Well… shite to be honest.
McOther bought me 50 Shades of Grey in a car boot. I read it. I wanted to know what happened next – power to you E L.
I bought books 2 and 3 for Kindle and started reading. Then the repetition began to get to me. Like hearing the same note over and over again the regular occurance of certain shorthand phrases started to grate… I got 39% into book two, read the word artfully twice in the same sentence followed by a sentence containing the word ‘voice’ twice in about five words (when the second ‘voice’ could just have easily have been ‘sound’) and I thought, ‘what am I doing? These are precious minutes of my life that I won’t get back.’ So I returned the e-books and got a refund.
Yes it has something, I wanted to know what happened to the characters but when push came to shove I just couldn’t wade through the writing style to find out. I suppose what it needed was a good hard edit. And until it has one, I lack the will.
So, some examples of repetition.
- Dialogue tags; nobody talks, they ‘murmur’ often when I think she may mean that they mutter. The best books I’ve read only really use ‘said’ and the real masters of conversation Pratchett, for example, hardly have any dialogue tags at all. I was taught that if you repeat anything other than ‘said’ too often it starts to stand out. The dialogue in 50 shades proves that.
- Nobody looks stern, they set their mouth in a thin hard line, sometiems several times on the same page.
- Ana bites her lip so often mine is bleeding in sympathy.
- I know he’s rich and he’s meant to be a git but he drives Audis for heavens sake, five of them. He must be a monumental tosser!
- Ana’s inner goddess does a lot of panting.
- If she mentions his fingers she mentions that they are long, pretty much always.
- We are told he is hot, a lot. I’d like to be shown.
- He shouts things like, ‘yeh baby, come for me!’ Mwah ha hah hargh. I’d definitely get a spanking for excess levity if I was Ana because I wouldn’t be able to stop giggling. I mean, is he Austin Powers?
- She always spirals or disintegrates into an orgasm.
- His/her breath hitches several times a page.
Or to put it another way, is it well written? No.
So what gives? Why the fuss? Well I think there are two factors.
First up, this was Twilight fanfic with a big following before it crossed over. So that big bunch of peole to buy and get it noticed when it goes live was there beforehand.
Second is that powerful combination of shock value and curiosity. Does anyone remember a band called Frankie Goes to Hollywood? They released a very mediocre song called ‘Relax’ in the 1980s about er… well, giving blow jobs – phnark. It peaked at about number 20 and then started sliding down the charts until the Radio 1 DJ Mike Reid listened to the words one day and stopped it half way though saying. “I’m not sure I should be playing this.” After which point, it got banned and sold in millions.
Why? Because it was good? No. Because no-one could hear it on the radio any more so they all went out and bought it to find out what the dirty words were. It was at number 1 in the charts for weeks despite being shite. So there we are. Curiosity – a powerful marketing took if you can tap into it.
In a nutshell then, the fanfic base probably got the momentum to get it noticed and the curiosity of the rest of us probably carried it further.
It’s not a good bit of writing, and it embodies everything the anti-indie lobby whinge about in indie books.
However, looking back on it, did I care about the characters? Yes. Did I wish it was better written? Yes, because I would have loved to have been able to keep reading to find out what happened. So.. it clearly has something. It’s just a pity that what it hasn’t had, and needs, is a good hard copy edit.