Bad Writing - a Thog-a-like thread for dreadful prose.

JunkMonkey

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We need a place to post offences against orthography. I love bad writing - just as I love bad films. There is something about watching incompetence in action that is both inspiring and incredibly funny at the same time. The struggle against overwhelming odds is one of the basic building blocks of western art. Comedy is is the failure to walk past the banana skin. Tragedy is the failure to avoid schtupping your mom. Sometimes the way the storyteller fails to tell his tale becomes a tragedy in itself - or, more often, a comedy.

So in the spirit of the mighty Thog's Masterclass What are your favourite bits of really awful writing?

To start things off here are a couple of moments from my current 'There's only so much of this I can take in one go' read; Shattered Kingdom: Book 1 by Angela J Steffort.

**********

Her eyes darted from surface to surface , marvelling at the ornate carvings , burgundy and gold patterns, and the thick rug covering most of the dark stone floor. She marvelled till her chest hurt from the ambivalence of it.

**********

"I am a Child of Varla," she repeated, implying precisely what it meant and reminding the four people in the room of exactly that.

**********

Gandrett didn't know why she did it, but she reached out her hand, taking Mckenzie's in her own. The woman's emerald eyes told of the nights of crying over her lost brother, the days hoping for his return, and the moments of disappointment, followed by those nights of crying again.
 
I'm not sure I have the right idea. But I recall this line from a trashy novel a few years ago:

They sat together in the meadow and he took her face in his hands. A bee passed between them. He kissed it.

Again, I'm not sure I have the right idea. Finding bad prose in trashy novels is like shooting fish in a barrel (I mean you could open a Dan Brown or Jeffrey Archer novel at any page). Finding bad prose in an otherwise well written and worthy novel is perhaps more interesting (a bit like the annual Bad Sex Awards).
 
I think bad prose is bad prose no matter where it comes from. A rotten egg in a five star Michelin restaurant smells just as bad as a rotten egg in a greasy spoon diner. More surprising to find it there maybe, but just as rotten.
 
We need a place to post offences against orthography. I love bad writing - just as I love bad films. There is something about watching incompetence in action that is both inspiring and incredibly funny at the same time. The struggle against overwhelming odds is one of the basic building blocks of western art. Comedy is is the failure to walk past the banana skin. Tragedy is the failure to avoid schtupping your mom. Sometimes the way the storyteller fails to tell his tale becomes a tragedy in itself - or, more often, a comedy.

So in the spirit of the mighty Thog's Masterclass What are your favourite bits of really awful writing?

To start things off here are a couple of moments from my current 'There's only so much of this I can take in one go' read; Shattered Kingdom: Book 1 by Angela J Steffort.

**********

Her eyes darted from surface to surface , marvelling at the ornate carvings , burgundy and gold patterns, and the thick rug covering most of the dark stone floor. She marvelled till her chest hurt from the ambivalence of it.

**********

"I am a Child of Varla," she repeated, implying precisely what it meant and reminding the four people in the room of exactly that.

**********

Gandrett didn't know why she did it, but she reached out her hand, taking Mckenzie's in her own. The woman's emerald eyes told of the nights of crying over her lost brother, the days hoping for his return, and the moments of disappointment, followed by those nights of crying again.
 
I think I get it; believe it or not, this one is F Scott Fitzgerald “Bernice Bobs Her Hair“. It’s an excellent story and very well written.

However, there’s this one line that I feel just didn’t age very well; here goes…

“Clumsy boys are the best dancing practice. If you can follow them and yet look graceful you can follow a baby tank across a barb-wire sky- scraper."

Is it just me or did one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century write a stinker?
 
Once, in mid inter-planetary flight, they were brought to a dead stop. The cause? They had entered the "no-man's land" between two planets, where, opposed to all normal theory, the two worlds, acting in complete unison, were poised on the same plane, although millions of miles apart.
(Terence Haile, Galaxies Ahead, 1963)
 
I'm not sure I have the right idea. But I recall this line from a trashy novel a few years ago:

They sat together in the meadow and he took her face in his hands. A bee passed between them. He kissed it.

Again, I'm not sure I have the right idea. Finding bad prose in trashy novels is like shooting fish in a barrel (I mean you could open a Dan Brown or Jeffrey Archer novel at any page). Finding bad prose in an otherwise well written and worthy novel is perhaps more interesting (a bit like the annual Bad Sex Awards).
You see, I like that. It’s funny. It’s a bit clunky, but that doesn’t ruin the joke.

Once, in mid inter-planetary flight, they were brought to a dead stop. The cause? They had entered the "no-man's land" between two planets, where, opposed to all normal theory, the two worlds, acting in complete unison, were poised on the same plane, although millions of miles apart.
(Terence Haile, Galaxies Ahead, 1963)

This, on the other hand, is indecipherable.
 
So, anything from me.

Hmm...


There was something odd about him. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but something about him set him off. He felt uneasy around him; he was sure he felt the same way about him the way he felt about him. Mutual distrust.



The only way to perform the rite was the right way, not the Wright way. He had to write down the right instructions for the rite. The Wright family thought their way was the right way for the rite, but sadly, they were mistaken. He knew the rite would not work with the Wright way, only the right way. And the Wright way was the wrong way to perform the rite, not the right way to perform the rite.

He would set things right for the Wright family by performing the rite the right way, not the Wright way.
 
So, anything from me.

Hmm...

There was something odd about him. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but something about him set him off. He felt uneasy around him; he was sure he felt the same way about him the way he felt about him. Mutual distrust.

The only way to perform the rite was the right way, not the Wright way. He had to write down the right instructions for the rite. The Wright family thought their way was the right way for the rite, but sadly, they were mistaken. He knew the rite would not work with the Wright way, only the right way. And the Wright way was the wrong way to perform the rite, not the right way to perform the rite.

He would set things right for the Wright family by performing the rite the right way, not the Wright way.

Are these from somewhere? I had envisioned this thread as being a place to post examples of dreadful writing from published sources - especially ones in print.
 
Like this entire first page from 'Devolution of a Species' by M E Ellington

With an almost silent click and a flash of its small blue light, the flat-screen TV came to life, and Jeff Eastwood was offered more bad news as he ate his breakfast. The two BBC news anchors sat on the ergonomically designed couch looking concerned as they relayed yet more details of suspected terrorist attacks, anarchic public demonstrations, and rioting. It was too early for news such as this, the clock on the screen displayed 06:47 a.m., and outside it was still dark. January in England is a long dark and for most a depressing month. After the highs of the Christmas festivities comes the reality of the New Year, and the absolute drudgery of it starting all over again like some bad joke. And for many, the credit card bills for the festive period.
He sighed as he took the first sip of his morning tea. Coffee would follow later, but it was always tea first thing. As a special adviser to the UK government on social cohesion, he knew today's news of further rioting and the increasing, seemingly random violent attacks that are being reported would mean another day of meetings and head-scratching.

More here: Worst SFF Book Ever
 
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Like this entire first page from 'Devolution of a Species' by M E Ellington

With an almost silent click and a flash of its small blue light, the flat-screen TV came to life, and Jeff Eastwood was offered more bad news as he ate his breakfast. The two BBC news anchors sat on the ergonomically designed couch looking concerned as they relayed yet more details of suspected terrorist attacks, anarchic public demonstrations, and rioting. It was too early for news such as this, the clock on the screen displayed 06:47 a.m., and outside it was still dark. January in England is a long dark and for most a depressing month. After the highs of the Christmas festivities comes the reality of the New Year, and the absolute drudgery of it starting all over again like some bad joke. And for many, the credit card bills for the festive period.
He sighed as he took the first sip of his morning tea. Coffee would follow later, but it was always tea first thing. As a special adviser to the UK government on social cohesion, he knew today's news of further rioting and the increasing, seemingly random violent attacks that are being reported would mean another day of meetings and head-scratching.

More here: Worst SFF Book Ever

That is bad. And it contains several grammatical errors. But I don't find it unusual. If you pick up a random paperback thriller in an airport bookshop and open at a random page, you will likely read prose like that.
 
Like this entire first page from 'Devolution of a Species' by M E Ellington

With an almost silent click and a flash of its small blue light, the flat-screen TV came to life, and Jeff Eastwood was offered more bad news as he ate his breakfast. The two BBC news anchors sat on the ergonomically designed couch looking concerned as they relayed yet more details of suspected terrorist attacks, anarchic public demonstrations, and rioting. It was too early for news such as this, the clock on the screen displayed 06:47 a.m., and outside it was still dark. January in England is a long dark and for most a depressing month. After the highs of the Christmas festivities comes the reality of the New Year, and the absolute drudgery of it starting all over again like some bad joke. And for many, the credit card bills for the festive period.
He sighed as he took the first sip of his morning tea. Coffee would follow later, but it was always tea first thing. As a special adviser to the UK government on social cohesion, he knew today's news of further rioting and the increasing, seemingly random violent attacks that are being reported would mean another day of meetings and head-scratching.

More here: Worst SFF Book Ever
You all have high standards, which is great.

It's not an amazing opening and it could have done with a bit of polish, but I didn't find this terrible. It captures a depressive seasonal affective disorder mood.

As an educational experience, I would like it if someone could point out the things wrong with it.
 
You all have high standards, which is great.

It's not an amazing opening and it could have done with a bit of polish, but I didn't find this terrible. It captures a depressive seasonal affective disorder mood.

As an educational experience, I would like it if someone could point out the things wrong with it.

Apart from the general crapness, and the alarming tense changes, and semi-random punctuation; there's things like: "He sighed as he took the first sip of his morning tea." You cannot sigh and drink at the same time. Not without either choking, or spraying drink over the room, or making the strange burbling noises which entertained you as a child but drove your parents to distraction. (Or was that just me?)
 
You all have high standards, which is great.

It's not an amazing opening and it could have done with a bit of polish, but I didn't find this terrible. It captures a depressive seasonal affective disorder mood.

As an educational experience, I would like it if someone could point out the things wrong with it.
There are a few technical errors. For example;

It was too early for news such as this, the clock on the screen displayed 06:47 a.m., and outside it was still dark.


Should be

It was too early for news such as this - the clock on the screen displayed 06:47 a.m. - and outside it was still dark.


But in general there is a bit too much exposition crammed into a short passage, and the sentence structures are clumsy and awkward. As I said though, it is of fairly typical quality for a bestselling thriller.
 
Thanks @JunkMonkey and @Christine Wheelwright . I guess I auto fix those errors in my head as I go.

I'm bothered by other things in writing, like bad plots or slow, meandering plots and actions that don't fit with characters, or characters and events I just can't connect with. I've read several books with impeccable language and manners which I gave up on because I just couldn't care. If the story is good, I just overlook stuff a lot of modern linters could fix.
 
Thanks @JunkMonkey and @Christine Wheelwright . I guess I auto fix those errors in my head as I go.

I'm bothered by other things in writing, like bad plots or slow, meandering plots and actions that don't fit with characters, or characters and events I just can't connect with. I've read several books with impeccable language and manners which I gave up on because I just couldn't care. If the story is good, I just overlook stuff a lot of modern linters could fix.

Good writing (for me) is a combination of both. If I'm having to decode, what I'm reading (sometimes sentence by sentence) then I'm not reading. I'm translating.

I can just about fumble my way through simple (plot-driven) pulp level writing in French. I don't mind stopping (sometimes several times a page) to puzzle out what a sentence means (whether it's because I've hit some idiom I don't understand, or word I don't know and have to look up), or letting something I just don't get slide by because I will pick up the thread a few sentences later. I expect to do that when I'm reading in a language I can just about understand.

When I have to do that for some plot-driven piece of pulp fiction written in English.... That bothers me.
 
Here's a couple of great lines from Asimov's Foundation. Both lines are on the same page, separated by just 50 words or so.

Pirenne looked up and blinked. "Stop that!" he said querulously.
[dialogue continues]
"Have you heard the news?" questioned Hardin, phlegmatically.
 

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