Thursday, November 4, 2010

Booking Through Thursday (23)

Booking Through Thursday asks:

I’ve seen many bloggers say that what draws them to certain books or authors is good writing, and what causes them to stop reading a certain book or author is bad writing.  What constitutes good writing and bad writing to you?

How much time do you have?

For someone as pedantic as me, writing is kind of a separate topic from character development or plot.  But there are more than enough common mistakes out there to keep me annoyed.  One thing that will drive me to distraction is the use of "said bookisms".  That's when the author, instead of tagging the dialogue with the simple (and easy-to-ignore) word "said", will use some other word such as "coughed" or "sighed" or "laughed".  I've read books so bad that characters even "shrug" their speech.  In the past year or so I've read two that were awful in this regard (although, in one case, I don't think the author had a good grasp on how to write dialogue at all, since every piece of it ended in a comma, whether it was the end of a complete sentence or not).

In the past, I've done quite a bit of writing.  I have a whole shelf in my bookshelf devoted to instructional/inspirational writing books, and I used to read Writer's Digest magazine religiously.  So when I see errors, they really jump out at me.  For me to consider a book to have "good writing" usually means that the writing is transparent and that I don't notice it at all.  No "said bookisms", no purple prose, no comma splices (unless they make sense in the context of the style).  If I can forget about the writing and just enjoy the story, then I'm more likely to give the book high marks in the writing category.


  1. How could I forget the "said" alts? Although, I think writing "said" after every line of dialogue is almost as bad. If the characters' voices are so indistinct that they need constant attribution, something needs to change.

  2. I need help from Google to find out about this said bookism :)
    And yes, I think writers should avoid using too many "said" in the dialogue
    Happy Friday