Enjoying “Bad” Writing

There was an article recently in The Telegraph where Dan Brown–author of The DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons, and many other books–was being mocked, again.  Apparently Dan’s got another book coming out, and this article’s author cleverly, and not subtly, made fun of Mr. Brown’s prose.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard people talk smack about Dan’s books, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, but what I want to know is why?

Why do some people seem to enjoy bad-mouthing a successful author, simply because s/he doesn’t write their stories in the way that MFA’s or grammarians tell us things should be written?  This same issue came out with the Harry Potter books and JK Rowling.  I’m sure it also gets said about James Patterson, and many others.

There seems to be a great chasm amongst writers and readers and what’s considered “good” writing.  Those who chastise authors for their “bad” writing habits (be they grammatical errors, or whathaveyou) are quite vociferous, which I find interesting because I’ve heard so many of my fellow authors say how one should never give another author’s work a bad review.  They don’t want it biting them in the ass later on, but apparently they take great delight in reading a “critic” tear same author to shreds.

I will readily admit that I do see some of the issues with JK Rowling’s writing style and her over use of “said” tags, or adverbs, however, I still think they’re wonderful books, and I’ve read the entire series multiple times.  Each time, I’m quickly engrossed in the world she created, and the only time I’ve ever noticed her “bad” writing, is when I read it aloud to my stepdaughter, Athena.  Before that, I barely noticed the issues, probably because I skipped past the “s/he saids,” since I could easily see in my head who was doing the talking (which is indicative of GOOD writing).  Also probably because I tend to be a speed reader.

Being a speed reader is part of why I enjoy James Patterson books so much more than a Jane Austen novel.  Mr. Patterson gets to the heart of the story.  In short, action-packed sentences.  I don’t have to waste my time with all the flowery mumbo-jumbo that’s prevalent in a Jane Austen book, or many of the other “classics” that are written in a similar over-wordy style.  An author who goes off on seemingly irrelevant tangents loses me very quickly, and if I find that they write like that throughout the book, I often stop reading it and never pick up their stuff again.  As much as I’d like to read the classics, there are many I won’t ever get to, BECAUSE of the verbose language (Austen, Dickens, and Bronte being among them).

But getting back to the reaming of Dan Brown.  At the end of the article, many of the comments were in agreement of the article’s creative castigation, but one commenter aptly summed up my thoughts.  In his comment, this person said that he wondered if critics thought they would turn people on to other “literature” by simply bad-mouthing writers like Dan Brown.  He then said he believed such mocking would have the opposite effect: “They read the book, enjoy it and then find out they’re an idiot for enjoying it because only stupid people like his books.”

He also commented, “Let people read what they like without looking down upon them because you don’t like their choices. If they enjoy reading, they’ll soon find their way to better fiction.”

I wholeheartedly agree with both of this commenter’s, well, comments.  Nobody likes to be called (or even thought) an “idiot” for liking something that’s not “high brow” or “artistic” enough by someone else’s estimation.  We’ve all got our “guilty pleasures,” that, quite honestly, we shouldn’t have to feel guilty about liking.

I LOVED The DaVinci Code.  The book, anyway.  I thought the movie SUCKED (but that’s a discussion for another time, & I don’t think anyone’s “stupid” for enjoying the movie).  I didn’t enjoy Angels and Demons as much, and I haven’t read anything else by Dan Brown, but I truly enjoyed TDVC.  In fact, I couldn’t put it down when I started, and wound up devouring that entire book in just a weekend (while I was vacationing in London, mind you, so I had to get some sightseeing in).  I found it so action-packed and emotionally fraught that it was a real page turner for me.

However, I have also enjoyed some classics.  I’ve loved works by Jules Verne, Alexandre Dumas, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (naturally).  There are still more classics that I want to read, but that doesn’t mean I won’t also enjoy a bit of  “fluff” from time to time, too.

Maybe that’s because I don’t have an MFA myself.  If that’s the reason, I can tell you I don’t want to obtain one anytime soon.  I wouldn’t want the pure enjoyment of reading to be taken away from me because I kept analyzing the author’s writing choices.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Craig
    May 24, 2013 @ 08:37:36

    I had an interesting correlation pop into my head at reading about the other writers and their thoughts on Dan Brown or other “Fluff” authors. I had a similar experience as a comic book illustrator.
    The thing was, that whenever I (or other aspiring artists) went to conventions and showed my portfolio to potential employers, I would get varied and numerous critiques on why my work wasn’t up to snuff. Particularly from those on the outside looking in were comments on incorrect or bad anatomy. This particularly made us mad because we could pick up a comic book at random from the stands and have a great chance of seeing drawings with worse anatomy than ours. That’s where the peer-bashing comes in. We didn’t want to do it, but when the ‘professionals’ are guilty of the same flaws that are keeping us from the same jobs, it gets under your skin.
    So, maybe that’s why fellow authors tend to bash Dan Brown. “If we can’t get published because we make these “bad writing” mistakes, how come Dan Brown can get away with it?”


    • Alyx Morgan
      May 24, 2013 @ 08:49:48

      Very interesting point, Craig. I do wonder that myself about authors bashing other successful writers. In fact, I’m sure you’ve seen the meme that displays a picture of the Twilight series & says “If these can get published, so can your books.” You can find similar examples in music, movies, everywhere, really.

      I guess it’s just a matter of having the right connections & perseverance to get it done.

      Thanks for stopping by today.


      • cminichino
        May 24, 2013 @ 10:33:03

        I like Craig’s point!

        Also, for me, part of the reading experience is enjoyment of the language. I admire writers who come up with turns of phrases that leave me smiling, or crying, or simply clapping. The worst sin of TDVC (after all the historical inaccuracies re: the Catholic Church) is that there’s no sense of language.
        Not that I’m judging or anything . . .

  2. Maddy
    May 24, 2013 @ 09:01:50

    I started off reading Enid Blyton in England and she was considered a terrible writer. Then I moved on to Agatha Christie – also considered a terrible writer. Enjoyed both, and soon hooked on reading. I don’t care what people read as long as they read something and enjoy it.


    • Alyx Morgan
      May 24, 2013 @ 09:04:06

      That’s a great attitude, Maddy, & I agree. While I might not like Dickens, or Austen, or the Twilight saga, there are those who do & like you said . . . at least they’re reading!

      Thanks for visiting today.


  3. rolfing matters
    May 24, 2013 @ 09:19:00

    It comes down to people critiquing everything, I think. If your book is written, it speaks for itself, but every other person wants to record something to say, and it may as well be their opinion. Opinions are easy to disseminate and free. Publishing takes time and effort.


    • Alyx Morgan
      May 24, 2013 @ 09:21:10

      Very good point. And we’re all entitled to our opinions, for sure. I guess I’m just “defending” my favorite authors when I can just let people have their own opinions & ignore the ones I don’t agree with.


  4. Alyx Morgan
    May 24, 2013 @ 10:40:08

    LOL You can judge all you want, Camille. I realize Mr. Brown isn’t for everyone.

    And I know what you mean about language. I feel the same way about music. I find myself drawn to songs & artists who use unusual phrases to express things, like KT Tunstall, Train, or Maroon 5. I’ll often find myself listening to a song over & over again, just because of how much I like the words they’ve chosen.


  5. Ana Manwaring
    May 26, 2013 @ 11:02:54

    I loved all of the Dan Brown’s books and look forward to Inferno. I read today that it’s about overpopulation, but uses Dante’s Inferno and a vehicle to tell the story. That’s hi-brow isn’t it? Enough for me! I read a wide variety of literature and agree with you, Alyx, if you enjoy it–that’s what’s important. Let the negative reviewers say what they will. I’m sure that they’re just jealous. Have they suffered through writing a novel? Maybe, but why haven’t I heard of it? Theirs are probably all narrative with a weak plot, vague theme, confusing POV, no scenes and no point. Oh, and the grammar? A nightmare.


    • Alyx Morgan
      May 26, 2013 @ 22:42:16

      You might be right, Ana, about jealousy (& “bad writing”) driving the negative reviews, but they clearly attribute those same flaws to JK or Dan or whoever else they think shouldn’t have been published. It just really seems to come down to enjoying what you . . . enjoy. I know many people think Tolkein was a genius, but his narration style is just too tangential for me, which bores me, personally. But someone who devours every word JRR ever wrote would probably find the quick, action-packed sentences in a Patterson thriller way too short & unfulfilling.

      I guess I just don’t like the seemingly snootiness that comes from those who enjoy verbose prose, tangential phrases & extremely flowery writing. Good on them for liking those kinds of books, but those of us who don’t aren’t “imbeciles.” Nor would we be likely to enjoy “more literary” fare if our “drivel” wasn’t available to us.

      Thanks for visiting today.


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