Thursday, October 24, 2013

In defense of bad writing... Authors I hate that I love.

While I am on record with my love of poorly written and produced movies (like Sharknado), there are a few authors I am almost embarrassed to admit that I can't get enough of. My embarrassment stems from the fact that while popular (three are on the NYT best sellers list) these authors will never be mistaken for great literature. The characters that are presented are generally two dimensional and cliche, the prose rambles aimlessly at times as if the author is getting paid by the word, and the plot holes are generally big enough to drive the state of Texas through. Generally these fall into three categories...

1) Authors who rely on a gimmick, or a core idea that is so fantastic/controversial that it carries the whole book. Dan Brown, I am totally looking at you. While the DaVinci Code was an international best seller, and made gobs and gobs of money, it is hardly a good book. It's the literary equivalent to a summer blockbuster/popcorn movie, even though it's trying really hard to be more than that. The ideas at the core of the book, about Jesus having had kids, Mary Magdalene being suppressed by the male dominated church, and clever puzzles are what keep the reader turning the pages, not our empathy for Robert Langdon or Sophie. It's a literary trick, and an obvious one to a writer. I still loved DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons (which does the same thing with the illuminatti) and ran through The Lost Symbol in less than a day.

2) Authors that recycle the same plot over and over, to great financial success. Now I will admit that part of me is just really jealous of the ability of some authors to do this over and over, but I absolutely hate myself for being an avid fan of some authors that do. Michael Crichton is the best example I can think of this. His writing style is exceptionally rambling, and his plot twists are telegraphed chapters in advance, which is why I feel like I shouldn't enjoy the novel. Worse than that is the fact that his novels are just so, so formulaic. Every Crichton novel is exactly the same... New Technology discovered that leaves main character in awe, then something goes dreadfully wrong. The rest of the novel is spent dealing with the consequences and ethical ramifications of the technology. The only one of his novels that breaks this mold is The Andromeda Strain, which is by far my favorite, but I would be lying if I said I didn't adore Jurassic Park.

3) Protagonists that suddenly have whatever expert skillset is needed to vanquish the antagonist, with only a slight mention in an earlier chapter, but never in any previous work where the protagonist appears. There are two huge offenders to this whose books I adore... Ian Fleming and Clive Cussler. While James Bond could have theoretically learned a lot of his skills as part of his MI6 training, it pains me to say Dirk Pitt cannot be an expert fencer, oceanographer, special forces, expert pilot, medic, star fisherman, auto restorer, historian, antiques expert, gourmet chef, and scuba diver all in the same book. I'm all about having a diverse skillset, but Cussler gives Dirk whatever skills he needs to save the day on an 'as I need them' basis. I LOVE THIS MAN'S BOOKS, but it drives me crazy.

Anyhow, I'm sure that years from now people will complain much the same way about Jake Price. I could do worse than have one of my badly written novels on the NYT best seller list, even for a second. I guess that 'well written' is kind of in the eye of the beholder anyway... Critics tend to belittle the work of all of these authors, and I'm sure their opinion really matters to Mr. Brown as he laughs at them from on top of a huge pile of money.

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