Why What I Think is Bad Might Not Jive With What You Think is Bad
LAST WEEK I GAVE MY ALL in an effort to win a much coveted award for worst novel opening. A quick tally of votes looked something like this:
It’s Awesome: 10
It Sucks: 2
No comment on quality: 1
I couldn’t get that sort of agreement on anything, ever. I would be thrilled except it was supposed to suck. What happened?
Well, first off, I did round, so if someone said it wasn’t too bad, I counted that as awesome. If someone said it wasn’t their favorite, then I put that down as a suck. It might sound like a stupid scoring system, but it helps me clarify things. I’m all about making nuanced opinions seem like a black or white issue.
Regardless, I got some quizzical sort of responses in the comments, people asking if I even understood the challenge. I figured I’d take a whole post to explain myself, since I clearly failed in what I was trying to convey.
Anyone see that episode of the Simpsons when the director of a soap opera wanted an ugly actor? When they brought in local bartender, Mo, for the part, the director screamed, “I wanted Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island ugly, not ugly ugly.”
That was my Mary Ann ugly, not my ugly ugly. Ugly ugly have been like:
There was this guy that was going to the bathroom except that he forgot his keys and then remembered that he didn’t need them and so he went and he felt better. Also, he was rich and could dunk a basketball. He was awesome. And Cats! Ninjas were there because the only time he can’t protect himself from assassination is when he was using the bathroom, because that’s his only weakness – bathroom breaks. One time, there was a bug that got stuck in the sink at my house, I ended up killing it though. Bugs are gross!!! Go Vols! Lol!!! J
Granted, there might be some poor soul out there in the interwebs that thinks that the above is quality writing, but I doubt they would be the majority. At the same time, there is very little challenge in that, I think. The challenge is in making something that a person can recognize as bad, but still enjoy.
That was my thought process at least. And in my defense, it was much worse when it was 450 words long. I kept cutting and cutting until I could get it down to 300. Every word had to be carefully debated. I cut out tons of adverbs, extra-lame description, I regretted that I shorted the first paragraph down like I did… originally it had the phrase “Sahara summer reverse-oven-broil cold”.
But I cut it out in favor of a more concise sentence. Had to get it down to 300. What was left probably worked a bit better than I meant for it to. In fact, I went back and reread it preparing for this post and thought, I would totally read that.
But readable or not, that was what I was thinking.