Writing so bad, it’s beautiful
Everybody wants to write a book. Hell, everybody is writing a book or a blog or a twitter account or a note in a bottle. Unfortunately the book industry is getting out of the business of publishing books. They’re publishing electronic replicas of real books and online publications and audio versions of books. A shame really, especially just now when the world is being introduced to a whole new genre of literature with Fifty Shades Of Bestsellers – smut as a story line. Who thought to take porn out of Playboy and Hustler Magazine and put it in a novel? E.L. James. When you order all three of her current bestsellers and Amazon throws in a whip and a set of handcuffs at no extra charge – there’s something wrong in the land of fiction. The book industry is currently so screwed up, it’s like the government is somehow involved.
Still everybody wants to write a book. They think it’s easy. There is truth in that old joke about the brain surgeon telling the author at a cocktail party that as soon as he retires from medicine he’s going to write a book. Replies the author: “Funny you should say that because as soon as I quit writing I’d like to open up a few heads!”
Every year since 1982 the English Department of San Jose University in California has sponsored the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for writers of the absolute worst opening line of a novel harking back to “It was a dark and stormy night.”
So if you have thoughts of writing a book I encourage you to first have a look at the very best examples, sorry … the very worst examples of writing. Bad writing when done well is priceless, creative and more entertaining than serious published works.
Sue Fondrie of Wisconsin recently won the contest with: “Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.” Sue Fondrie is a university professor.
“And right there, twitching painfully on the transparent face of her solar-panel soul lay the remnants of Cheryl’s shallow life, like so many strands of pulled pork on a smoking, abandoned grill.” Okay, I added this second line but seriously, it’s not easy to write creatively bad.
(Par. #7) “They kissed with the fury and suction of a dart that was shot into the back of the bus driver’s fat bald head by the read-headed kid that was too big for his age (the rumour was he was “held back”) and everyone knew he was going to end up in prison, or perhaps a prop comic if he straightened out in time.” Now that you’ve created characters a reader can’t help but love … plod on.
Some opening lines speak to writing life itself. “After five years as a freelance writer, Greg finally managed to double his income, letting him add a processed cheese slice to the baloney sandwiches he had for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Some lines speak to the heart but … “All the signs, both actual and imagined, made it immensely clear there was trouble ahead for Marlene and, yet, her childlike sense of hope that maybe he was “the one” kept her foot on the accelerator pedal of life even when she came to the “Bridge Out” warning handwritten in Magic Marker on Myron’s Polident cup.” … with a hollow, toothless tone.
(Par. #10) “Her flaming red hair whipped in the wind like a campfire, stroking the embers of passion hidden within the heart of my heart and I began to burn with a desire that seared me to my very core – oh the things that I would do if only I weren’t incarcerated for arson!”
I am saddened by … “As she downed the last Dixie cup of Listerine and let every drop of its 21.6 percent alcohol content hit her like an icy mint anti-cavity brickbat, Karen squinted at the breasts dangling like two electrocuted ospreys from the powerline of her heart and, with a despondency born of a thousand nights spent gaining a decent skill level at internet mahjong, wondered how she and they had all three sunk so low.” … saddened because it did not win.
Some lines are just flat out funny. “As the young officer studied the oak door, he was reminded of his girlfriend – for she was also slightly unhinged, occasionally sticky, and responded well to being stripped and given a light oiling.”
“Sunburned and lost, Jake tightened the noose around Randy’s diaper-white neck and growled, “Any last words, Varmint?” to which Randy replied, “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb Jake – that’s where all the fruit is!” which marked the first and last time Jake and the boys hired a life coach to lead one of their cattle drives.”
“Convinced that the fabled Lost Treasure of Eggsbury was concealed within the statue of the beloved Sister Mary Francis in the village square, Professor Smithee would steal away in the darkest hour of each night to try to silently chip away at her impervious granite vestments – a vain and fruitless nightly exercise, he well knew, but it was a hard habit to break.”
A favourite: “As the dark and mysterious stranger approached, Angela bit her lip anxiously, hoping with every nerve, cell and fiber of her being that this would be the one man who would understand – would take her away from all of this – and who would not just squeeze her boob and make a loud honking noise, as all the others had.
And finally, the best are usually the briefest. “Business was kinda slow at the “If You Build It” sperm bank.
Writing so bad, it’s brilliant.
Go to www.williamthomas.ca
for comments/ideas/and a copy of
The True Story of Wainfleet.
“It was a bleak and creepy place.”