think. While works like The Darkness Binding are, I would suggest, borderline-unreadable, others like Twilight and The Da Vinci Code are merely banal and pedestrian. They serve their purpose very well. C.S Lewis understood the appeal of bad writing, and the preference for cliches over originality:

An Experiment in Criticism wrote:
What (the unliterary) therefore demand is a decent pretense of description and analysis, not to be read with care but sufficient to give them the feeling that the action is not going on in a vacuum...For this purpose, the more cliches the better. Such passages are to them what the backcloth is to most theatregoers. No one is going to pay any real attention to it, but everyone would notice its absence if it weren't there. Thus good writing, in one way or the other, nearly always offends the unliterary reader. When a good writer leads you into a garden he either gives you a precise impression of that particular garden at that particular moment...or simply says 'It was in the garden, early.' The unliterary are pleased with neither. They call the first 'padding' and wish the author would 'cut the cackle and get to the horses.' The second they abhor as a vacuum; their imaginations cannot breathe in it.


C.S. Lewis is perhaps being a little uncharitable, but he has a point. Maybe 'badness' doesn't matter. Readers aren't writers, after all, and maybe badness is what people want.

Let's throw the topic open to the room. Do you have any examples of writing that you just love? Or any that are embarrassingly bad?
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