Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

Bad writing and cinema

'The Da Vinci Code' really is a very bad book indeed. nihilistic_kid has an interesting theory that the badness of the writing is linked to Dan Brown visualising the scenes as film sequences rather than as real events. It had never occurred to me but I think he's right.

This is the egregious example he cites (taken from a critique also worth reading on language log):

A voice spoke, chillingly close. "Do not move."

On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.

Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils.


Where to start? The description is quite incoherent. Chillingly close and fifteen feet away. The curator freezes and moves in the same sentence. The figure is both a silhouette and has discernable irises. But it does make (some sort of) sense as a crude description of a film sequence: jump-cut from long shot to close-up for example.

Of course it is possble to write cinematically and well - nihilistic_kid cites Joan Didion as an example. But "It sure is EASY to generate bad writing, to not think of even how the second half of a sentence might relate to its first half, and still find a very large audience. Just write like a movie. The thinkie bits involved in reading carefully for comprehension are turned off and even atrophy."

It's worth noting that The Da Vinci Code also includes the other sort of bad writing, the opposite of cinematic, which is putting too much information into a description. The first sentence of the book for example: 'Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery. ' Renowned is a clumsy adjective, and it is quite inappropriate here. A staggering, dying, figure is not 'renowned' in itself; Brown is compressing a biography into a tacked-on word. It's awful.
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