I have the Telegraph to thank for today’s post. I had an idea for a topic I wanted to address, but this came along, …”Dan Brown’s 20 Worst Sentences,” and I just had to share. http://tinyurl.com/r6tye2 . It seems the two most bashed authors these days are Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer. They are loved or hated as discussed in my last post. Loved by the general reading public and hated by critics in the publishing industry. The more masses to love them, the more the industry will bash them.
I can see both sides of the issue. As a general reader, I read Angels and Demons, and The Da Vinci Code long before the hysteria. No one was complaining as much back then. I read them with the focus on entertainment and never noticed the flaws that are magnified by today’s critics. I aborted my efforts on Twilight only because I saw the movie before I finished the book and that always spoils it for me. You can bet I’ll read it again with a critical eye for what the fuss is about.
I don’t discount the critics, either. As a writer hoping to be published, I know how hard it is—all of it: writing, re-writing, the query, finding an agent—so it won’t go unnoticed when someone puts forth less effort with an undeserved bestselling result. However, when I read the Telegraph’s article on Dan Brown’s 20 worst sentences, I realized that those are simple mistakes that a critique group and an editor could’ve easily solved. I pictured making some of those mistakes and I’m pretty confident my critique group would have called me on them. That’s all he needed. It’s all Ms. Meyer needed, too. They are great storytellers in need of beta readers and editors. And in some cases just left alone. Take for example number 20, of the 20 worst sentences. I’m currently reading a novel right now by a famous and respected author who does many such “offenses” as the one below.
20. Angels and Demons, chapter 1: Although not overly handsome in a classical sense, the forty-year-old Langdon had what his female colleagues referred to as an ‘erudite’ appeal — wisp of gray in his thick brown hair, probing blue eyes, an arrestingly deep voice, and the strong, carefree smile of a collegiate athlete.
They say the first rule of fiction is “show, don’t tell”. This fails that rule.
And then there’s this one.
15. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: As a boy, Langdon had fallen down an abandoned well shaft and almost died treading water in the narrow space for hours before being rescued. Since then, he’d suffered a haunting phobia of enclosed spaces – elevators, subways, squash courts.
Other enclosed spaces include toilet cubicles, phone boxes and dog kennels.
What did they want him to do, name every single enclosed place there is?
I see some of the other points critics noted and I cringe at most of them, especially number one. But by the looks of it, he’s clearly, and unfairly, picked on. These aren’t mistakes made on one book, but four. Approximately 2000 pages and those are the worst they came up with? He should be commended, not condemned. Surely if we look hard enough we can find mistakes in all the novels we read. If not mistakes, then poor word choices or a misplaced thought
I didn’t read all 691 comments on the article. In fact, I only read the first five. My favorite was the comment that pointed out all the grammar errors in the article itself—errors, I believe, that are worse than those that were criticized. Way to go stephen-comment from Oct. 26, 10:04am. Check it out.
I appreciate flawless writing as much as the next guy/gal, but tell me, would you rather read a gripping story with some clumsy sentences, or a masterpiece of prose that’s a cure for insomnia? (That masterpiece, btw, may have a poor word choice or two, but nobody talks about those.)