Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Bad Blurbs

     Granted, the official line is writers support each other. We're supposed to sit collegially at round tables and give each other constructive criticism and unstinting support or what Keats called "tea and comfortable advice" both in the meat world and online. We do stupid little things like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to see how prolifically and horribly we can write a full-length novel in a month.
     In reality, however, and I count myself as the only writer of consequence on the planet earth who will publicly admit this, writers actually loath and despise each other. Whatever middling support wannabes show each other instantly evaporates the minute one of them gets a book deal. You don't believe me? Try asking an established author to put you in touch with their literary agent. Even though they know damned good and well many literary agencies work by referral or invitation only, you will see the frost literally form on your monitor as you wait for the answer.
     So, no, writers do not support each other, especially when there's something at stake.
     However, while there are many authors and writers I loath, I am not like the guy who said, "It is not enough that I succeed. Others must fail." Unlike a certain stalker in Farr West, Utah I can think of, I'm content to leave well enough alone because it's a foregone conclusion a bad book will sink of its own weight (which doesn't explain 50 Shades of Grey but that's grist for another post).
     However, when I see epically horrible writing that cannot be left to die of its own accord, I'm sorry, I just want to kick it with steel-toed boots even while it's writhing in its death throes.
     Which brings me to Bad Blurbs, which I fear will be a series.
     Authors do this all the time, especially on Twitter. They'll put up a .jpeg of a book cover that looks as if it was designed by an autistic 12 year-old using Photoshop for the first time. Often on these .jpegs, they'll provide the potential buyer with a sample of their writing. Now, this is supposed to be a superior example of your writing, a representation of your caliber as an author. Yet the above is what I just saw on my book and writing account on Twitter.
     As painful as it is, I'll help you along by typing the entire transcript of the blurb:
Shaw rarely took his black eyes off Bronagh. He was a shield, her protector. He was crude and arrogant, aggressive yet tender, raucous and sexy, commanding but loyal. Bane Shaw was the imperfectly, perfect man.
     If this blurb is supposed to warn the reader of another 80,000 words of banality awaiting them, then it succeeds admirably and spectacularly.
     First off, I understand that there's a market out there for romance fiction. Barbara Cartland wrote exactly 756,935 romance novels in her lifetime and made a lot of pelf from it. That doesn't mean one should immediately sink into banality, genre stereotypes and cliche when availing oneself of that dubious muse.
     Secondly, let's start with the "black eyes" of this Shaw guy. OK, I've never once in my life ever saw someone with black eyes. That's a creepy image, the only one the author ventures here (more on that later) and makes me think of countless stringy-haired girls in Japanese horror movies. Black eyes are not sexy. That's The Walking Dead territory you're straying into.
     Thirdly, a guy who rarely takes his eyes off a woman tends to be a clumsy stalker who's constantly running into street lights and mailboxes (Or, if it's a fantasy novel, unicorn horns and Hobbit houses). I get it that Shaw is captivated by the woman with the bastardized Gaelic name but a guy who rarely takes his Grudge-type eyes off a woman is just bottomlessly creepy.
     Then there's the mixing in the same sentence of an isolated metaphor, followed by a completely unnecessary, redundant and literal reiteration of what Shaw is to Erin Go Bragh or whatever her name is. Pick one and stick with it. But this overwriting and over-description just gets worse as the writer picks up steam and warms up to her subject. And thence begins the march of the adjectives.
     In the third person narrator's observation, Shaw is by turns crude, arrogant, aggressive, tender, raucous, sexy, commanding and loyal. (Literary convention, I guess, can be forgiven for not commenting on whether or not he is also trustworthy, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent, alho he seems to have the loyal part down pat). And one should know they're getting far afield when they begin straying from romance cliches to pulp crime fiction cliches reminiscent of Sam Spade ("She walked into my office, sultry yet cool, a real femme fatale, a Lady in Red, with legs that went all the way up to the moon...").
     Now, that's an awful lot for the reader to take in at once and I'm immediately put in mind of the Three Blind Chinese Men and the Elephant Syndrome. Which, up to a point works in fiction because each individual reader will form an image or impression of what a character is like.
     And that's the crux of the problem in this Roget's regurgitant: They're not images but concepts, ideas. And this inevitably brings us back to the old writing saw about showing, not telling. Anything else is wearisome exposition.
     If one must resort to adjectives, make them unexpected and evocative. I recall once before using this example from Nathaniel Hawthorne when he once described a character as being, "Grave, sable and gray." That's a great image because Hawthorne used unexpected and mostly nonliteral adjectives to describe this character's appearance while giving a vivid hint of the kind of personality he had.
     Now, one can't reasonably expect everyone to be Nathaniel Hawthorne but that doesn't mean one can jettison the basic rules of writing or violate inviolate ones.
     And who the fuck names their kid "Bane?" That makes me think of Tom Hardy's character in The Dark Knight Rises huffing into an arachnid-looking metal breathing apparatus. "Bane"? Seriously? And what the fuck's with the comma after the adverb "imperfectly"?
     Honestly, take a writing class or at least read a lot and by that I do not mean tripe getting troweled out hourly by shitty publishers such as Harlequin. Get a couple of novels under your belt before venturing into self publication waters. Because this is what legacy publishers, literary agents, bookstores, reviewers and critics and, yes, even other authors point to when they sneer at how horrible self-published books are and why they refuse to even acknowledge them. You're simply making it harder for the more conscientious of us to successfully navigate the already harsh waters of self publishing.
     Self publication has democratized the market, true. But, as our democratic political system teaches us time and again (while its lessons go unheeded), democracy comes with certain responsibilities and duties along with those rights.

8 Comments:

At January 5, 2016 at 12:57 PM, Blogger Stujak said...

Any valid points you raise are sadly lost in your biased dislike of the author. This blog is cleary a personal attack rather than a reasoned critique. As for the name Bane, if you had actually bothered to read and pay attention you would see that 'Bane' is clearly a nickname, and not a birthname as you idiotically claim. Basically, I find this blog to be more of a personal vendetta than a true reflection on the authors writing abilities.

 
At January 5, 2016 at 1:14 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Personal vendetta? Seriously? I know nothing about this woman other than she's a horrible writer. No, that's my stalker @SugarRayDodge you're thinking of. Now, that's a personal vendetta.

And, as stated early in this post, this is something I never do. But when faced with so much horrible writing and bleeding and broken rules littering the wayside in the space of 36 words, I cannot and will not shut up any more than I will excuse bad writing when we have so much erudition and knowledge literally at our fingertips.

But, please, continue sneering at me from the cheap seats and pretending as if I didn't make many valid points while you cling to your delusion that I've somehow developed an irrational hatred of this woman. I do not hate her. I hate her "writing."

 
At January 5, 2016 at 3:33 PM, Blogger Stujak said...

Yeah yeah, your blog speaks for itself. anyone reading can see that. Sure you work away, lowering your own integrity.

 
At January 5, 2016 at 3:38 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

I wouldn't expect an organ donor like you to remember, note or care that the esteemed author of whom I spoke was the first to fling an ad hominem at me. In public.

So please shut the fuck up before you embarrass yourself any further...

 
At January 5, 2016 at 7:55 PM, Anonymous Jay said...

Hm. What's the point of dragging another author through the mud like this? Are you trying to tank her sales? Or are you just upset that you can't sell your own books? I don't understand your obsession with bashing other authors. You've been doing for at least as long as I've been coming to this blog. And it gets tiresome, frankly, this woman is doing what you're trying to do. Shouldn't you have some sort of comradery with such person? Why are you filled with such hate? Don't you ever get tired of constantly being angry and driving at a never-ending grudge with the world? Does anyone who has the audacity to defy your insane ramblings deserve dressing down on your blog? Surely, you have better things to do with your time than bang out a 1,100 word diatribe about a fellow self-published author. You probably don't.

 
At January 5, 2016 at 8:11 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Again and try to follow the bouncing ball this time:

It started with a lighthearted comment on Twitter and resulted with a public rejoinder that ended with an ad hominem. Then I decided to write this. I do not and will not tolerate bad writing and if you attack me online, stop bitching and whining when I counterpunch.

Secondly, if you don't like the content here, then kindly fuck off and go somewhere else. You're obviously one of that cunt John Chadwick's fanboy friends, so you should even be honored that I ever deigned to post your whiney-ass comment. But it's him that's obsessed with me. If you can't even make that rudimentary distinction then perhaps you ought to be barred from computers and writing implements by an Act of Congress.

Thirdly, seriously? 1100 words? What the fuck did you do, copy and paste my entire post onto a Word template then wait to see exactly how many words composed it? Or did you painstakingly count every word all these hours with your tongue hanging out the corner of your mouth? And you call me obsessed with other authors and that I'm wasting my time? (Hint, it's 1176 words, proving you can't even count when a program does it for you.)

#4, you'd be amazed to know how many copies of my latest book I've sold, in both formats. So please toddle along and see the nice lady in the white outfit holding the paper cup. The grownups have work to do.

 
At January 6, 2016 at 7:19 AM, Blogger Mithras61 said...

So, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, but without the literary merit? Sounds like far too many novels I've read over the years.

 
At January 6, 2016 at 10:04 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

"It was a dark and spermy night..."

 

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