Bad Writing Is…Bad Writing

star power

I’m a big fan of the summer movies, but lately there have been some real stinkers coming out of Hollywood.  Many of the films released this year have been dead on arrival, garnering positive percentage ratings on Rotten Tomatoes (a site that aggregates all internet reviews) of less than 20%.

Films like The Lone Ranger, After Earth, R.I.P.D., Red 2, and a whole host of others listed by Yahoo have prompted people like George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg to announce that the way Hollywood charges for films in the future will be different.  They note that films that are guaranteed blockbusters like Iron Man 3 and the new Star Wars film will cost us more per ticket than, say, a film that is not tried and true.  Bigger films will be released in limited theaters so patrons will have to drive farther to see them.

Are they kidding us?

Obviously they want to make money, but the fault dear reader does not lie in our stars but in our pens.  I would submit that the reason these films did poorly was simply because the writers involved fell down on the job.  Take, for example, The Lone Ranger.  If we look at many of the reviews, the element most criticized is the writing.   The biggest complaint of all of the reviewers was that the film had a “bland script” and that the film did not end when it should have.  The film could have been great.  It could have been a classic retelling of the days of Jay Silverheels and Claude Rains.  However, it was simply a ploy to get Pirates of the Caribbean fans to come running to see Johnny Depp.  This same fault rings true for all of the other films mentioned above.

I lament the fact that good writing has escaped the game plans of so many writers today.  I have said again and again that books like Twilight will not stand the test of time, and neither will their terrible writers.  Look at Meyer’s The Host a book that is on the NYT best seller list, yet the film (based closely on the book) bombed bigger than After Earth at the box office (9%).

I take this to mean that when a publisher or an agent tells you that your novel is well written but is “just not the genre that is selling”, remember that they probably don’t really know what they are talking about.  The publishing industry is changing so much with the advent of self-publishing and e-publishing, that the glass ceiling of the publishing industry is indeed breaking.   In this age of internet reviews and instant discovery of a film or book’s “it-factor”, I submit that it is really a crap shoot as to what will be a hit and what will not.  The public’s desire for the latest diversion has led to a society whose future entertainment needs are becoming harder and harder to predict.  The days of the entertainment industry telling the public what is “hip” or “vogue” are long gone, but they don’t seem to “get it”.

The lesson that we can learn from all this is that bad writing is indeed still bad writing no matter what era we happen to live in.  Poor plot development is still poor plot development, cardboard characters are still no fun to watch or read about, and we have to have some kind of investment as readers or viewers in order to care.  Learn a lesson from the summer bombs.  Practice writing, practice writing, practice writing, and then by all means write well, pour yourself into it, and challenge yourself to write with excellence.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

4 thoughts on “Bad Writing Is…Bad Writing

  1. Totally agree with you about good writing – but it seems that if someone finds a winning angle they’ll stick to it rather than striking out to find something new – hence all the sequels, where the same idea is flogged further until eventually it staggers to a halt. Personally I just yearn for well-drawn characters and an interesting storyline, preferably where I don’t have to hold another two or three books/movies in mind in order to follow the plot.

  2. Here here. ^_^ And for all of us who can’t depend on our names to get work out there; we’ll be a hell of a lot better than those currently published authors because we actually really need to try!

  3. You are so right. A good story with characters we care about will trump an overblown spectacle any time. That’s why people still love Star Wars and Star Trek. We are invested in what happens to the people. A friend of mine, aged 26, watched Star Trek for the first time in her life last week and raved about how much she enjoyed the characters.

  4. Supposedly, there are thousands upon thousands of scripts getting pitched in Hollywood, and THESE were the ones that were the best? Or the ones thought most likely to be profitable? Yeesh. To be fair, I thought Monsters University had some really good writing in it (and that’s the only movie I’ve paid to see this summer).

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