How Not To Write a Book: Marked Part 3– On The Writing Itself, Love Interests, and Other Odds and Ends

Hello, I’m a unicorn. Well, we’re nearly done, and I’m running out of facepalm memes. Previously, we’ve discussed writing protagonists and minority characters, so lets just jump right in and discuss my second least favorite character, Grandma Redbird. I completely understand why Grandma is Zoey’s token favorite relative, they’re both terrible people that hate her mother for marrying a fundamentalist *insert name of generic religion that resembles Christianity.* Zoey’s grandmother is the one who saves the life of our obnoxious heroine by taking her to the House of Night, making her easily the worst character by not putting Zoey out of our misery. Oh, and did I mention that she took Zoey there without her parents’ consent? I just love Zoey’s reaction to seeing that her grandmother went back to get her things from her house.

“She’s more than nice. She’s brave as Hell to have faced my mom and her stupid husband to get this stuff for me. I can only imagine the overly dramatic scene my mom caused.”*

(owned by Viacom)

(owned by Viacom)

Of course her mother would cause a scene! Zoey was taken without her consent or knowledge, which is not only a jerk move but also kidnapping! Is this ever pointed out to Zoey or Grandma Redbird? Nope. It’s treated as perfectly okay that Grandma Redbird kidnapped her granddaughter and failed to let her die. It was a completely wasted opportunity and I cannot forgive her for saving Zoey. And, no, I don’t care that students of the school are legally emancipated, because, from what I have read, the school has little to no grounds for emancipation anyway. My suggestion would be for you to think of the legal ramifications of the characters’ behaviors, and have them suffer those consequences or find a legal way to go about the problem. That way, you won’t stretch the audience’s suspension of disbelief. You can take artistic license with the law, but this is a bit too far.

On a different note, let’s talk love interests, because Zoey has two, and both of them are terrible. Heath, aka  the boy Kayla had dated and displeased her high and mighty Mary Sue, is a completely unlikable idiot, and coming from this series, that says a lot. So much so that Zoey, pretty much says that the only thing he is good at is “following simple directions”. Then again, this is Zoey we’re talking about, and she looks down on everyone. Her head is so big it has moons orbiting around it. But I digress. The real issue is that Heath is annoying and useless. All he does is fall madly in love with Zoey, stalk her, and have to be rescued at the world’s most boring climax. And let’s talk about the stalking for a second, because both her love interests wander into this territory. Her second love interest, Erik Night, does this a lot. He always sneaks up on her and knows a creepy amount of information about her life. He even says the same thing about how creepy baby corns are, which means he can probably read her mind too. Even Zoey starts to catch on to his tendency to find her when she’s all alone. She doesn’t care though, because he’s handsome and quotes Shakespeare. I hate this cliche because quoting Shakespeare is not that hard. I can do it right now. Lord, what fools these mortals be! See?  I get it, Shakespeare is fun, the language is pretty, and he’s considered very romantic, but anyone who has read Romeo and Juliet in the ninth grade can tell you, it’s not all that impressive anymore. It’s pretty cliche to have the love interests quote Shakespeare to the heroine, swearing  themselves by the moon, though they should swear not by the moon, the inconsistent moon, that monthly changes in her circle orb, lest thy love prove likewise variable. Really, it’s not that hard.

It is a bit of a stretch.

Oh, shut up. My advice would be that quoting Shakespeare is a bit cliche, so don’t. Most people don’t knowingly quote Shakespearean plays in their everyday life, even when trying to woo a pretty lady. Just have the characters be themselves, and don’t have them be stalkers. If they meet, have it be on purpose, don’t let the love interest know a creepy amount of information about the protagonist, and have the protagonist initiate some of the romance by themselves. And please stop it with the Shakespeare, there are better ways to show that your character is intelligent and cultured.

Speaking of intelligent, this writing is not.

Most awkward segway ever.

Textbox, I’m going to miss our soap opera today, so can you please give me a play-by-play? And I want all the dialogue memorized.

Will do boss!

Thanks. Anyway, in case you haven’t noticed, the writing is awful. It’s mostly telling, but very little showing, which I have discussed  before, but there are a few things I want to focus on. First, the parenthetical asides. My advice on parenthetical asides is to never write them during a full blown novel. They break up the flow of the narrative and are either unnecessary or can be reworded to fit in with the sentences. For example:

Like a moron, I forgot (okay temporarily) about my new Mark.

This could easily be reworded as “Like a moron, I temporarily forgot about my new Mark” and it would flow so much better. It still is dumb and badly written, but it would be an improvement. The funny ones though, are the ones that are completely unnecessary to the narrative such as…

My cute Bug was sitting there where she always sat—right in front of the third door to our three car garage. The step-loser wouldn’t let me park her inside because he said the lawnmower was more important. (More important than a vintage VW? How? That didn’t even make sense. Jeesh, I sounded just like a guy. Since when did I care about the vintageness of my Bug? I really must be Changing.)

(owned by Cartoon Network)

(owned by Cartoon Network)

When I was reading and annotating, I literally wrote in the margins “OMG what is this nonsense?” This parenthetical aside starts out stupid and wanders into pointless territory (kinda like listening to Textbox. And doesn’t this completely distract from what I’m saying? It’s actually kinda fun, just chillin’ here in the parentheses, trying to have a point and–ooh look something shiny!)

I guess it was time I took things into my own hands (after all, they are well manicured).

When I first read this line, I cringed so much it hurt.

And she had great boobs. (I wish I had great boobs.) … Speaking of boobs—I was totally sounding like one. (Boob…hee hee).

Is she seriously amused by the word boob? What is she, five? What other word will make her laugh in parentheses? Entranced perhaps?

(Entranced— hee-hee–he said entranced.)

Triple-facepalm-picard-812

(owned by Viacom)

Yes, she seriously giggled over someone saying entranced. According to her, it’s complex vocabulary, and I’ll get to that in a minute. I would tell you to see for yourself, but I don’t want you to suffer what I have suffered.

…Kayla used to whine about how unfair it was that I had enough lashes for three girls and she only had short little blond ones. (Speaking of… I did miss Kayla, especially this morning as I was getting ready to go to a new school without her. Maybe I’d call her later. Or email her. Or… I remembered the comment Heath had made about the party and decided maybe not.)

This time the parentheses is actually on topic, but still poorly worded. She also does an action in the parentheses, making them even more unnecessary. It, again, would be much better if they had written something along the lines of “I felt a pang of sadness as I thought about how much I missed Kayla, especially this morning as I was getting ready to go to a new school without her.”

It was actually a trap door. Like the kind you see in those old murder movies, only instead of a door in a library wall or inside a fireplace (as one of the Indiana Jones movies—yes, I’m a dork), this trap door was a small section of the thick, otherwise solid-looking school wall.

I like how she has to acknowledge that her liking Indiana Jones is out of character. The lesson here is just not to use parenthetical asides at all when writing fiction. That information is either unnecessary or can be reworded. Oh, and never use this:

Oh, and I forgot to mention…

This phrase should never be uttered when describing a character in an internal monologue. It is just terrible writing. Either find a way to fit it in or leave it out, and in the case of this book, there is so much unnecessary information it is ridiculous. For example:

I seriously adore cereal, and have an I<3 Cereal shirt somewhere to prove it. I especially love Count Chocula—yet another vampire irony.

(Owned by MGM)

(Owned by MGM)

It continues though and gets even funnier.

I tried to return some of the hellos I was getting as Stevie Rae introduced me to what seemed like an impossibly confusing stream of girls and keep my concentration on finding a box of Count Chocula. Just when I was starting to worry, I found it, hidden behind several massive boxes of Frosted Flakes (not a bad second choice, but, well, they’re not chocolate and they don’t have any yummy marshmallows).

“Does Zoey find her cereal? I just have to know!”said no one ever. In all seriousness, if the description or action has nothing to do with the plot, don’t use it. It’s just extra padding, and this book is so padded that if it was a person, I could drop it out of a plane at two thousand feet and it would bounce onto the ground unharmed. Without all of Zoey’s hunts for cereal, going to every single one of her classes, and all the recaps, this book would be about fifty pages long. Did I mention the recaps, because there are a ton. The worst example would be the incident where she imprints on Heath. First she tells Erik exactly what happened, then Stevie Rae, then her mentor Neferet, and finally her grandmother. That means we get the same redundant repetition of events five times. We understood what happened the first time, and we didn’t like it then, why would we like it repeated to us five more times afterward? It’s such an easy fix too, all you have to do is say “I explained the situation to him or her” and be done with it. Have a little faith in your readers. We don’t need our hands held through every plot point, action, and symbol. What’s next? They start defining words for us?

“Hubris,” Stevie Rae explained, “Having godlike arrogance.”

You know you're a geek when you can name the season, the episode, and the context for this image** (Owned by Fox)

You know you’re a geek when you can name the season, the episode, and the context for this image** (Owned by Fox)

I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Again, your readers are not stupid, they understand context clues. Think back to the higher vocabulary I’ve used in HNTWaB alone. If I have enough faith that my readers can understand what I’m talking about when I say words like “imbue” or “wayward” then you can trust that your reader can understand words like “hubris” or “sycophants”. I can’t believe that I just had to say that.

Also, when writing, use similes and metaphors that make sense, and don’t meander. Stay on topic. Don’t do anything like this:

Hey! White Face, blue lips, and red blood! Am I patriotic or what?

Really? (from pinterest)

Really? (from pinterest)

Wow, that was pointless and painful. They could have just stopped at describing the way she looked, but they lost focus and started to ramble. They do that pretty often, ususally using strange and pointless similes.

Being dressed differently made me feel like I’d shown up to a party dressed like a duck but no one had told me it wasn’t a costume party so everyone else was wearing jeans.

Being dressed differently at a party made me feel like I had dressed differently at a party. That repetitious simile was very redundant. And then there’s this:

I swear I could see my laughter floating around me like the puffy things you blow off a dandelion, only instead of being white, it was birthday frosting blue.

If you don’t know what dandelion seeds are, don’t use the comparison. Whatever you do, when describing something, don’t ever use the word “thing,” especially if the object has a name. Because, when I read this–

My face was a question mark.

And finally, when writing, keep your tenses straight. With the character’s voice, the story would have read a lot better if it was told in present tense. That way, it wouldn’t sound as awkward as this:

Oh crap crap crap! It was Heath.

Why does she act so surprised by things happening in the past? Zoey does this strange thing where she acts like she is talking directly to us, the reader, one moment, and then living in the moment the next. Don’t do that, it’s just very awkward.

Overall, would I recommend this book to people? Heck no. It’s horrible. There are a few very quotable lines worth a good laugh, and if you see it as a book that you can learn from, I’m not going to stop you from reading it. But don’t come crying to me when your brain starts leaking out of your ears from all the stupidity. It’s three hundred and six pages of nothing but hatred and annoyance. I will admit though, writing this segment was a lot of fun. If you’re morbidly curious about what happens next in the series, check out Blogging House of Night. It is hilarious and awesome. You’re Killing Us is another great book review blog and how I was introduced to this book. So what are you waiting for? Check those blogs out now!

*Thankfully, none of these block quotations belong to me. They belong to PC and Kristen Cast as well as St Martin’s Griffin.

**It was season one, the episode was Notes From the Underground part three. They aren’t actually facepalming, they’re covering their eyes because their friend that was forcibly mutated into a monster is returned to her human form, and she is naked. Wow, I need a life.

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