Bad Writing

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

December 3, 2010

Still sick. No fun. I hate the isolation this causes. I see it as my moral obligation not to spread germs, but I haven't left the house in a week and I miss non-family social interaction. Even for me, grand solipsist that I am (see, still studying for the GREs), I like the occasionally company of someone my own age from time to time.

Dad had gall bladder surgery last weekend but now he's okay. It was edging on gangrenous when they took it out, so I'm glad they caught it before things got more serious. I hate the suddenness of these things. Why can't life hand you your schedule of medical emergencies in advance so you can properly prepare?

Today, I've been musing about the phrase "bad writing." I've had people talk to me about the bad writing in books. I've seen it on amazon reviews all the time. The funny thing is, it's a phrase the doesn't actually mean much, yet everyone seems to expect everyone else to understand what they mean.

I've been thinking about this because I was talking about books with a friend who hated Hunger Games because of its "bad writing." The vagueness of the phrase can refer to style, or to characterization, or to a dozen other nitpicky things. Usually an author is good on some points and not so good on others, yet if the particular aspect you care about as a reader is lacking, all of their good points get wrapped up in the term "bad writing". And often, even more ironically, sometimes it's a term that's used not about the writing at all, but about something else, like the choice of subject matter. If it's something you disagree with, then it's bad writing, too.

And then things get even more complicated, because sometimes the author does bad writing on purpose. Does that turn bad writing into good writing? Does that mean we judge should weigh intention while trying to judge if something is bad or not?

I thought about it somewhat while reading the criticism of Dan Wells' Serial Killer book on Amazon. It amused to me to see some people complaining that the protagonist's sociopathic tendencies are "bad writing" when it was a deliberate choice on the part of the author. I don't know whether it realistically represented a sociopath's perspective or not, not being a sociopath, but I wonder why people tend to dismiss things they don't like as "bad writing" instead of saying, "I didn't like the author's choice to do x". Not liking something is fine. But I wonder where we got the tendency to group everything we don't like under bad writing, because it's a universal trait. Maybe I felt a little touchy because some people on Amazon seemed to be equating bad writing with anything that has elements of fantasy.

So the moral of the story is, bad writing isn't always bad writing. Except when I use the term, because everything I don't like IS bad writing, even if all these other people using the phrase are crazy-kins. (/End irony.)


  1. Lee Ann Setzer said...

    The real moral of the story is to get better, so you have more activities to choose from than reading reviews on Amazon.

    I wrote an autistic character once, trying not to let that person say or think any word that described how another person might be thinking, feeling, or reasoning. However any Amazon reviewers feel about Dan Wells' books, he is an amazing writer for a) pulling it off and b) making it interesting and relatable (b) was my problem).

    Get well soon!

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