Influences (the bad)

So many bad writers, so little time. We’re moving on with a series about which writers influence me, using Sergio Leone’s famous spaghetti Western, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly as my map. Today we’re visiting authors who could give Lee Van Cleef (the Bad) a run for his money. These writers have influenced me by being bad enough that I never want to write that way.

Faye Kellerman is the first that springs to mind. A master of clunky dialogue and wooden characters. I’m a big fan of her husband, Jonathan Kellerman, but reading Faye’s work is like listening to nails on a chalkboard. Reading some of her novels has made me much more aware of cardboard characters and clanking plot devices. That said, I’ll probably never pick up another of her books — unless it’s to throw at someone.

It’s pretty easy to beat up on Dan Brown. His prose is purple, his syntax gets mangled, his characters are lifeless. And yet he’s told stories that are compelling enough to dominate the bestseller lists. Maybe I’ll add him to the Ugly list, too.

James Patterson. Do I need to go on? Seriously. Patterson’s the perfect short-attention span author. His books are forgettable, and the micro-chapters are shorter than a … crap. I can’t think of something that short. He’s one of those authors who is simply phoning it in and has generally lapsed into self-parody. Not a road anyone wants to go down, no matter how many millions of dollars lie there.

Up next, we’ll have the Ugly. But that’s another post. Back soon.

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