Friday, December 2, 2011

Dan Brown's Alleged Bad Writing and Other Links...

I'd like to start this post off by stating that I love Dan Brown's writing. I think he knows how to create a story, from a masculine POV, in ways that make me want to keep reading. And when I'm reading for pleasure, this is what I care about most.

But I read an interesting post over here, at "Michael's" blog, on the Dystel & Goderich Literary Management Blog about Dan Brown's alleged "bad writing." I use the word alleged because I don't agree Dan Brown's writing is bad.

I know the post was written with a tongue-in-cheek tone, and I get where "Michael" was going. But I can't help wondering how Dan Brown feels when he reads posts like this. Seriously, people must think that authors are made of cast iron. Even in fun, authors take these things to heart.

The post I'm talking about links to this article, where examples of Dan Brown's alleged bad writing are given, and the tone isn't as lighthearted as "Michael's." I think each example could be debated. But I also know there's no way anyone can ever win when they go up against a pedantic elitist, so it's not worth the time or effort to give out examples.

In fact, I feel safe in saying that a lot of what I read and see about what's considered "bad writing" is written by pedantic elitists who aren't keeping up with the way people are communicating in a general sense. When I read this blog post over at Hyperbole and a Half, and the long rant that went with it, I felt guilty and a little sad at the same time. Guilty, because I'm one of those people who often abbreviate words like "you" to "u," when I'm texting or posting online. And that's because, like most people my age and younger, I'm either using a tablet or a phone to post. It's easier. It's accepted. And it's the way communication is moving whether we like it or not. I also felt a little sad for the blogger for not taking the way communication is changing...and always has changed...into consideration. And it has nothing to do with age. My mom is in her seventies and she texts and abbreviates all the time.

One of the reasons why I rarely comment on the style of another author's writing is because most of the time it can be debated. And I always think, "who am I to judge?" Evidently, that's not the case in SOME places. And even though the post about Dan Brown was lighthearted and written with a positive tone, I hope when Dan Brown reads these things he knows he's getting the last laugh. Because there are plenty of readers like me out there, who are not elitists, who love the way he writes. But more than that, we "get" and appreciate the way communication styles change and evolve with time.

Here's the best example I can give:

Steven Jobs came up with the infamous line for an ad:

"Think Different"

The pedantic elitists thought it should read "Think Differently," because it's grammatically correct.

Steve Jobs argued that he wanted to keep it "Think Different." Mainly because he wanted "different" to be considered a noun. And he won, the ad was a huge success, and it helped change the world.

I like to "Think Different," too. And I don't care what anyone else thinks.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what can be debated in the Telegraph article. Most of it is fact.

Using the tagline from Steve Jobs as a comparator is like comparing eggs with star-jumps. An advertisement is intended to grab attention and to be memorable. In "Think Different", using the word "Different", the adjective in place of the adverb form is done to create a particluar effect. This is not the case in Brown's standard prose.

Simply, Brown's grammar and syntax is often poor. He also uses words in such a context that it is clear he does not understand what the definition of that word is.

It's better to admit that you don't mind bad writing because you get caught up in the story than to try to justify something erroneously - particluarly if you want people to believe the thrust of your article, ie. "I don't care what anyone else thinks".

ryan field said...

Thanks for commenting. I don't think you grasped my point, but it's something that can be debated endlessly.

The comment about the Jobs quote came from information I read directly in his biography. There was, indeed, an internal dispute over that phrase for grammatical reasons and Jobs fought to keep it knowing it wasn't correct. And, knowing he was being judged on grammar.

And the concept of how language (and communication) evolves is even more important to take into consideration. In other words, what was standard grammar one hundred years ago...or even fifty years ago...isn't so much anymore. The rules change all the time. Authors like Dan Brown who connect with readers know what they are doing. And eventually what was considered wrong becomes right. Think preposition at the end of a sentence.

"It's better to admit that you don't mind bad writing because you get caught up in the story than to try to justify something erroneously - particluarly if you want people to believe the thrust of your article, ie. "I don't care what anyone else thinks"."

First, I don't have to admit anything to anyone :)

Second, People can believe what they want to believe and I'm fine with that. I really don't care.

Third, I have never been pompous enough to define good or bad writing. I leave that to the elite, thank you.

Fourth...if you notice, I didn't use "Firstly, Secondly, Thirdly, or Fourthly." But I could have. It's okay to do that now. At one time it wouldn't have been.