As some of you well know, I read a lot of books. Over the past few years, I've read over 300. My Goodreads Read shelf contains 750 titles, and that's not counting the books I've read this month. A decent portion of the books I've read over the last two years were the result of self-publishing. With the advent of electronic readers and books, it's never been easier to realize your dream of becoming a bona fide author. It's not always a good idea to put your lack of expertise in the area of writing on display for the world to see, however. Sometimes it's downright painful for the reader. There are stylistic problems, of course, but the more basic issues tend to be in the area of basic grammar and story structure. Some people are just bad at writing, and I'm confused about some of the things they do. Hopefully someone reading this can help me figure out just what in the holy hell is going on with creative writing these days.
1. Why are so many modern authors asking me questions during the story?
It's happened to me a lot:
"I got a whiff of his soap...or was it his aftershave?"
"She smelled like flowers...or was it fruit?"
"What did he want from me?"
"Where did he get that idea?"
"I had to poop....or was it pee?"
I have no problem with rhetorical questions in literature. Those are, after all, used to make a point. Or when the narrator is asking you a question in order to answer it for you. That makes sense. An open-ended question left dangling does not. Just fucking say he smelled good, all right? Because sometimes guys do. I don't care if it's his soap, his aftershave, or the tacos he ate for lunch. If he smells good, he smells good. There's no need to extensively ruminate on the origins of someone's smell. We don't care!
2. Why are some of the sexual euphemisms in romance/erotica books so fucking weird?
I remember sneaking peeks at my mom's Harlequin romances when I was young, and once coming across the phrase "love kernel" in place of "clitoris". Now, I was a fairly oversexed adolescent and enjoyed the naughty parts in those books, but that phrase confused and nauseated me. I didn't think it could get any weirder.
I was so wrong.
"...as he gave her a deep soul kiss from below."
"She slipped down on him, the sword in the scabbard..."
"...the taste of him filling her mouth like a Starburst candy full of hot honey."
"Her quim was salty, tasting of mushrooms and earthen pleasures."
OK, stop. Just stop right there. Quim? Mushrooms? Earthen pleasures? Do you mean dirt?! Just...why?
3. Why do people keep using words incorrectly?
Irony. Literally. Good words. Both highly overused and misused on such a scale as to make me hate them both. And I'm a word lover.
"I laughed and realized ironically it was the second time I laughed in one day."
Nothing ironic about that. Nothing at all.
There are, of course, other words that have been used incorrectly. E.L. James, for example, believes she knows what euphemisms and non-sequiturs are when she apparently has no clue whatsoever. But 'irony' and 'literally' are being destroyed. We need to stop the abuse, people. Stop saying things are ironic. Odds are, if you say it 100 times in a given week, in 98 of those instances it won't apply. And 'literally' should only be used if there's a chance someone could be thinking you're speaking figuratively. It can confuse the hell out of people otherwise. For instance, say you're telling someone about how totes mad your mom got about you putting a dent in her Subaru Forester and you tell your friends she "literally blew up". That might scare them. And if they like your mom, it will probably make them terribly sad.
I think the worst thing about the abuse of the word 'literally' is that even if it's used correctly, it sounds stupid if the person using it is talking about something that couldn't possibly be taken as a figurative statement. Say your toddler just shit in the toilet for the first time, and you say, "She literally pooped in the toilet!"
4. Why are some authors not reading what they write?
This might sound like a silly question, but it's happening. I see it happening. When two people in a conversation aren't making sense, that tells me the author wasn't fucking paying attention.
Guy: "Who knew the aloof law student had such a sense of humor?"
Girl: "I appear aloof to you?" This is always my first impression to people. Yet, I couldn't help but feel a little hurt. I felt different with him.
Guy: "I said appear."
5. Why is there such a discrepancy when it comes to proper comma usage?
I've seen both instances. I've seen the run-on sentences that could be edited, condensed, and separated with a comma to make a complex sentence of acceptable length. I've seen the lists that have no commas. And I've, seen sentences, where the author, felt inclined to use, commas at every, fucking, turn. Where the hell is this coming from? Surely there aren't that many shitty English instructors out there. Are these "writers" even reading books before trying their hand at their own?
The world of self publishing is both a wonderful and a horrible thing. I've been subjected to so much mediocre horse shit that it's amazing I don't have a raging case of equine pink eye. It's bolstered my self confidence, sure, but it also lowers my estimation of other people. And my estimation wasn't real high to begin with. Ah well, at least I know there will always be something to laugh at.
If you're feeling up to it, be a pal and share some of your own unsightly literary horror stories in the comments. I'm always up for a good laugh.