missesdash's picture
missesdash from Paris is reading The Informers October 14, 2011 - 8:55pm

@Rae I agree with the other in that being based around real events is entirely different than being based on someone else's creations. Specifically, the fact that you build your own characters instead of using someone else's.

But using someone else's characters and settting is just lazy. A great example is Cassandra Clare, a fanfiction "writer" who essentially got rich off of her Harry Potter fanfiction when she switched the names around and threw in some Star Wars for good measure. Since then, she's only put out books based around these characters. She isn't a writer, she's a cheap knockoff.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 14, 2011 - 9:30pm

Television writers write for characters they didn't invent, like all the time.

Raelyn's picture
Raelyn from California is reading The Liars' Club October 14, 2011 - 9:42pm

Renfield, that is a very good point  I wouldn't have minded writing for Star Trek.  (The original one.  Not J.J.Abrams version.)

I have a tendency to defend fan-fiction.  When I first started writing I used fan-fiction as a gateway into creating my own pieces.  That being said, I would never try to publish them.  Cassandra Clare is definitely a cheap knockoff that no self respecting writer would try to emulate.  

Kate Winters's picture
Kate Winters from Toronto is reading James Rollins' Sigma Force series October 14, 2011 - 10:14pm

@missesdash, Renfield, Raelyn: I defend fan fiction for the same reason Rae does, because it's how I began writing way, way back when I had no idea that I could even put words on paper and have it make sense. English isn't my first language, and even after 15 years I still stumble over my own words on occasion. I never thought I could write more than lab reports until I found fan fiction. It's a good way for honing your skills in writing when you're given a very tight framework. Yes, there is *some* element of wish fulfillment, but then wish fulfillment is, to a certain degree, inherent in creative works, isn't it? If I were to write about space adventures, part of the reason would be because I want to be a space adventurer but I can't.

I disagree with the whole publishing fan fiction with the names swapped out part, not only for the obvious reasons Rae had put so elegantly *grins* but also for legal reasons, but that's a whole separate discussion.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. October 14, 2011 - 11:29pm

The reason I hate Twilight is that the female protagonist is so weak and there doesn't seem to be a legitimate reason for her falling for the vampire other than that he is "forbidden" to her.  It's like the crappier he treats her, the more she wants him.  It's bad romance novel crap that bugs me.  I don't think a story should completely be driven by feelings or emotions of the character.  Otherwise it sounds like a 300 page diary entry by a whiny teenage girl. 

On the other end of the spectrum, I hate overly cynical writing where everything in the character's entire world is garbage, they hate everything and everyone and everyone around them is being used, molested, raped, bamboozled or otherwise flogged emotionally.  That sort of gritty "noirish" version of reality where you have the tough guy who is out against the world and gets the 'beautiful dame'.  I hate stories that use black and white morality like it's Americans versus terrorists and there are no gray areas.  Stories where we don't even get to understand the villain but they are just a composite of American fears and phobias about other cultures.  That is bad writing to me.

Bekanator's picture
Bekanator from Kamloops, British Columbia is reading Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter October 14, 2011 - 11:14pm

For all you Twilight haters, this is the best blog ever.  Even I've learned a few grammar tips.

http://reasoningwithvampires.tumblr.com/

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones October 14, 2011 - 11:21pm

someone once emailed me a section of twilight, i assume from the beginning, where the character or the big voice exposition, (i dont remember) anyway, it was talking about needing warm clothes to move to washington. isnt this chick from arizona? isnt arizona a desert?

for those of you who dont follow, oregon has a desert too. my point being ive spent time out there, and it might be hot enough to fry an egg on a rock at 5pm, but when the sun goes down on a clear night.. holy shit..

that said, a person from a desert environment would have clothes compatable with your average puget sound weather, outside of months that end in ebruary and arch...  and just a little research would have saved a hack writer from making the puget sound seem like the north fucking pole.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 15, 2011 - 12:51am

is Farch a month? I don't have a calender.

missesdash's picture
missesdash from Paris is reading The Informers October 15, 2011 - 2:50am

@Ren you're so snarky.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 15, 2011 - 3:26am

There's a definite line between lampooning and lambasting, but I don't know where it is. I'm sure they both reflect badly on me, but I have good intentions!... is how I rationalize it to myself.

simon morris's picture
simon morris from Originally, Philadelphia, PA; presently Miami Beach, FL is reading This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George October 15, 2011 - 5:20am

Writing is contexual, so bad writing is anything that distracts from the telling of the chosen topic. For instance, writing an annual report in flowing, Elizabethan English, would be bad writing while using that form for Romeo and Juliet, written in the context of its time and place, was good writing.

Bad writing is sometimes the inability to understand the sounds of the words in the flow of the story you are telling--even nonfiction is a story. If you make a story difficult to read without tons of pauses to try to decipher what the author meant, it is bads writing.

Use of cliches is bad writing because the meaning of cliche is "seen so often that you know it before you come to the end." Good writing is about surprising the reader, both in the course of the story and in its details.

Choosing less than the best word is often bad writing. For instance, to say that work is hard is bad writing unless you are talking about cement work in which the object is for it to become hard. Work is difficult, it is tedious, it is tiring, it is boring, it is often less-than-rewarding. But hard? I think not.

Nuf sed.

Bekanator's picture
Bekanator from Kamloops, British Columbia is reading Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter October 15, 2011 - 6:49am

I don't think a story should completely be driven by feelings or emotions of the character.  Otherwise it sounds like a 300 page diary entry by a whiny teenage girl.

The reason I hate Stephenie Meyer is because when her books were criticized as being bad for this reason, she explained that she intended her book to sound like it was written by a teenage girl, that she wanted it to be as realistic as possible.

MAKING EXCUSES MEANS YOU'RE A BAD WRITER.

She's also said that:

- She intended Bella to be a "blank" character so the reader could project themselves on her.

- She deliberately didn't do research because she "didn't want to find out how many rules she was breaking".

It's also pretty damn clear that she can't distance herself from her work.  She can't take the criticism.  That, or she's just too embarrased to say her writing is as bad as it really is and she can't just admit that, hey, she wrote some shitty books.  A good writer should be able to shrug that off and write even better.  Take a challenge, Meyer.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. October 15, 2011 - 7:45am

Quote (of a quote)

-She deliberately didn't do research because she "didn't want to find out how many rules she was breaking".-

 

I can see that as a perfectly valid approach to a first draft.  Then you research and find out why you suck so much and why everyone hates you.  Then you fix it.  I think maybe the whole Twilight series was just an accident that didn't get a second draft.

Oh god.  If that was the final product of editing and rewrites...  

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz October 15, 2011 - 8:25am

I've been thinking about this thread for the past couple of days (thanks Rebecca).

What is bad writing? Is it work that under the eyes of a jury of peers is declared not guilty? And who are the self-righteous peers?

Maybe one of them is your neighbor across the street whose house you can barely walk through or find a place to sit down in because it's filled floor-to-ceiling with books. Of course, you think to yourself, they're all Bad Books and nothing you'd ever read, but they're books nonetheless.

And she has read every one of them at least once, even going so far as to graffiti them with copious marginalia. You balk at this because you could never Love one of these stupid books. But she does, taking them in passionately like someone adopting stray cats.

If you were to ask her a question about one, say Sweet Savage Love or  Loves Avenging Heart or Loves Tender Fury your neighbor might glance to one sandwiched between hundreds of others and quote from it without ever getting up from the stack of books that serves as her makeshift chair. Her red skirt is too short, too, you might think to yourself, but that doesn't bother you because you approve of the underwear she is wearing.

Her voice changes when she regurgitates the words from a mnemonic place in her beautiful mind. You wish you had a place like that so you could recite The Marquis de Sade or Goethe. The scene she recalls is a sex scene. Normally you would think it cheesy, but the short skirt and underwear props have introduced unexpected illustrations to the sultry over-embellished rococo text.

She becomes radiant as she recites. Aroused might be a better term. Stimulated? You always thought she was beautiful. You even asked her out once but called it off when you saw her book collection, making up some lie about Jury Duty. "I didn't know they held those at night," she had said. "It's a special case," you'd responded, surrounded by towers of the baddest books you'd ever laid eyes on.

But now, hearing her and seeing her this way you sense her passion for these books and you actually admire and appreciate it because you realize that writing, like so many other things in life is subjective.

Maybe, you think, as you watch her lips move above her cleaved chest, these bad books aren't so bad afterall.

Or maybe that's just the underwear putting words into your mouth. 

 

Kate Winters's picture
Kate Winters from Toronto is reading James Rollins' Sigma Force series October 15, 2011 - 8:56am

@CP: That, is marvelous my friend.

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words October 15, 2011 - 9:28am

@Kate Winters: when I refer to wish fulfilment in bad writing, I'm referring to those instances where the protagonist is an avatar for the writer without any metafictional self-awereness. The story is not a device for creating a character, (or whatever good writing is), it's a device by which the writer lives out their fantasies at the expense of the story.  I've read through a few unpublished stories, and the key signs are:

1) the character has no flaws

2) the opposite sex (or whichever sex is of interest to the writer) are enamoured by this character

3) the character can resolve every conflict with no effort whatsoever

4) the antagonist never gets the better of the character

5) by page 2 I want to kill the character by the most torturous, painful means available (and since this is all taking place in imagination land, there are a lot of possibilities).

@Chester Pane - despite your awesome post, I still maintain that there is less subjectivity about good/bad writing than there is in one's taste of material. I love some pretty poorly written stories, and I don't like some very well written ones. There's a difference in there somewhere.

@renfield, mssdash et al: comics writers have really gone to town in the past 25 years or so, taking stock characters and turning them on their heads. I think it's a challenge to take a well established character and do something novel for them. It is still a work of imagination to breathe life into them, or to take what may have been throw-away or insignificant details and base entire story-arcs around them.

but piggy backing on something else, or writing sequels that follow similar story arcs to the previous tale are definitely lazy, opportunistic or bad writing.

Kate Winters's picture
Kate Winters from Toronto is reading James Rollins' Sigma Force series October 15, 2011 - 10:21am

@postpomo: While that is a recurring theme in some fandoms, it is by no means exclusive to fan fiction, and not all fan fiction is like that. They're referred to as Mary Sues, and I've seen these types of characters in all sorts of non-fan work. Most of the fan fiction that I have read are exactly what you have said about comic writing: "a work of imagination to breathe life into them, or to take what may have been throw-away or insignificant details and base entire story-arcs around them."

I challenge you to read some of those works then come back and tell me that they're "lazy, opportunistic or bad writing."

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words October 15, 2011 - 12:04pm

@Kate Winters: I'm not labelling all fan fiction - I thought I'd made that point a couple of times - the instances where I encountered Mary Sues happened to be in fan fiction. I've read fan fiction, I've read books based on Star Wars, Star Trek and a number of other established fantasy worlds, and it's not intrisically bad writing by any means. Bad writing transcends genre just as good, and mediocre writing does.

in the post above I was specifically defining what I meant by "wish fulfilment", not fan fiction.

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading October 15, 2011 - 12:08pm

Fan fiction weirds me out. I'm not ethically or philosophically opposed to it. It just weirds me out.

Kind of like tentacle porn.

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words October 15, 2011 - 12:14pm

I think Role-Playing Games and Online Video games can be interesting devices for generating stories, so too can they spawn unsightly tales...

How could I forget HP Lovecraft. Most of the fiction based on his works surpasses it in terms of writing.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 15, 2011 - 3:14pm

I'd like to rag on that Twilight lady too, but then I think how many millions of dollars did she make again? I wish my soul had more net worth so I could make that same deal with Satan.

missesdash's picture
missesdash from Paris is reading The Informers October 15, 2011 - 3:33pm

One of the things I don't like about voracious fandoms is that they disregard the creator's intent. If I spend a year working on something and someone says "well that romance is interesting, but here's how I'd like to see it" and then proceeds to litter the Internet with shitty stories using my characters, settings and the like....well that would just really annoy me.

So no, I don't think I'll ever consider fanfiction anything more than lazy plagiarism.