Is This The World’s Best Bad Writer?

Reading & Writing

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It’s an excitingly rich field that started with William McGonagall and has reached its ne plus ultra with the wonderful, appalling ‘Sherry Silver’. Her prose is so staggeringly inept that I’ve sort of fallen in love with her, as I did with Jacqueline Suzanne and Dan Brown. Ms Silver sounds like a perfectly nice, normal kind of person. She bakes cakes (and publishes the recipes), goes running (and publishes the distances), has health issues (and publishes the diagnoses), keeps house (and publishes her dryer settings, and details of her mildew-resistant shower curtain).

If Ms Silver has a problem it’s that she can’t stop publishing. Because, like so many other perfectly nice American ladies she publishes her own romantic novels. She’s available on every format, and I urge you to buy one, because you’ll want to read every page aloud to friends.

First things first – she somehow mangles the titles. ‘Fully Involved Fire’ doesn’t seem a great title to me because it makes no sense. But as we’ll see, that’s the least of Sherry’s worries.

Next, she makes you uncomfortable with her theme; The book is about Johnny Newman, New York’s sexiest bachelor fireman – and 9/11. See, you’re uncomfortable already.

I can’t go into the plot construction because I simple wouldn’t know where to begin, but you needn’t worry too much about that because the prose will keep you from ever wondering about a plot. Here are a few samples;

“I brought you a turkey with Swiss on white. From Vinnie’s.” Johnny Newman placed the sandwich and a half pint of skim milk on the rough granite tombstone. Squatting, he ran his soot-stained hand over the lettering. His eyes halted on the Maltese cross. He bowed his head and crossed himself. “Two years ago today, Brandon. We found you…your hand.” He cleared his throat as he fought the saline escaping from both eyes. “Susan’s okay now. Man, it was bad on her. She wanted to join you. We had to do an intervention. She spent a couple weeks in the hospital. Your mom and I, we took turns staying with her when she got back home. Anyhow, I just wanted to bring you the sandwich. I haven’t eaten at Vinnie’s anymore since…” He exhaled.

See what she did there? The introduction of a big theme, and back to the sandwich. But she writes more snappily in that style, to wit;

“Here you go, a package from your dead cousin.” The bespectacled letter carrier leered at Susan as he talked to her breasts.

Her pulse raced as she rifled through her junk drawer.

With a knot in her stomach, Susan deleted the spam.

She inhaled deeply while plopping down in a chair at the table.

 

Here one character tries to work out the date. “Let’s see now…Melody disappeared on the fourth of July, so it must have been on the eighth that I started calling you. She went out to pick up some Chinese food and never came back.’

Sherry likes to save time by combining several bits of information for you; Wiping her fresh teardrops away, she let the seventy-pound puppy out through the sliding glass door in the kitchen that led to the fenced back yard.

Meanwhile, Johnny drops off some flowers unexpectedly, introducing that subject.

The tall and buff auburn haired hunk handed her a bouquet of white lilies. “Not a problem. How’d it go at the soup kitchen yesterday?”

Susan smiled. “These are for me?”

He nodded.

“Thank you. What’s the occasion?” As soon as she’d asked the question, she realized it was two years ago today that they’d found Brandon’s remains in the smoldering rubble of Tower One. “Oh—that’s right.”

She thinks for a second about her husband. “Last Thanksgiving was much easier. It was good being around the other volunteers. But I never want to see another yam ever again.”

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This, I must stress, is all from the opening chapter. Her other books make for equally wonderful line readings.

Benjamin Franklin gazed compassionately from the bloody hundred dollar bill floating near Miss Chloe Lambert’s breasts.

Eleanor Roosevelt gingerly peeled back the delicate folds of taffeta and yanked the gun out.

Shivering at the sight, Chloe brooded over her mission and strategy. She gently replaced the arm on the mummy closest to her. Mummy! Yuck. It appeared to fit. Now noticing the thousand-dollar bill, her mind kicked into analytical gear.

 

Here’s the synopsis for ‘Inappropriate’.

Sandra is attending a writers conference aboard private rail cars. It was organized by the wife of a popular televangelist. The writers are traveling alongside devout Christians on their cross-country crusade. Sandra’s loving but hyper-critical mother has finagled a ticket to ride. The morning before departure, Sandra finds a dead sailor on the beach. On the train, Sandra must keep her lips off Lieutenant Hottie and unmask the murderer before another soul derails. All aboard! 

We can learn a lot from this sort of thing. Here’s Sherry’s succinct explorations of character.

Matilda was of Chinese, Aborigine and probably English prison camp origin.

Elderly body builder Bicep Betty, of yellow polka dot bikini fame, reposed directly across from me snapping her black bubble gum. Every book she wrote was full of kink and husband homicide. No wonder she was an old maid and had a cult following.

Actually, it’s very hard to write badly and get it right. You must give equal weight to everything, a death, a sandwich, a mummy, a hairstyle, a chair, and preferably combine them all in one sentence. Don’t research, use the thesaurus on your laptop. Anyone can write; you just put down a bunch of words. Sherry certainly doesn’t commit the sin of being boring. I want to know more about Matilda, and how the heroine spotted she was of Chinese, Aborigine and English prison camp origin. And I want to know what an English prison camp is.

In ‘A Monkey Among Crocodiles’, Brian Thompson explored the life of Mrs Georgina Weldon, an American writer who acted as a kind of reverse muse to anyone she touched while churning out a spectacular amount of printed matter. Perhaps Ms Silver is her present day incarnation. There are thousands of people out there just like her, and why shouldn’t they write for their own pleasure? The difference is that Sherry is eager to share it with the world, and is available right now alongside Harper Lee and Charles Dickens online, where everyone is equal.

 

 

16 comments on “Is This The World’s Best Bad Writer?”

  1. Jo W says:

    Well thanks for that,Chris. It’s made me feel a little nauseous. I might have to go and lie down. Yuk! At least I lasted to the end of the blog,unlike the other day when you tweeted a sample chapter of Sherry Silver’s output. Please could you add a warning sign in future- it is Monday morning after all!

  2. Mike Chinn says:

    “He cleared his throat as he fought the saline escaping from both eyes.” Ouch. He must have very sore eyes after that.

  3. Ian Beck says:

    Shades of the great Amanda McCittirick Ross here. You might be interested in this…https://ianbeckblog.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/o-rare-amanda/ thanks for posting….

  4. Alan says:

    Er…in what way, exactly, is any of the above ‘bad writing’? All seems perfectly acceptable to me, Chris?

  5. Might Amanda McKittrick Ros at last be toppled from her plinth?

  6. Nick says:

    Slow hand clap. A little rich coming from the man who wrote Hell Train.

  7. Monica says:

    I’m with Alan. ^ It may be a little less than riveting at times, but bad? I don’t see it.

  8. joelle says:

    writing by numbers… they do this in writing circles and it even starts at primary school… One mark for an adjective, two for a simile, three for using the correct punctuation and inserting a dialogue… It does not matter how inane the content, as long as the techniques are there! The story takes 2nd place to the carefully crafted sentences haphazardly sewn together (I’ll have a go myself actually) so they stretch like unlikely [do you like this funny opposition: like unlike – I am just pointing it out in case you have missed it] jewelled ants of ink revealing more than the mere meaning of their roots. “Don’t you just love it when the clash of words erupt into a whole new vista of comprehension?” AlyseeAnnee asked dreamily reclining on the near still hammock presiding in the bijou urbanite and edgy patio cum terrace she had designed herself as an ironic post gardening statement. “Humm” hummed Beebaa…
    Seriously, should we take a few hours of our lives reading her Chris or have you gone all Ironic on us again?

  9. Alex Irvine says:

    One note: “fully involved” is a firefighter’s term for a structure that is burning everywhere. So whatever her other sins, Silver is using that correctly.

  10. Damien Broderick says:

    “I want to know more about Matilda, and how the heroine spotted she [Matilda] was of Chinese, Aborigine and English prison camp origin. And I want to know what an English prison camp is.”

    Ah, I see you’ve never heard of Australia, or the fact that it was settled as a British prison, or that “Waltzing Matilda” is the unofficial Australian anthem, or that Australian Aborigines, Chinese miners and English prisoners were treated like scum in Australia. It’s a dull sentence, but I’m surprised you couldn’t work out what it meant.

    Damien Broderick

  11. admin says:

    Okay, I’ll address the charges, Sherry fans.

    Alex – ‘Fully Involved Fire’ – who knew? Certainly not the general public, but I’ll accept this as a real term. Sustained.

    Damien – Matilda as in ‘Waltzing Matilda’? She’s a New York walk-on and this has no relevance at all. What kind of reader would explore her peculiarly complex origins before noticing what she looked like? Overruled.

    Alan and Monica – ‘Johnny put his finger on his lips, the one he shushed her with. He softly stroked his mouth. Water clunked through the pipes.’ I didn’t say it was boring – I’ve downloaded her books, in fact – but in what way is this not very, very, very bad writing? Overruled.

    Nick – that’s just rude. Did you read it? I guess not, otherwise you’d know that ‘Hell Train’ is the title of a cliched script being written for Hammer in 1966. Overruled.

    I’m fighting the saline escaping from both eyes.

  12. It’s hard to top the jump in logic that lands us on “I’ll never eat another yam …”

  13. Helen Martin says:

    English prison camp could also cover South African camps (especially since the people were mostly Boer women and children) or the detention camps holding German soldiers during the second war. I agree that it is certainly nothing you could perceive from just looking. I liked the likely/unlikely cited above as a bad writing sample (did you see how I added to it?) and “fully involved” is a very common North American term, used regularly on the news, “The blaze was fully involved by the time fire fighters arrived.” And they’re fire fighters now regardless of the gender of the personnel. We aren’t exposed to bad writing as such so all we notice (unless we have detailed training or a sensitive ear) is a glitch in smoothness, a phrase that “doesn’t make sense” or clangs like a broken bell. (agree about the rudeness)

  14. agatha hamilton says:

    Makes Dan Brown seem like Shakespeare.

  15. AC says:

    She wipes away teardrops but “saline” escapes from his eyes. I keep visualizing an IV drip.

  16. Helen Martin says:

    Oh, and the yam reference? Yams appear to be essential to American Thanksgiving. Baked yams, glazed yams, mashed yams with brown sugar and/or yam pie. With donation dinner(s) and everyone making sure there are yam dishes– well, you get the idea.

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