Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Seven Deadly Writing Sins

Authorial Avarice -- a belief that story length measures story worth, and the longer the better, resulting in enormous rambling novels lasting for upwards of fifteen hundred pages in print. Ultimately said novels are only good for two things: killing bugs the reader swats or serving as an emergency doorstop while unloading groceries from the car.

Book Bitterness -- producing envy-riddled text, in which the author savages some colleague whose books sell better, a highly successful personage with more money than God (usually Bill Gates), or a reviewer who hatchet-jobbed one of their books (for chronic variations, see David Drake/Charles Platt Syndrome.)

Elemental Indolence -- to refrain from properly researching/crafting/rendering some aspect of or element in the story because the author perceives it to be too much work, or something the reader (an idiot) will never understand anyway so why bother explaining it? Usually results in a lot of telling versus showing, housekeeping dialogue or the employment of the word chiaroscuro more than five times in the story.

Literary Lechery -- the author's inclusion of explicit sex scenes or other gratuitous and shocking material, not because they actually serve the story, but in the hope of boosting sales or because their editor told them too. If the author becomes a Christian fiction writer later on in life, s/he will tearfully apologize in public for this (see lesser sins, Hester Prynne Hysteria.)

Over-Ornateness -- a case of extravagant word gluttony, when the author spends most of the story describing things while employing at least three flowery adjectives for every other noun. Also called purple prose, usually begins on the very first page of the novel, when the story initiates with a florid variation of Bulwer-Lytton's notorious opener It was a dark and stormy night . . .

Voice Vanity -- an author who makes all of their protagonists thinly-disguised, highly-idealized versions of themselves; the protagonists are inevitably beautiful, smart, handsome, thin, tall, rich, universally admired and everyone in the novel wants to sleep with them. Usually touched off by the author's messy divorce or overnight success with the first book.

Writer Wrath -- when the author's anger over a political, social or other real world situation takes precedent over entertaining the reader and results in visible ax-grinding within the story. Warning signs: characters who are obvious spoofs of unpopular public figures, wars that result in the unsavory demise of a spoof character, any evil overlord antagonist named something like G'eor Gewb Ush.

Feel free to add your deadly writing sin in comments.


  1. I think under Book Bitterness should be the lesser sin of Book Cover Bitterness.

  2. Gulp! I've done a version of Voice Vanity. I always give my characters gorgeous hair because I don't have it--at least in this life.

  3. Interesting list, noted and recorded ;)

  4. I suppose Mary Sue isn't as alliterative as Voice Vanity :D.

  5. Darlene - nothing wrong with giving your character a trait you wish you had! Heck I do that myself sometimes with hair - some of my characters have long thick hair because I have short thin hair *laugh*

    These are good deadly sins! Yes!

  6. Anonymous11:16 AM

    Regarding Voice Vanity:

    All my characters are depressed angst-ridden failures. OMG what does this say about me?

    I loved the list!


  7. Martha12:00 PM

    I've read that if you are creating a character who will reappear in a series, to make sure it's someone you'll want to be hanging out with for years. And you'll want to put them in places you'd like to research in person, no matter how much hot water they are in there.

  8. Anonymous8:33 PM

    The only one I'm guilty of is Voice Vanity... But, unfortunately, it's always on my main character! Especially the one I'm working on right now... She's a perfect match to the Wikipedia description of a Mary Sue. 100% Mary Sue! I'm frantic... :(


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