The Dog’s Breakfast
Look, something a certain author needs to grasp is that although you may like your writing style, and the book is (traditionally, indies don’t have this limitation) published so you can’t change it, that doesn’t mean that readers have to buy it or like it. Pretty much the only time you can force anyone to read anything is if it’s required for a class, and even then they will creatively dodge the reading assignment in any way they can think of. I’ve seen that with college textbooks, forget fiction. So why on earth would you boast about your poor writing and gloat over the readers not having a choice? Like it or lump it? Mister, they may set your book on fire just to watch the world burn. People don’t like the idea of being forced into anything, and pleasure reading is always optional.
When you confront your reader with, in the first paragraphs, sentences that don’t make sense, you are doing the worst thing to readers an author can do. Mislectorism. Betrayal. You’re showing your readers you hate them, and they will respond to it. “This particular ship has seen action: plasma scarring across the wings and tail fins; a crumpled dent in the front end as if it was kicked by an Imperial walker.” Look at that sentence. Consider that it is not alone. I don’t think I have ever seen as many colons in one passage in all the thirty-some years I have been reading. Nor have I seen this many sentence fragments in once place. I shudder to think of how many dashes and hyphens met their ends here. If I had to name this style I’d call it post-Modern chop suey, because everything is minced and mixed together until it resembles a dog’s breakfast.
This isn’t the first time I have encountered an all but unreadable book. I recently read for review the rough draft that had been published in ‘sample’ form of a book which I now discover to be more readable than the sample that has been draining my brain cells tonight. Stilted, sure, but at least it had sentences and dialogue.
I have to wonder, looking at the sample below, if it was meant to be read aloud. Perhaps the author was aiming more for screenplay, in a movie tie-in book? but for reading with the eyes, it is painfully disjointed, as the style persists beyond the spoken word into the structural elements of the work. With the ‘herky-jerky’ qualities, the book is left structurally unsound, tenses waver in and out of present like quantum universes, and the result is… unreadable.
However, this is not the worst dialogue you will find in a published work. That distinction probably belongs to another book I shall-not-name although I will link to it. And then I will link to a review of it.
So what is my point, with all these examples of bad, worse, and absolutely deplorable writing? I’m not trying to beat up on authors, here. Everyone makes mistakes. We all have bad days. But as an author, we cannot expect our readers to put up with the egregious errors we perpetrate when we are told repeatedly of those errors. If the reader’s don’t like how your story is written, don’t double down and say that the readers are wrong. Don’t try to blame the readers for your failings by telling them that they aren’t smart enough, hip enough, or… something… to understand and appreciate your work. That isn’t how this works. That’s not how any of this works.
Writing is, in essence, a seduction of the reader. You want to keep them reading, to intrigue them with the possibilities. Ideally, your prose should become invisible to them, a mere glass-clear pane they gaze through as they discover the world you have created in the story. By using stylistic writing, you cloud that pane and jar the reader out of the world. They are unlikely to make a second attempt once they have your measure. With the Star Wars books, this is particularly mystifying – the author had to have known the enormous fan base (and a rabid one) would not appreciate the ‘literary’ pretensions he adopted for his work.
The fans have already spoken, and the Aftermath is telling.
But wait, there’s more…
The moral of my story? Suck it up, buttercup. If you don’t, and keep spitting on your fans, you won’t have any fans.