1. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    What makes that book bad?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by ChickenFreak, Sep 2, 2014.

    I just bought a book. It was a mistake. However, it is educational in terms of the kind of bad book that can get published. I'm eighty pages in and have already encountered:

    - The stereotypical woman who's "book smart" but has emotional irrational overreactions over every little thing that goes wrong in interpersonal interactions.

    - Said woman gets embarassed in front of the stereotypically wise, infinitely tolerant man who's manly-man amused at her.

    - Stereotypical upperclass old lady with stereotypical upperclass old lady prejudices.

    - Letter written by a character who isn't the narrator, in a voice exactly like that of the narrator.

    - Irrational woman goes through Lucille-Ball-esque nonsense and lies to cover up the evidence of what she's embarassed about.

    - Woman avoids all fattening food, but is tempted to take a bite and learns her lesson that it tastes good! That irrational silly woman, thinking that fulfilling societal stereotypes about being skinny requires that she eat less; where'd she get that whacky idea?

    And so on. And so on.

    I'm not going to name the book, now that I've said such rude things about it. But I'm curious about what things make you realize that, oops, this book was a mistake?
     
  2. Chaos Inc.
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    Chaos Inc. Active Member

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    I'll name the book for you. It's called Cheers!
     
  3. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    Self-indulgent writing, mostly. Or should I say Selfish writing?:) The worst authors I find are the ones who use a story as a means to satisfy some personal craving. Every author does this to some extent and every good book has a message, but the best ones creep up on you and make a point when you least expect it. They avoid the temptation to cater to a reader or themselves.
     
  4. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    Usually dialogue. When I read what is said and think when did a ventriloquist enter the story? Or why is a 14yr old girl speaking like her maths teacher? When I get jarred like that I close the cover and put it aside.
     
  5. elynne
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    elynne Active Member

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    Exclamation points! In! The narrative! yes, I know there are some in Watership Down, but they're beautifully woven into the prose. usually, if I pick up a book and find an exclamation point in the narrative, I promptly put it down again. I don't know why it's such a strong reaction for me, but it is.

    dialogue-heavy scenes where it's impossible to keep track of who is saying what, or action scenes where things happen that make no sense. example:

    ... ugh, it hurt my soul to write that...
     
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  6. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    When the writer bluntly tries to draw me to conclusions about the characters: He kills kittens for fun! He burnt down an orphanage! He's EVIL— haven't I made that clear enough yet? No? Okay, he also double parks!:rant:

    Also: one, just one interrobang and I am gone.
     
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  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I look at context and intent. Before I pass judgement, I always ask why the writer did what he/she did. With good writers, you can find lots of reasons why he/she chose a particular approach when writing the piece. With bad writers, it's the opposite. So there's nothing really specific that jumps out at the moment. Like I said, it's all about context.
     
  8. Sheriff Woody
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    Sheriff Woody Active Member

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    That's not rude if it's accurate.


    For me, a bad book is one with characters I don't care about and a significant lack of important events happening. Creativity goes a long way, as well.

    A Feast For Crows is the best example. Characters I actually do care about, but nobody DOING THINGS. Extraordinarily boring.
     
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  9. DromedaryLights
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    DromedaryLights Active Member

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    Feast for Crows is slow, but at least he figured out to stop writing shit like "THE SKY WAS THE COLOR OF A BRUISE" or whatever. Those kinds of ham-fisted descriptions were pretty rampant in book one.
     
  10. yagr
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    yagr Contributing Member

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    I opened a new book to a random page last week and read a sentence. One hundred fifty-one words later I finished the sentence. It was the only sentence I read but it felt like I read half the book.
     
  11. Kelly St Clair
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    Kelly St Clair New Member

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    I find that I am pretty forgiving of typos and the occasional stereotype. I am happy as long as I end up forgetting that what they have written is not real. However, I suppose that when this happens they have got all the other elements in the story right.
     
  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I find a book bad when I realize how easily it could've been good.

    I went and ordered Lo's Diary a few years ago and read it out of curiosity but I remember when I first heard of the book I kinda laughed. Lolita kept a diary? - ya right. 1st flaw is a doozy - did the writer even grasp the character of Lolita? She wasn't the type to keep a diary. But I forgave that flaw and started reading.

    2nd flaw. The writer attempts a florid style like Humbert. Why bother? you're not Nabokov. Lolita is a typical American teen in the late 40's why not embrace that? Why in the Hell would she describe things with overheated prose - it made no sense. But I kept reading. Mainly to see the authors take on familiar scenes.

    3rd and most unforgivable flaw - Lolita was a mean bitch. I didn't get that from Nabokov's Lolita. I got that she was crafty, and could be bratty but the fact she cried every night showed that Lolita was unhappy and not as tough as she liked everyone to think.
    All in all, I didn't like that the author was fulfilling her agenda and ignoring some basic facts. I can suspend belief for the most part but this was a stretch.

    Also - Characters that fulfill archetypes too easily. Feels a little paint by numbers - they start to sound & react like a dozen other characters from a dozen other books. The slutty best friends make all the same innuendo and urgings, the shy new girl in town is mousy but somehow a hunk magnet.
     
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  13. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I don't have much of a problem with cliches in narrative or characterization - real life is far from grandly original. Cliches in narrative and diction, however, are more a cute sign of someone's lack of attention than an irritating flaw.

    What makes a bad book is hard to exactly pin down. But if I were to sum it up in a phrase I would say it is this: 'It doesn't work'. Why is something like Twilight seen as bad, despite it fulfilling all of it's goals. Actually, I didn't mind Twilight, I thought it was a lot better than it's rock-bottom, Nickleback reputation (sorry Nickleback fans) but does it work as good literature? No. Despite the few complements I can give the Twilight series, it's not good, not decent, it is bad. Harry Potter, which I always delight in belittling, is worse than Twilight in my opinion.

    Both are awful, awful books and series, but Harry Potter is worse, because it didn't work in a much worse way. At least Twilight is straight up-front about the fact it's just a trashy little Mary Sue story. The mix of Christian and Classical symbols in Harry Potter had no real point, did it? Harry is Jesus Christ,why? Also, for all the talk about the series being young-adult-friendly dark, this is a series that has the rape of an innocent woman as a central plot point - and it's seen as a good thing, treated with humour and the character is scorned and hated by the characters and the audience! It doesn't work, because it reflects the distorted private world J.K. Rowling lives in, says nothing about any larger philosophical issues we face today, yet it is clearly trying to - with images of government repression and totalitarianism, secret worlds of righteous freaks, class warfare (the fact it's set in some kind of boarding school also reinforces this) and innocence lost show what Rowling was trying to do. She just could not do it.

    Atlas Shrugged is a terrible novel. It is painfully clear what Ayn Rand was trying to do, and in some ways it's bad because she succeeded in portraying her terrible and poorly-thought-out philosophy. All of the characters are 2D, either Objectivist, virtuous geniuses or Socialist, cowards and idiots, and the page-by-page writing leaves much to be desired. Atlas Shrugged is a terrible novel, maybe worse than Harry Potter.

    A novel I would say is good, say Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami does what it sets out to do. It is a tale of loss of innocence, of misery and madness, of growing up and having to face tough choices put off because of immature feelings that still linger in the blacker corners of the mind. It's a novel, in some ways light on overt symbolism, but heavy on mood and emotion, and interaction with those symbols. All the symbols serve to reinforce what is being felt by the characters and what is going on in the story. It' a good book, I would even say a wonderful novel. The novel is a good one, not one of the best - Murakami isn't a perfect novelist, he has flaws, but I'd take a chapter of Norwegian Wood over Atlas Shrugged, Twilight, or Harry Potter.

    Kafka's Metamorphosis, however, is a great novella. That is not great as in the casual 'I really like this' sense, but in the 'gone down in history' objective sense. There are so many interpretations that can be given of the story (something utterly lacking from the others I have mentioned) and at it's core it's a very emotive, if even weirdly rather funny little story. If you can get a good translation, like the Stanley Corngold translation, treat yourself to this outstanding story.
     
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  14. Canopyvine
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    Canopyvine Member

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    I hope I am not off topic but:

    What is an interrobang?
     
  15. JamesBrown
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    JamesBrown Active Member

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    You mean you don't know?! And for the 2nd time time this week: Google is a wonderful invention.
     
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  16. Swiveltaffy
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    Swiveltaffy Contributing Member Contributor

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    Take an "!" and a "?" and put them into one another. If it's used seriously, I'd be cautious of that. If it's used for its asinine nature, then I'd welcome that.
     
  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    In Science Fiction: Tech Porn

    Tech Porn is a story that is only (or primarily) about the tech and not about us. A lot of the more science fiction based anime of the past decades has been little more than tech porn. There are some exceptions, like Ghost in the Shell, but by and large...
     
  18. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Ghost in the Shell is the movie that showed me Anime doesn't have to be something designed specifically to turn be away. There is, somewhere in the land of the rising sun, a picture of me with a big slash through it, and numerous dart-marks on it.
     
  19. Artist369
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    Artist369 Active Member

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    I tried reading "Among Others" by Jo Walton, I could not for the life of me finish. I was bored, TO DEATH. I wanted to see what made an award-winning novel. Well, I guess it takes writing about overtly author-biased modern topics and shoving them into a past time period in a slow-paced diary format. It was supposed to be about magic. The first chapter had me hooked. But then everything after that was nothing like that chapter. It was the hum-drum of daily life. I get that the format was unique. Most fantasy stories are not written that way, but it diced the plot into non-existence. It just wasn't me.

    So apparently it's an excellent book, but if you ask me, no thanks. Like anything, what makes something good is in the eye of the beholder. I expect to enjoy my ride. If all I can enjoy is the crafting of the sentences and the imagery of London hill sides in the 60s (or whenever it was), I get over that after one page. Endless pages of it is just too much.
     

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