I've spent the last two or so years working in various book stores. This has given me a lot of time to read the selection, both good and bad.
And I have plenty to say about the books I read.
We'll start with the worst book I have ever read, The Waves of Atlantis, by Dr. Maxine Asher. Where to even begin with this. Well, the first page is a pretty good way to start. In fact, this first page is so horrible, we'll focus on just it for the time being. We'll get to the actual 'plot' in the next entry.
The opening is the most important part of a novel, without a doubt. Hell, probably your first sentence. Mess that up, and your book starts off on a really bad spot. Even the worst of writers can pump out an opener that at least makes people curious.
In fact, let's start with an example of a good opener, to compare this to.
This is the first line in Ralph Ellison's 'Invisible Man'.
"I am an invisible man."
Bam. Immediately, you want to know what's up. Why is he invisible? How is he invisible? It leaves interesting questions we want to know the answer to.
On the contrary, this is the opening line of 'The Waves of Atlantis'.
"What a bust!"
That's it.
A line of uninteresting dialogue, with no indication of who's talking, or why we should care about what's being said. Fantastic. But that's not all. The second sentence in the book is, you guessed it, another line of uninteresting dialogue. And that trend continues for the first page, with only one sentence being not dialogue.
[sarcasm] So interesting. [/sarcasm]
But even that could be forgiven, if it wasn't the most unrealistic dialogue I have ever read.
A sample, for you.
"It certainly isn't mine. Don't look at me. I warned you guys-- I mean guys and gal--- about the possible problems with the mission."
That's right. I did not mistype that. There you can see two hyphens, followed by three hyphens. What?! There is nothing hyphenated there! Absolutely nothing! I'm guessing she meant to put a dash there, but was too illiterate to even know to do that.
Now that we're off of that issue with the formatting, we can move on the dialogue itself. First off, the 'I mean guys and gals' thing. Yeah. That's not how people talk. I see this in writing a lot, with weird exposition being shoved in to awkward places in dialogue. Normally, I don't really mind that much, depending on how the rest of the writing is, but this is just too awkward. It's a crappy way of informing readers that there's a female in the room, and still tells us almost nothing.
I think I've ripped Asher enough of a new one for now.
You like this type of thing? If you do, I'll keep going with The Waves of Atlantis, because trust me, there's plenty of room to cover.