Category Archives: Bad Writing

Lowest Common Lit-ominator: Movie Novelizations


I’ve never understood movie novelizations.

There’s some slight rationale when they’re aimed at children, since kids relish being told the same story over and over again. (Hence the Teletubbies forcing you to watch a forty-second clip of a boy playing basketball eight times in a row no matter how loudly you scream or how hard you punch the TV.) But adults seek novelty, generally speaking. Why would any self-respecting grown-up purchase a written description of a movie they’ve already seen?

The answer has less to do with closed-head injuries than you may expect. Setting aside the rabid fanboys who live only to spend their parents’ money on every single piece of 300 tie-in merchandise, functional human beings can derive some modicum of stimulation from licensed paperbacks because such novels are usually based on earlier versions of scripts. That means they contain scenes that were written out of subsequent drafts or left on the cutting room floor. Sometimes, this makes novelizations compelling.

More often, it makes them really shitty.


I’ve spent the past several weeks reading not one, not two, but ten movie novelizations. Join me as I recount, in a two-part post, the quirks, caprices, delights, and assaults on human intellect contained in the tie-in novels for Star Wars, Home Alone, and many more.

This week: Back to the Future, Jumanji, The Cat in the Hat, Night at the Museum, and Suicide Squad. Continue reading


Cringe n’ Purge: Excerpts from My Middle School Diary

Between the ages of 12 and 18, I kept a regular diary. Well, diaries. When I dug them up out of my mom’s basement this past Christmas, they comprised at least 15 volumes.

Box of teenage diaries

Pictured: a box full of shame

As I peruse these snapshots of a misspent adolescence, I realize I had a lot to say, and absolutely none of it was good. I evidently fancied myself a bit of a rebel, when I was really something closer to the anime-addled offspring of Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way and a Livejournal meme. I was the human embodiment of a t-shirt reading “You laugh because I’m different, I laugh because you’re all the same.” Witness Exhibit A: Continue reading

Sex-Crazed Idiots: A Trashy Book About a Classy Boat

The Pleasure Palace, by Joan Lee

Please Note: This post is thoroughly NSFW.

Last time, I explored the labyrinthine innards of John K. King Used Books. This time, I’ll show you what I fished out of said innards: Joan Lee’s staggeringly stupid 1987 sex novel, The Pleasure Palace.

Never before or since has a novel containing so much sex been so thoroughly unsexy. The characters kiss, lick, and boink their way down a non-stop stream of soap operatic misadventure, yet they fail to ever look cool doing it. Before we get to the boinking, though, allow me to mention my biggest problem with this book.


This tagline is complete bullshit, because the god damn Pleasure Palace–a much referenced luxury cruise ship–doesn’t even show up until the last 30 pages of the book. This novel should have been called Lots of Pointless Screwing, and Then There’s a Boat at the End. By the way, when the Pleasure Palace does show up, no one finds dreams there. One person finds danger, but we’ll get to that in a second.

First, let’s look at the characters… Continue reading

The Special Snowflake Report, Mach 2: How to Be a Weirdo

Everybody’s weird, and nobody’s weird. This is the closest thing I have to a consistent life philosophy. And even I only believe it about 60 percent of the time.

Full disclosure: when I was in high school, I self-identified first and foremost as “weird.” When you’re a teenager, that means something very specific–waxing rhapsodic about 80’s cartoons, bursting into song at inappropriate moments, and so, so many non-sequiturs. Also sporks, for some reason. My mom had a rough time convincing me not to have “Sporky” embroidered on my letter jacket.

A fucking spork.

She succeeded in the end, thank God. She was a really, really good mother.

That was the kind of forced randomness my peers responded to. Though I had many traits that were genuinely unusual or perverse (as does everyone), there was no point in emphasizing them–not if I was keen on being recognized as a “weirdo.” Weirdo was a demographic, a tribe. It was one more stupidly tiny box for my teenage self to stuff herself in, heedless of all the parts she had to cut off in order to fit.

Happy Noodle Boy

“How many times do I have to quote Happy Noodle Boy before the other weirdos accept me? SILENCE, CLITORAL CHEESE NIP!”

Of all the things I’m glad to see the back of, my “Weirdo” phase comes in at number one. It was phony, limiting, and more than a little embarrassing. At the same time, I suspect it’s a natural part of growing up. It must be–because the next generation is doing the same god damn thing. At least, if this stupid clickbait article is to be believed.

Continue reading

Oh, the Shame!: Revisiting Our Earlier Work

A popular aphorism holds that, to master any creative endeavor, you have to practice for 10,000 hours.

Think about the implication: you have to work for 10,000 hours before you produce anything worthwhile.  That’s 10,000 hours of sub-par product.  10,000 hours of goofy writing that will never see the light of day.  10,000 hours of performing so badly in your chosen field that your own mother gazes upon your efforts and declares: “I have no child.”  What a stark concept!

I don’t know about the cut-and-dried 10,000-hour requirement, but I agree with the general sentiment.  Anyone who has ever gotten good at something spent a lot of time being very, very bad at it.  Perhaps writers should bear that in mind before indulging in their characteristic fits of depression–not only is sucking not shameful, it’s actually necessary.  By extension, that feeling you get when you look back at your earlier work and want to jump into a wood chipper–that’s also necessary. (The feeling, not the jumping into a wood chipper.  That’s almost never necessary.  Though far be it from me to pass judgment on your lifestyle choices.)  It means you’ve gotten better.

I have a proposal for everyone: let’s stop being ashamed of our crappy writing.  Hell, let’s revel in it.  Let’s dig out our ancient manuscripts, hold them high and declare: “I wrote this piece of crap!  Look on it, ye mighty, and despair!”  Because you came by that piece of crap honestly.  You sat down, opened your computer, and spent hours making the best piece of crap you could possibly make.  There are plenty of people out there who are too scared to make their own piece of crap, but you made yours.  And you know something?  That’s awesome.

My Piece of Crap
In the interest of putting my money where my mouth is, I present the single crappiest manuscript I was able to find buried among my old school books.

When I was 13 years old, I wanted to write “edgy” “grown-up” stories about “exciting” car “chases.”  There’s nothing I can say that will make the following passage okay.  Just know that, in a story that also included six juvenile delinquents hiding in a porta-John, off-color references to Britney Spears, and an underage mother giving birth in the woods, this is basically the least stupid thing that happens.

Continue reading