Almost everybody agrees that standardized tests suck. Teachers don’t like them. Students hate them. Parents aren’t thrilled about them either. There are only two groups of people who like standardized tests, government officials and the test makers.
I understand why test makers like standardized tests. Test makers make a ton of money off of standardized tests. I’d like something too if I made a ton of money off it.
I’m not sure why government officials like standardized tests so much. Standardized tests are unpopular. If government officials got rid of standardized testing, their approval ratings would automatically skyrocket.
If statewide (or national) standardized tests just disappeared, would anybody care? Would there be protests? Would there be outrage?
It’s not like Social Security or Medicare. If you take those away, people notice. I’m pretty sure students wouldn’t get angry that they never had the opportunity to take a standardized test. Everybody in the public education system would celebrate.
Even authors whose literature appears on the tests don’t like the standardized tests. When poet Sara Holbrook saw one of her pieces being used as a reading selection on a Texas test (the STAAR, whatever that means), she wasn’t really happy about it. Even worse, she got the answer to one of the questions based on her poem wrong.
A part of me wants to make fun of the poet for missing a question about her own poem. I’m not trying to be mean. On the contrary, I’m very empathetic. When I was in junior high, my math teacher made us write our own story problems. He then used one of my story problems on the story problems test, and I didn’t get the answer right. To make matters worse, the teacher announced to the class that I had missed my own test question (Thanks, teacher!).
I give Sara Holbrook credit for admitting that she missed a question about her poem. It makes a statement. I too should have made a statement. I should have used my moment in math class to denounce story problem tests, and I could have used my experience as an example of how a test-taking education system is ruining our generation, but my teacher would have told me to shut up, and everybody would have laughed at me. Nobody liked protesters where I grew up.
I understand that standardized tests can be used to measure achievement consistently across the state or country. That’s a decent purpose, but dagnabbit it, I see my kids take too many of them every year. I don’t even have to take any standardized tests, and I still think there are too many of them.
Maybe there should be only one standardized test per year, and that’s it. Give schools a day or two to implement it and be done. And schools can judge the results, but nobody gets fired based solely on those results, unless there’s cheating. But without so much pressure, there would be less pressure to cheat.
As an aspiring writer, I want a lot of people to read what I write, but being on a standardized test would probably be one of the worst things that could happen.
I mean, my books could get banned (this one for its use of profanity), and I wouldn’t care (it would be great publicity). The critics could proclaim that my writing is crap, and I wouldn’t care (I might care a little, but not if I’m making money from it).
But please, please, please, never let my writing be used on a standardized reading test. Everybody hates standardized tests, especially the authors whose works appear in them.
What do you think? What are some of your standardized test horror stories?
When it comes to awkward sex scenes in books, sometimes an author tries too hard. Instead of explaining what happens in a straightforward way, the author might attempt to get too fancy and use a crazy metaphor where simple language would be enough.
The following excerpt from A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin was a runner-up for The Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award in 2016. Unfortunately, the Literary Review article gives only the excerpt and doesn’t try to explain what makes the scene bad (or awkward). If we aspiring authors are going to improve our own writing, we should examine the excerpts from a writer’s perspective, and see what we could have done differently.
Here is the awkward sex scene excerpt for this post:
The act itself was fervent. Like a brisk tennis game or a summer track meet, something performed in daylight between competitors. The cheap mattress bounced.
First of all, the author describes the act as “fervent.” The word “fervent” implies intense, but then the author compares the sexual activity to tennis and track. As intense as tennis and track can be, the competitors aren’t physical with each other.
There’s distance between athletes in tennis and track, and that image of distance contradicts the concept of intensity. A better sports comparison would be to that of MMA fighters. Now THAT’S intense. Plus, the image of grappling might be similar to what the sexual participants were going through.
Bad similes can ruin a sex scene, especially a long simile. When I wrote a sex scene in my own ebook, I avoided long similes and metaphors, and I stayed away from sports references.
But if an author is determined to compare sexual activity with a sporting activity, another choice would be professional women’s tennis. Those women grunt and groan so loudly that a guy can close his eyes and imagine it’s a certain kind of pornography.
I don’t know if guys do that anymore, though. 20 years ago, before the internet and free porn, guys with no money would have to close their eyes during televised women’s tennis matches. I never did that, but I heard that other guys did. I never heard about women watching women’s tennis for the same purpose, but I guess it’s possible.
The second problem with the excerpt was the bouncing cheap mattress. The most notable characteristic of a cheap mattress during sexual activity is that it’s really uncomfortable. Plus, a cheap mattress doesn’t bounce, no matter how much activity takes place on it. It just thuds. Two adults could jump up and down with impunity on a cheap mattress, and it would thud instead of bounce. I have a lot of experience with cheap mattresses (though the experience isn’t necessarily sexual in nature).
From my experience, it’s the expensive mattresses that bounce. Maybe the author was wrong about what kind of mattress was being used. Journalists get their facts wrong all the time, so maybe the author got his own facts wrong too.
A cheap mattress might not bounce, but it will squeak, and a squeaky mattress during sexual activity can be distracting. It also lets the neighbors know what’s going on (if you live in an apartment or dorm room). The author might have more credibility if he’d simply written “the cheap mattress squeaked.”
So the lesson from this awkward sex scene is clear: Keep your sports metaphors short, and test out mattresses before you write about them.
And for more about awkward sex scenes in books, read the blog post Awkward Sex Scenes in Books.
“This is it,” a female coworker said as I passed her cubicle. She was reading a paperback novel with a weird alien and an attractive woman on the cover. My coworker probably should have been on the computer doing actual work, but I didn’t mention that.
“This is what?” I asked.
“The book,” she said.
“Your book?” I said. She didn’t strike me as the science fiction type.
“No, it’s ________ book.” I didn’t recognize the name she’d said.
“Whose book?” I said, still confused.
“You know, from the ____________ department.”
I still didn’t know who she was talking about, but when she showed me the author’s photo on the back cover, I said, “Oh, THAT guy.”
I recognized the author as a guy who works at our company. I see the guy a lot at work, but I’ve never talked to him. He doesn’t talk to me either. That made me feel like I wasn’t obligated to read his novel. If he had been within my small circle of acquaintances at work, I would have felt obligated.
Out of curiosity, I bought the book on Amazon anyway and began reading it. As far as science fiction goes, it’s okay. It doesn’t do anything I haven’t seen or read about before. I mean, that’s not what I’m going to say to anybody who asks. I have a few complimentary comments ready which will show everybody at work that I’ve actually read the entire book.
The coworker author set the book up as a series, so there’s a cliffhanger at the end of the book, and I might give the coworker grief if he takes too long to finish the second book. He doesn’t know me well, so if I start calling him George RR Martin for taking too long, he might not understand where I’m coming from, and that could cause friction at work, even though we don’t really have anything to do with each other. My sense of humor doesn’t go over well with people who don’t know me.
The paperback sells for just under $15.00 and the Kindle is $3.99. It’s kind of overpriced for its size, but I don’t think the coworker author has much control over that. I would put it up on this blog, but I’m trying to sell my own ebooks (like this one right here!! If you like this blog, you’ll probably like this too!).
It would hurt my feelings if somebody else’s book got more attention on my blog than my own ebooks. Plus, the coworker author has already gotten a lot of people from work to buy his book. To be fair, I don’t know how hard he pitched his book to everybody in his department. He’s not a boss, so he can’t threaten anybody. But it seems like he needs friends and coworkers to keep his sales rank up. He has a few Amazon reviews (all 5-stars), but I recognize the names of a couple reviewers (coworkers), so I’m curious how this book will do once the friends/family/coworkers are done buying it.
I would ask the coworker some questions about his publishing experience (and how it’s going), but it would be awkward. Again, he doesn’t know me, so there would be no reason for me to come up to him out of nowhere and pester him about his book, especially since I’m not ready to tell people (coworkers and friends) about my blog and ebooks just yet.
I’m curious how successful this author will be in the long run. He’s going about things in a different way than I am. I’m going the indie route and using my blog, and in a few years when my kids don’t need me watching over them/driving them around all the time, I can devote more time to writing and trying new social media strategies. In the meantime, I hope he’s successful, and I’ll probably buy his second book.
But I hope he can drop the price a little next time.
When I was a kid and called my dog a bitch, my parents punished me. I tried to argue to them that I was using the word bitch correctly. A bitch was a female dog, I said, and that was exactly what our dog was. I even pulled out a dictionary to make my point.
My dad then told me to look up the word belt, and I knew what he was suggesting, so I stopped arguing. I was correct about the word bitch, but I wasn’t willing to pay the price for it.
For a long time afterward, I wondered why bitch was a bad word. First of all, bitch is a five-letter word. Most bad words have four letters. Sh**, d**m, f***, and even c***k and d**k, have four letters.
Plus, bitch is not a body part or a body function. Most bad words refer to body parts that we’re not supposed to talk about or body functions we’re not supposed to talk about. What was wrong about saying a word that meant “female dog”?
What I didn’t understand (and what nobody was willing to explain back then) was that bitch referred to “a female dog in heat,” so calling a woman a bitch implied she was slutty or of low moral character. Centuries ago when the English language was developing, being called a bitch was worse than being called a whore because a whore was at least being practical.
According to the dictionary, bitch comes from the Old English word bicche which meant “female dog” around the 10th century. Then sometime in the 1400s, people began using the word as a derogatory term for women. Nobody knows the name of the person who used the word bitch or bicche as a derogatory term first. It was tough to keep records of that kind of thing back then.
Despite the recent sexual revolution and changes in language and attitudes, the word bitch is still considered bad. Maybe it’s not as bad as it used to be, and I hear women use the word more frequently than men, but I still don’t say it much. I’m more likely to say “son of a bitch” than bitch by itself.
Son of a bitch is an extension of bitch and might even be more commonly used than bitch (I have no proof of this). When I stub my toe, I don’t yell out “Bitch!” I yell out “Son of a bitch!” “Son of a bitch!” is fun to say.
Plus, you’re usually not accused of being a misogynist if you say “son of a bitch,” even if you’re a guy (or a misogynist). You’re still implying that somebody’s mother is a bitch, which would be considered misogynist if you thought bitch was a misogynist term, but people don’t usually make that accusation, especially after you’ve stubbed your toe.
The word bitch has several meanings now. Bitch can be used as a noun, which I avoid. Bitch can also be a verb, as in to complain. I use the word gripe instead of bitch if I need a one-syllable word for complain. Gripe doesn’t quite have the forcefulness of bitch, but it makes its point without offending anybody.
Nowadays, calling a woman a bitch implies that she is mean or cold-hearted. In some ways, the current meaning of bitch is almost the opposite of slutty, which is strange because slut is also a dog reference. Calling a woman a slutty bitch would either be redundant or an oxymoron. Either way, I wouldn’t suggest saying it.
Bitch isn’t the only word that’s caused me problems. Back when I was I a kid, I also got in trouble for saying the word crap. Looking back, it ticks me off so much that I even wrote an ebook about it .
James Patterson writes a lot of books. It’s tough to gripe about it too much because almost every book he writes becomes a best-seller. Despite his success, I’ve thought that an author who puts out as many books a year as he does might not be worried about quality.
To demonstrate this point, I chose an excerpt from Patterson’s latest Alex Cross thriller, Cross the Line.
Chapter Two of this book has one of the least dramatic, least emotional death scenes I have ever read. To keep this blog post short, I’ve added my comments in parenthesis. At the beginning of this scene, the two victims Edita and McGrath are leaving a Whole Foods store after a couple pages of banter:
They turned to head south, Edita a step or two ahead of him.
A second later, McGrath caught red fire flashing in his peripheral vision, heard the boom-boom-boom (Lazy sound effect?) of rapid pistol fire, and felt bullets hit him (Wouldn’t the bullets hit him before he heard the sound?), one of them in his chest. It (More than one bullet hit him, so the pronoun should be “they” unless it was only the bullet that hit him in the chest that brought him down.) drove him to the ground (That’s it? He didn’t feel anything right away?).
Edita started to scream but caught the next two bullets (where?) and fell beside McGrath, the organic groceries tumbling across the bloody (already?) sidewalk.
For McGrath, everything became far away and slow motion (what does that even mean?). He fought for breath (cliché). It felt like he’d been bashed in the ribs with sledgehammers (poorly written cliché). He went on autopilot, fumbled (he’s fumbling while he’s on autopilot?) for his cell phone in his gym-shorts (gym shorts seems like an irrelevant detail at this point; maybe the gym shorts should have been established earlier in the scene) pocket.
He punched in 911, watched dumbly as the unbroken bottle of Clifton Dry rolled away from him down the sidewalk.
A dispatcher said, “District 911, how may I help you?” (That’s a very polite dispatcher. Dispatchers in my area start with “Is this an emergency?”)
“Officer down,” McGrath croaked. “Thirty-two hundred block of Wisconsin Avenue. I repeat, officer…”
He felt himself swoon (“swoon” implies falling down and he’s already on the ground) and start to fade. He let go of (weak verb, maybe use “dropped” instead) the phone and struggled to look at Edita. She wasn’t moving (weak verb phrase), and her face looked blank (cliché) and empty (cliché)
McGrath whispered to her before dying (this action is out of sequence).
“Sorry, ED,” he said (“whispered” has already been established). “For all of it.”
James Patterson is doing something right as an author. After all, he’s sold more books than every other author who has ever lived combined (slight exaggeration). Even so, this scene left me feeling nothing for the murdered victims.
I’ve never been shot, and I’ve never died before, so I’m no expert on how people react to these situations. Still, I imagine that the human mind goes through a lot. That final moment when a character realizes he/she is going to perish should reveal something about that character.
What would I think about in that situation? Did I leave the stove on? Will my wife remember to pay all the bills on time? Crap, I’ll never see my kids grow up or know who won the Super Bowl this year. A writer should be able to come up with some details, anything, to make a death scene emotional.
Maybe I’m being too nit-prickety. Maybe I am biased against James Patterson and don’t recognize his story-telling skills. Maybe I should take his masterclass to learn why everything I’ve written about that scene is wrong.
But in the meantime, here’s my own ebook about a story I wrote that got me in trouble at school.
Nobody has asked me to teach a masterclass.
When it comes to writing, the wrong goal can be a killer. Last year, a blogger I follow stated that her writing goal was to publish a blog post every day for the entire year. Sometime in March, she suddenly burned out and stopped writing. At least, I think she stopped writing because of burn-out. It’s easy to burn out if you set your goals too high.
Another blogger wrote a goal to gain ___ followers in a given year. Despite being a really good writer, the blog didn’t get many new followers that year, and the writer quit blogging, I think out of frustration. You can control the quality of your writing, but you can’t control the number of followers you get.
When I set goals, I try to make it something I control. It would be nice to get ____ followers, but I’m too much of a control freak to set a specific number and then get frustrated when other people don’t cooperate.
I’ve done a lot of writing over the last five years since I started blogging. I haven’t written as much as some other writers (especially James Patterson) but my production hasn’t been bad for a married guy with kids and a full-time job that has nothing to do with writing.
In order to write a blog about reading and writing, I’ve had to set up routines and realistic goals that keep me from burning out.
I only finish books I want to finish.
If I’m going to be a writer, I have to be a reader too. At least, that’s what most writers say. But I don’t want to waste time with books I don’t enjoy. I’m not a student anymore. Nobody can force me to read any books, even if the book is on a MUST-READ list. So to encourage me to read, I only read books that I’m enthusiastic about. Out of the 20 books I start, I probably finish only one.
When I stare at the computer screen for more than 10 seconds, I quit writing.
There’s always something else to do besides writing, such as errands to run or chores to complete or books to read. I usually get my best ideas when I’m in a situation where I can’t write, so doing something else can keep me creative. Plus, getting chores and errands done gives me time to write later on when the right ideas/words come back to me.
I sit for only 15 minutes at a time.
Sitting too long is bad for my back, so I get up and move around. I don’t set a timer or anything like that, but I can just feel when I’ve been sitting too long. This applies to reading, writing, and even watching football. There are a lot of things to get done, and moving around helps me get things done while still giving me time to read and write.
I need to get enough sleep.
I’d rather have a little time to write and be rested than to have of lot of time to write while I’m tired. I don’t know about other aspiring writers, but I have to be alert in order to write.
If I follow my routines, I might not get as much reading/writing done as I want, but I know I’ll get something accomplished, and I know I won’t burn out. And that’s what I want to do ; follow my routines and accomplish something without burning out.
A lot of writers write books about writing.
My ebook is about the time I wrote a story in high school and it got me in trouble.
Sex can be awkward in real life, so it makes sense that writing sex scenes can be just as uncomfortable. If the wrong words are used in a sex scene, readers laugh. If a particular act seems unnatural, readers laugh. Writers usually don’t want readers laughing at their sex scenes, so authors have to be careful about how to approach an intense romantic moment.
The following excerpt from the book Men Like Air by Tom Connoly was selected by The Literary Review as a contender (but not the winner) for its 2016 Bad Sex in Fiction Award.
As an aspiring author, I’d like to examine what makes the following scene thought of as bad or awkward:
Often she cooked exotic meals and put chillies or spices in her mouth while preparing the food and s***ed him while the food cooked and then told him to f*** her while his manhood was burning rock-hard with fire.
First of all, sex during food preparation/consumption can be dangerous. I wouldn’t try it in real life, but in fiction, it provides opportunities, and the author leaves some unanswered questions here. For example, were the chillies and peppers in her mouth while she s***ed him?
This could be interesting, except once food is introduced to the mouth, teeth and saliva make it unappealing. Men are visual, and the image of food mashed up in an open mouth can overcome sexual desire. Because of this, the author should be clear about what is going on. Food preparation/consumption during sex sounds great in fiction (and looks fun in a movie), but in real life it can cause some issues.
Another problem in the sex scene excerpt sentence was the term “manhood.” It’s tough to describe the male body part without making a reader laugh. If I provided a list of common words/euphemisms for the male body part, a bunch of readers would laugh. And If you have to choose a euphemism, “manhood” is awkward. Nobody uses “manhood” in everyday conversation.
For example, when a rude driver cuts me off on the freeway, I don’t wave my fist and yell out “You manhood!”
“Manhood” is by nature an awkward word and probably shouldn’t be used in a sex scene, especially since the author was comfortable using “f*ck.” If an author is going to use a blunt word like “f*ck,” then the author shouldn’t mind using a blunt replacement for “manhood.”
There’s good news about manhood and related words. Sometimes a writer doesn’t even need a euphemism for the male body part. In the context of this sex scene excerpt, the male body part is implied . The author could write “He was burning rock hard with fire” and even the most naïve reader will know exactly what is rock hard. We don’t need the euphemism. We don’t need a picture. We get it.
Also, the woman partner doesn’t need to tell the guy what do when he’s rock hard. Most guys in that physical state can figure out what to do. Now if the female is engaging in dirty talk by telling the guy what do, then the author is leaving out crucial information. Dirty talk is an art and if she’s engaging in it or just giving instructions, the author needs to give information. A woman rarely just says to f*ck her and that’s it. At least from my experience, it doesn’t happen that way.
Since sex is a normal part of life, authors should be able to write about it without readers mocking the scene. By avoiding the mistakes in today’s excerpt, you too can possibly write a sex scene that your readers can enjoy with a straight face.
A couple years ago, I put a sex scene in my ebook, but… sigh… it didn’t win any bad sex in fiction awards.
If there’s one thing the world doesn’t need more of, it’s new James Patterson books. Patterson, the prolific author with lots of help (meaning “lots of co-authors”), put out at least 15 new books in 2016, and that’s just the start. Now he has a new line of co-authored novellas called Bookshots.
Bookshots are short books, maybe 150 pages, and they’re cheap. Just like other Patterson books, it’s not clear how much of each book Patterson actually writes.
In a way, these Bookshots look a lot like Goosebumps, meaning these books are thin with cheesy covers. I have no problem with Goosebumps because my daughters used to read them, but Bookshots aren’t necessarily in the YA section. In fact, the Bookshots I’ve seen take up a bunch of space in the Fiction/Literature section of my local B&M Booksellers, meaning that James Patterson books are taking up more and more shelf space.
I have to give James Patterson credit; when he starts a project, he goes all-out. He isn’t content in glutting one genre. He’s determined to branch out into every direction he can. Pyramid schemers are probably kicking themselves for not thinking of this first.
Other more-talented authors could do what James Patterson is doing. If Stephen King chose to put out 20 books a year and create a pulp/novella category, he could put James Patterson out of business. JK Rowling could do this too. Thousands of amateur writers are trying to create their own fantasy worlds, and Rowling could make all of them best-selling authors by putting her name on their books. Even George RR Martin should hire some co-authors to finish his Game of Thrones series before HBO does.
These authors (and many more) have probably have thought about doing what James Patterson is doing, but only James Patterson has decided to actually go through with it.
I know that since I’m an aspiring author, I shouldn’t criticize another author, especially since my writing has its own flaws. I’m a polite guy, and I usually consider other people’s feelings before I get critical of them, especially other writers, but I’ve decided that if I’m going to criticize another writer, it should be James Patterson.
For one thing, James Patterson doesn’t care what I think. I don’t have to worry about hurting his feelings or his business because I’m nothing to him. Even if he did get annoyed with me, he could tell one of his co-authors to destroy me for him, and even that would take more effort than a guy like me is worth.
Maybe these Bookshots are a blessing in disguise. If I absolutely had to read another James Patterson book, I’d rather read a really short book than a long one. And if I absolutely had to spend money on a new James Patterson book, I’d rather spend $4.99 than $19.99. So maybe James Patterson really is looking out for his fans.
Sometimes I get become sad when I finish every book a great author has written, and I know there’s nothing left by that author for me to read. I’m not calling James Patterson great, but at least with Bookshots I know I’ll never run out of James Patterson books to read.
Just like a Bookshot, my ebook is short and cheap.
Unlike most Bookshots, my ebook has only one author.
The Shining by Stephen King might not be a classic yet, but it probably will be. It was written in the 1970s, and people still read it today and it’s still relevent, so I’m guessing that people will still read it 50 years from now.
Even though The Shining is a great book, it has some bad writing in it. At least, by Stephen King’s standards, there are some bad sentences. In his book On Writing, Stephen King maligns the adverb with one of the all-time most famous quotes about writing: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs,…”
When the Modern Master of Horror equates a part of speech with eternal damnation, you have to take that seriously.
On the other hand, Stephen King uses a lot of adverbs in The Shining. What am I supposed to believe, Stephen King’s opinion of adverbs or The Shining?
The following bad sentences from The Shining are within a few pages of each other in “Chapter Ten- Hallorann”:
“This time they all laughed, even Danny, although he was not completely sure what the joke was,…”
The word completely wasn’t necessary.
“It (the main room) had cleared greatly during the half hour they’d spent in the kitchen.”
The word greatly wasn’t necessary.
“The nuns who had been sitting by the fire were gone, and the fire itself was down to a bed of comfortably glowing coals.”
The word comfortably does describe the degree of glowing, but it might not have been the best adverb to use, and I’m not passionate enough to come up with a better one.
A sentence doesn’t need an unnecessary adverb to be a bad sentence.
“Halloran commenced to tour them around the most immense kitchen Wendy had ever seen in her life.”
This is a sentence that my writing teachers would have red-marked. Of course Wendy had never seen a kitchen like that IN HER LIFE, my instructors would have said. When else would she have seen a kitchen like that? In her after-life? In her pre-life? When she was fetus?” In other words, the phrase “in her life” wasn’t necessary.
Also, the phrase “commenced to tour them around” is wordy. Replacing that with “toured them around” or “showed them around” would have been more direct and less clumsy.
And below is my favorite bad sentence in The Shining:
“He (Halloran) turned to the Torrances as she (Sally, a young maid) strolled away, backside twitching pertly.”
Haha! Stephen King actually wrote backside twitching pertly. To be fair, but this was written in the 1970’s. Maybe backsides twitched pertly back then. I’m not sure what backsides do nowadays because I don’t usually write about backsides. I think they sway a little bit.
If I ever used the phrase “backside twitching pertly” in my conversations at work, I’d get fired or sued. There are some things that polite folk should never mention in public, and one of those is “backsides twitching pertly.”
That’s okay. The Shining is still The Shining, and I’ll think it’s great no matter what.
I read The Shining when I was in junior high school decades ago. Back then, I’d get in trouble for saying the word “crap.”
Looking back, it ticks me off so much that I wrote this ebook, Crap Is NOT a Bad Word!
Sex in literature is the opposite of sex in real life. Most people would rather have bad/mediocre sex in their personal lives than none at all, but in most fiction, sex just makes things worse. Sometimes the sex in fiction is so bad that it can win an award.
A couple weeks ago, The Literary Review gave out its Bad Sex in Fiction Award (poorly-written sex scene in an otherwise good book) to The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca. I’d never heard of this book (I’m sure the author has never heard of my books either), but I have to admit that the sex scene stands out:
‘My prick was a plank stuck to her stomach. With a swerve of her hips, she turned me over and I was on top of her. She opened her legs, pulled up her dress and, holding my hips over her, pushed my prick against her opening. I was her plaything, which she moved around. Our sexes were ready, poised in expectation, barely touching each other: ballet dancers hovering en pointe.’
I don’t want to get too technical, but this author makes a couple basic mistakes. First of all, never use the word prick to describe a male body part. Prick implies small, and no guy would use that word when describing himself in a sex scene. Shlong is better because shlong has the word long in it, and every guy likes to think of himself as big.
Plus, calling the male/female body parts sexes is kind of awkward. Maybe sexes is better than prick and whatever word you use for the female counterpart, but it’s still kind of awkward. I’d say it makes the scene feel kind of stiff, but that could be taken the wrong way.
Stiff. Haha. It’s difficult to write a sex scene, but it’s also hard to critique one too.
According to The Literary Review article, winners seem to not attend the award ceremony. That sounds like sour grapes to me. If I won a bad sex in fiction award , I’d attend. I mean, it depends on where the ceremony was held and whether my expenses were paid or not, but I’d feel no shame in winning an award for writing a bad sex scene, especially if the flight, meals, and lodging are paid for.
The problem with writing a bad sex scene in an otherwise good novel is that nobody cares about the “otherwise good novel.” All of that effort put into the “otherwise good novel” has been wasted because of a bad sex scene. That’s how real life is too. If a guy goes on a date, and the date leads to a romantic encounter, all the guy will remember is the romantic encounter. The other details disappear from our memories. Where did we eat? What movie did we see? What beachfront property did we take our romantic stroll down? Once the sex happens, all that previous stuff fades from our memories, even if the sex wasn’t that great.
I almost feel bad for The Day Before Happiness. Maybe it was actually a good book. Now we’ll never know, all because the book has a bad sex scene in it. At least it won an award.
I wrote a sex scene in my ebook, but the Literary Review didn’t notice it. Sigh. I might have attended the ceremony.