Saturday, 20 September 2014

Bad Writing

I have been a reader and a writer for most of my life.  I appreciate the art of penmanship and the sense of adventure that stories bring into our lives.  What I can't accept, however, is the misuse of the language through ignorance or premeditation.

Being a member of the fan writing site called Fanfiction dot Net, I've seen all forms of amateur writing from stellar to horrendous.  It's fairly easy to pick out the questionable ones at a glance: non-capitalized titles, summaries that make no sense, and an overwhelming number of peer reviews - nothing gets people riled up more than poor writing and everyone and his cousin won't hesitate to say so.

That said, I will break these writers down into three categories.

1. Ill educated.  These are obvious: poor grammar, punctuation in the wrong places, run-on sentences.  Usually written by tweens or teenagers who haven't gone through the rigors of high school English classes.  However I'm surprised at how many adults write this way, thus showing their lack of education or the lack of skill of their teachers.  They might not even be aware that their writing is lacking.  In these cases I post reviews that gently remind them to educate themselves on the finer points of written expression.

2. Unfamiliar with the medium.  One of the main tenets of writing is to know your subject, in both senses of the word.  One needs to be clear on what genre is being aimed at, and what audience/age range is being written for.  Most writing sites have type and age classifications for that reason.  There are also writers who aren't familiar enough with the source material, because they only saw/read a small part, and it shows in their stories.  I point out to them that professional TV show writers and novelists usually keep a record of the rules and conventions within their particular universe, so that characters can act consistently.

3. Trolls.  These are people who write badly for the sake of writing badly and to garner attention.  I've seen troll-fics in which the spelling and grammar are so bad that they're painful to read, where popular characters are turned into porn stars, or an original character is added to the universe and proceeds to usurp the established hero (or sometimes the villain) and wreak total havoc.

An infamous example is entitled "My Immortal" which breaks just about every rule of fan-fiction writing and is considered one of the worst stories in existence.  To this day nobody knows if this was done through plain ignorance or brilliant planning.  Here are just a few of the atrocities:

Self-Insertion.  An original character based on the author's ideal vision of themselves is put into the fictional universe.  Often has the same name as the author, or a close variant.
Extreme Mary-Sue.  This character must be the most beautiful, most powerful, most everything.  When things get tough, they must rescue everybody and make the heroes appear stupid.  Usually has a love affair with an established main character.
Inconsistent plot.  The characters get into a situation, which is suddenly resolved in the next scene with no indication of how they got out of it and it's never mentioned again.

You get the idea.  So don't read "My Immortal" unless you want to kill a few brain cells.  It's that bad.


  1. I don't read a lot of fan fiction, but I used to read erotica and I can imagine how bad it can get. It is scary just how bad some writing is.

  2. I agree there is some bad writing out there... I wish that I was a better writer and wish that I would have paid more attention in my English classes.

  3. Sometimes, something is so bad, that it almost becomes 'good' it develops a cult following and lives forever in excruciating infamy. I wonder if, in a few generations, creative writing teachers will be having students compare and contrast "My Immortal" with "Death of a Salesman" or "Fahrenheit 451"