Friday, September 7, 2007

Writers Hit List Deux: The Quiz

Okay, enough kvetching. Quiz time! What's WRONG with each of these not so exemplary examples of problematic prose?

Match each problem to an example.

A. Purple prose
B. Wrong timing/order
C. Profligate use of adverbs
D. Sliding point of view
E. Stilted Dialogue


  1. When Corrigan looked up, he saw Mary gazing at him like a lost puppy. He looked away, got up, and made for the door. As she watched him leave, her look hardened.
  2. "That's great," she said delightedly.
  3. She had seen all she need to see, she decided. It was time to go home. She could understand why the sales clerk ignored her, and felt confident that putting back the dress was the right decision. She loved shopping, and hoped this would be the day she found her wedding dress. She unsnapped the clasp of her bag, and dug out her keys.
  4. "Do you really think so?" she asked.
    "I do," he responded.
    "I'm so glad you came to visit, Dan." she said.
    "I wondered if I would see you again.
    "It would have been difficult for me to have stayed away," he said. "Just the thought of your constant care for the pets people entrust to your care is an indication of your true personality."
    "Do you really think so?" she asked.
  5. "Oh, Dan, do you honestly and truly think so?" she asked, her heart beating like a trip hammer, her breath coming fast, like a butterfly's wings.
    "I do, yes, I do," he responded. He could feel his pulse quicken, and wondered why he'd never noticed the shimmering gloss of her hair, the curve of her spine, the depth of her eyes, bluer than the bluest blue. In this one moment, he felt he had never seen the sun rise before, never noticed how the light refracted over the water. He had never lived, really, not until now.


  1. Here goes...

    1. D
    2. C
    3. B
    4. E
    5. A

  2. 1. d (also repetitious language and construction, and play-by-play narrative)
    2. c (Though one example isn't really profligate?)
    3. b (also repetitious construction and some play-by-play)
    4. e (also profligate adverbs in the dialogue, too many tags, and that last line of Dan's makes me want to throw something at him--a small pet, perhaps)
    5. a (also sliding internal POV)

    -=Susannah, squinty without glasses and cranky in the small hours

  3. Here's part two of the quiz!
    For extra credit: who wrote those examples?

    (Yeah, it's a trick. And not actually that tricky. You could probably narrow it down..)

    Coming up Monday: what's in a name? Or not?

  4. I've got no idea who wrote the samples, but I have plenty of my own drafts that make the quiz material look pretty good by comparison!

    (Which does propose the question: when we look back at our own bad writing* and cringe, do we keep it as an object lesson, a cautionary tale for the future or delete it to keep from getting discouraged?)

    *And I'm talking really bad. Not the spank me internal editor 'Oh dear, that's not very good,' stuff, but the really bad, as in-the-light-of-day-awful-what-was-I-thinking? stuff.

  5. I wouldn't be able to guess who wrote the samples either. You're all such fabulous writers that I can't even stretch my imagination to envision any of you writing badly, even for illustrative purposes ;)