What aspect of bad writing bothers you the most?

Memo to Hack Writers of the World: Re: that day you missed in creative writing class.

Show, not tell.

Show, not tell.

SHOW, not tell.

SHOW, not tell.

I can take bad dialog in stride. I often don’t notice bad characterization in the first place. I can even bring myself to ignore plot holes, to a point. But for the love of God, how hard can it be to have the characters show what’s going on? I don’t want to hear how Sam is a very bad man. Show me Sam kicking puppies. If Teresa’s sad because she’s thinking of her dead twin sister, have her mention that to her boyfriend instead of saying, “He knew that Teresa was sad because of her twin sister who died six years ago”.

Sorry, I have a tendency to rant about this.

Now you have me all worried about my NaNoWriMo work. :frowning:

For me it’s repetition:

Hitler was evil because he was bad. Therefore, Hitler was a bad person. Evil people are like Hitler. So, evil people are bad.

Passion persimmon of love style writing.
Don’t narrate and go " Jeff kissed Matt’s hot lips." You sound like a uberdramatic 14 year old girl.

wrong thread

Wordiness. Verbosity. “Hey! You got poetry in my prose!” “No, you got prose on my poetry!” If I need to strap on waders to get through the prose, I’m not interested. The ironic thing is that adjectives are supposed to make writing come to life, but if you just string them one after another they lend themselves to tediousness and nothing more.

Along the same lines: Don’t describe something in terms of a subjective attribute.

Don’t say “She has a beautiful face.” Describe what she looks like, and I’ll decide whether she’s beautiful.

Don’t say “It was a crappy day.” Describe the day, and I’ll decide whether it was crappy.

Overly-complicated writing, love affairs with thesauruses, and adverb addiction are all things that get on my nerves very quickly.

I can forgive anything but unconvincing dialogue.

I agree, one thing I really hate is, for example on my favorite show “Prisoner” (“Prisoner: Cell Block H”) they’ll do things like they had a prisoner named Angel. And everyone constantly went around saying “Angel is so beautiful”

Why? Because the actress really wasn’t. Oh sure she wasn’t ugly, but there were more than a few of the other prisoners that were far better looking than her (Namely Reb and Lou).

I kept wondering, instead of hiring an actress to play a breathtakingly beautiful actress to play the part of a character that IS beautiful, they hire a nice looking girl and have everyone constantly say “how beautiful” she is so we don’t forget.

“Show don’t tell” bothers me too. As does the use of too many “-ly” adverbs (such as “he said brightly”). A few here and there I don’t mind, but if you use several on a page? Learn to write.

I also agree with excessive verbosity. Again, a few flowery words are okay. But don’t load them in every single sentence. Don’t tell me “she had long flowing locks of the most radiant gold, which cascaded like silk down her back.” Just say she was blond and be done with it.

Also, fanfic writers? Just say a character’s name. If you’re talking about Luke Skywalker, don’t refer to him as “the blond Jedi.” Bugs the crap out of me whenever I see that.

Another thing is excessive details that have nothing to do with the plot or characterization . . . like giving a detailed description of a minor character’s wardrobe.

I have to say that excessive verbosity can have its place. If executed properly, it is quite a treat to read. The best example I have of this is Jack Vance, one of my favorite authors. No one would accuse Vance of using the English vocabulary sparsely, yet his writing flows very well. Granted, this is probably an exception to the rule, since Jack Vance is a unparalleled master of his craft.

Or even better, describe how other characters react to seeing her.

Telling instead of showing, definitely.

And cliched phrases. “I’ll never forget…” “Suddenly he was transported back…” “love that was stronger than hate…”

And clunky exposition.

What bothers me the most is overuse of adverbs, especially adverbs in dialogue tags. J.K. Rowling is a huge offender.

panache45, what’s worse than excessive description of clothing is forgetting to describe it at all. I read something awhile back where a character was lying naked in bed. His phone rang – a friend with some kind of emergency – and the guy had to rush out to help. The author neglected to write that the guy put some clothes on first. I suppose it could be assumed, but in a situation like that, a few words would have been appropriate. If you’re going to tell me he’s naked, then tell me when he’s not naked.

Another thing that bugs me is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. Unless it’s relevant to the story, don’t tell me every time the guy walks down the hall to the kitchen and out the door to his car and down the driveway and onto the highway and into town, stopping at the corner of First and Main and then proceeding past the old hardware store with the alley behind it that connects with Second and Broadway.

My writing teacher gave us a good tip. You have to remember that people have hands and motions. A lot of authors fall into “talking heads”. Real people pick lint off their trousers, fidget, pace, or fart. Cigarettes were a good device for hand activity, until most people quit using them. Creating natural movement is difficult but necessary.

Adverbs were a big no no in my creative writing class. My teacher hated them.

The thing that really “kicks” me just completely out of the story is over use of the exclamation point. (In the rare case that the author has somehow not lost me with just generally overall bad writing, which is usually the case when I see this. )

Nick Carter slowly and stelathily approached the enemy spy.

Then, with a quick movement, he spun her around!

It was his girlfriend! She pointed a .45 at his gut!


LiveOnAPlane throws the book out the window!!

For me it is dialogue, this goes for tv and movies as well. When two people are talking it should be written how two people actually talk. Most people do not speak grammatically correct and that’s how it should be written.

In factual writing (journalistic, academic, nonfiction, technical…) it’s unclarity.

Unclarity can come from:
-sloppy thinking
-sloppy syntax or punctuation
-stylistic presumption (buzzwords, non-functional jargon, academese)
-informational presumption (overestimating the reader’s knowledge)

Unclear writing does not necessarily imply that the writer or the content is sloppy or presumptuous. It only indicates that the writing itself overlooks or presumes certain things. But it casts a negative tone onto the whole enterprise, and that rubs off on the writer or the content very easily. That’s why I feel annoyed at the writer or the content - because it’s hard to separate that feeling out from the mechanics.

Of course, fiction writing can also be unclear for any or all of the above reasons (and probably some others).