A few days ago, in a post about Clive Cussler, I mentioned that I’d read a bestselling thriller that was riddled with cliches. I didn’t mention the name of the books because the author is a friend of mine.
So, on the heels of finishing that book, I picked a mystery off my shelf written by another friend of mine, a buddy who has many books to his credit, though he’s yet to crack the best seller lists (this is the first book of his, though, that I’ve read). I’m 200 pages into his latest book… and I am astonished by how lazy his writing is. These cliches appear on just one page…
- "He has a rap sheet as long as his arm."
- "When his father died, he went right off the deep end. It took him a while to get his act together. For the past few years, though, he’s managed to keep his nose clean."
- "He didn’t have a leg to stand on."
- "I should never have stuck my neck out."
- "He’s a real piece of work."(by the way, what does "he’s a piece of work" really mean? And is it that bad to be a real "piece of work" as opposed to just your run-of-the-mill, ordinary "piece of work?").
Like I said, this litany of cliches was on one page. You can imagine what the rest of the book has been like. One cliche line after another, mostly in dialogue. It’s relentless.
This book was written by a friend of mine. I am tempted, as a friend, to point these cliches out to him and tell him he should really be more careful.
Then again, this book was published and was a big success (if not a best seller). Who the hell am I to criticize him? He certainly didn’t ask for my advice. Am I being more of a friend by keeping my opinion to myself?
7 thoughts on “More Bad Writing”
Depends on who you are.
If you were George Bernard Shaw, you’d write a witty note tweaking your friend about it.
If you were a young Hunter S. Thompson, you’d write a fawning letter praising the novel and, later, seeking an introduction to his agent and editor.
If you were Gertrude Stein, you’d write a note, but your friend wouldn’t understand a word.
But since you’re Lee Goldberg and you’re asking, I’d say not, unless you were asked first.
It’s a tough call. I find myself in the same situation more and more these days. Although fortunately most of my buddies are pretty good writers. heh heh
I’d tell him. I think that he probably doesn’t know he’s doing it and would be glad to find out. And if he’s pissed off about it, then he’s not just a bad writer, but a bad friend.
I’d say, “Hey, this is good, but here’s a few things I’d have liked to have seen…”
Or you could just… um… blog it?
I think I’ll probably keep it to myself. But if he ever asks for my opinion, I will offer it honestly. I’m a lousy liar anyway.
Those were in dialogue? Seems to me that a lot of folks do use cliches quite commonly. With that in mind, wouldn’t that show the writer was trying to portray realistic dialogue?
I guess what I’m trying to state is that this appears to be a situation where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
No, it would simply show that the writer is using cliches. Just because real people speak in cliches, that’s not an excuse to use them in your writing. Nobody is going to read a cliche and think “ah, the writer is capturing the way people really talk.” They’ll think “geez, what a lousy writer. He doesn’t have the talent to write interesting dialogue.”
When it comes to cliches, nobody is going to criticise you for NOT using them.
Make a plog post about it, and wait for him to discover it online.