Writing

Lessons From the Terrible Writing of Eragon

I’ve never read Christopher Paolini’s Eragon before now, but I’ve heard it compared to both Star Wars and Harry Potter. I know I can expect a young male chosen one and (obviously) the dragon on the cover. Perhaps a dragon named Eragon, as that’s just “dragon” with a letter swapped out?

Since Paolini was a teenager when he wrote this book, he has a solid excuse for poor writing. In fact, he’s probably ahead of the curve for his age. But that doesn’t make his work immune to critique. Someone decided to publish this, and lots of people paid money for it. Then they made a movie out it. Sure, it’s for a young audience, but don’t young adults deserve strong writing too?

Let’s get into it.

Opening and… a prologue! We have a prologue. Sorry, the story will have to wait. This prologue is sitting here before chapter one, so clearly we need to read it.

Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.

A scent will change the world by itself? Please tell me everyone in this world spends the next month gagging on horrid fumes, until they gather and go on a great quest to find and destroy the source of their smelly doom! I want to read that. I suspect this book will disappoint me.

Use Omniscience Wisely

A tall Shade lifted his head and sniffed the air. He looked human except for his crimson hair and maroon eyes.

It’s the ultimate in youthful worldbuilding; every race gets their own hair color and eye color! Unfortunately, describing someone with only hair and eye color is both unimaginative and ineffective. I don’t know if he’s young, old, thin, thick, upright, bent… so I can’t picture him. Also, since his hair and eyes are red, I can’t help wondering why he’s called a “Shade.” I keep imagining his skin as dark gray, even though the text says otherwise.

Paolini also needs a more graceful way to work in description than opening a sentence with “He looked…” If we were seeing the Shade from the viewpoint of another character, it would at least make sense. Here we have to ask: he looked human to whom? There is no character observing this, so that puts it in omniscient, rather than limited, perspective. Here’s what omniscient narration should sound like:

His appearance was almost human, leading many travelers to drop their guard and approach peacefully. Only when they stood within an arm’s length did they see the maroon eyes and crimson hair hiding under his hood. By then it was too late to run.

Limited perspective provides a closer connection to the viewpoint character. Omniscient perspective sacrifices that closeness for greater freedom and flexibility. With that flexibility, there’s no excuse to stuff observations awkwardly into your narrative. Give those observations some voice and breathing room; let them add personality to your work. If you’re not going to do that, don’t give up the advantages of limited perspective. Stick to what characters are actually observing in the moment.

There Is Such a Thing As Too Brief… and Silly

He blinked in surprise. The message had been correct: they were here. Or was it a trap? He weighed the odds, then said icily, “Spread out; hide behind trees and bushes. Stop whoever is coming… or die.”

Hahaha. I will now add “… or die” to every direction I give someone ever. Between that and how he says things “icily,” we know that this is a ridiculous villain. This was also the moment I noticed the prologue was titled SHADE OF FEAR.

These first two paragraphs are too brief. They should slow down a little and provide more context… or die. You’ll hear lots of advice to trim your work and watch your exposition; that’s because most writers are too long-winded. It doesn’t mean you can’t be too brief or use too little exposition. This is a complex situation stuffed into a tiny space: the Shade has received a message that told him someone would be here, he came even though he didn’t believe it, smelled that someone was indeed here but wasn’t sure it was the people he’s looking for, weighed the risk of sticking around, and then commanded his troops into ambush formation.

Who is he seeking and why? We’re already in his head, so we should know. If he needs to remain mysterious, we should witness only his commands, not his thoughts. Knowing his goals won’t slow the scene, either. In fact, it would provide a stronger plot hook, because readers would have a better understanding of what’s at stake.

Around him shuffled twelve Urgals… they resembled men with bowed legs and thick, brutish arms made for crushing. … The monsters hurried into the brush, grunting as they hid.

Naturally there’s a race of inferior sentient beings that the protagonists don’t have to feel guilty about slaughtering. Forget Star Wars and Harry Potter, this is clearly another Lord of the Rings knockoff.

Replace Generic Description With Specific Details

The Shade peered around a thick tree and looked up the trail. It was too dark for any human to see, but for him the faint moonlight was like sunshine streaming between the trees; every detail was clear and sharp to his searching gaze.

I like the moonlight to sunshine simile here, because it provides a nice visual. Even so, Paolini is consistently doing too much telling and too little showing. Here’s how he might have shown more:

…for him the faint moonlight was like sunshine streaming between the trees. His gaze surveyed the forest and found crickets singing in the grass, owls hiding in the branches, and the stems his party had trampled as they came down the hillside.

“Every detail” has been replaced by specific imagery. It’s more engaging, and it feels more real than simply saying he can see clearly.

They wait longer in the woods, and…

The Shade hissed in anger, and the Urgals shrank back, motionless. He suppressed his distaste–they smelled like fetid meat–and turned away. They were tools, nothing more.

“The Shade hissed” communicates his anger effectively, Paolini doesn’t need to say “in anger.” Once you show, telling is redundant.

Then we have a reminder that the Urgals are worthless and the Shade is evil. Very good, let’s move on please.

They wait in the woods again. Despite the rushed beginning, it’s becoming tedious. When time passes in your story, you don’t need to stuff several paragraphs of nothing happening in there. Just include one paragraph describing how the moon rises on the horizon or the protagonists grow hungry and tired.

The smell was stronger this time. Excited, he lifted a thin lip in a snarl.

We still don’t know what this smell is. It is flowery? Spicey? Earthen? If we’re going to dwell on it this much,* we should have less generic description.

The emotional expression also needs work. Unlike his angry hiss, we wouldn’t know he was excited, because this body language communicates anger. Even with the label, it still comes off as more angry than excited. Paolini should have dropped “excitement” and added body language associated with excitement. He could also include thoughts about how the Shade can’t wait to sink his teeth into whoever’s approaching.

Last, “in a snarl” isn’t effective phrasing. A character’s action has been dimmed into a noun rather than a verb. On rare occasions you may want to de-emphasize actions this way, but I doubt that’s what Paolini wanted here. It is more powerful phrased as: “He lifted a thin lip and snarled.”

Know What Words Mean

“Get ready,” he whispered, his whole body vibrating.

Woah there,”vibrating” is not the word you want. Quivering, shaking, and shivering are used to describe human motions. While Paolini was perhaps too young, anyone who pleases the ladies should know what connotation “vibrate” has.

Put Thought Into Your Narration

Ahead of them, the Shade heard a clink as something hard struck a loose stone. Faint smudges emerged from the darkness and advanced down the trail.

Three white horses with riders cantered toward the ambush, their heads held high and proud, their coats rippling in the moonlight like liquid silver.

The good guys have arrived! But we’ve established the darkness looks like daylight to the Shade. If they are emerging from it, it should be from a longer distance than the hearing range of a loose stone.

The first time I read the second part of this clip, I thought the heads held high and rippling coats belonged to the riders. Now I realize it’s the horses. This is a little odd, it suggests the riders are of secondary importance. Maybe these are super magical horses?

Redundancy Is Still Redundant the Third Time

On the first horse was an elf with pointed ears and elegantly slanted eyebrows. His build was slim but strong, like a rapier. A powerful bow was slung on his back. A sword pressed against his side opposite a quiver of arrows fletched with swan feathers.

The last rider had the same fair face and angled features as the other. He carried a long spear in his right hand and a white dagger at his belt. A helm of extraordinary craftsmanship, wrought with amber and gold, rested on his head.

Between these two rode a raven-haired elven lady, who surveyed her surroundings with poise. Framed by long black locks, her deep eyes shone with a driving force. Her clothes were unadorned, yet her beauty was undiminished.

Why hello, Arwen.

So here we have the first rider who’s an elf, the last rider who is also an elf, and the middle rider who is once again an elf. Why not just say they’re all elves? That’s not the only redundancy, either. A modern fantasy audience knows what elves are, so you don’t have to both name them as elves and describe what an elf looks like. Faux Arwen is described as a raven-haired elf with black locks.

Aside from Arwen, we have description that is focused more on weapons than characterization. That’s not surprising, since they are riding into a fight scene. However, it’s really strange that the helm is described in such depth, but no other armor is mentioned. I’m left with the impression that this overwrought helm is the only armor they have. Perhaps the emphasis on the helm is foreshadowing or something.

At her side was a sword, and on her back a long bow with a quiver. She carried in her lap a pouch that she frequently looked at, as if to reassure herself that it was still there.

We have a McGuffin! Paolini wouldn’t need to describe it here if he had just told us the Shade was looking for it. But since he didn’t, here we have a random pouch of strange importance.

Arwen is… frequently looking at the pouch right now? Or has she been doing that in general during this trip? Since she “surveyed her surroundings with poise,” I’ll go with the latter.

This is a tense moment; they are riding into an ambush. The rest of the description covers what exists in this instant, not what these characters do in general, and for good reason. For instance, if you said, “The dwarf held his axe high as he charged the oncoming orcs. He had practiced this ferocious pose over his many years of battle training,” you would be breaking the tension by leaving the moment.

And of course, Paolini is continuing to explain every time he shows:

  • He blinked <– That means he’s surprised!
  • The Shade hissed <– in anger! Anger right there!
  • He lifted a thin lip in a snarl <– that’s excitement, not anger, I swear it!
  • Wrought with amber and gold <– extraordinary craftsmanship!
  • She carried in her lap a pouch that she frequently looked at <– Psst, she’s looking at it a lot because she’s worried it will be stolen!

In these situations, make sure the showing details are strong enough to stand on their own, and then remove the labels… or die.

Draw Some Diagrams or Something

They passed the Shade’s hiding place and the first few Urgals without suspicion.

The Shade was already savoring his victory when the wind changed direction and swept toward the elves, heavy with the Urgals’ stench. The horses snorted with alarm and tossed their heads. The riders stiffened, eyes flashing from side to side, then wheeled their mounts around and galloped away.

The elves have “galloped away,” so I guess that’s the end of this conflict.

No?

I looked up several youtube videos of horses cantering, and it confirmed my impression that while it isn’t full speed, a cantering horse isn’t slow. Somehow the elves pass just a couple Urgals – who patiently wait to strike at the elves until their kind master orders them to – before the wind changes, and then manage to stop and turn their mounts, then speed up into a gallop, before they are attacked. Looking ahead, Paolini states there are only a dozen Urgals. Maybe they’re really spread out?

I’m still trying to figure out how eyes can flash from side to side. I think Paolini meant the elves were looking or gazing from side to side.

The lady’s horse surged forward, leaving her guards far behind.

This line was disorienting. First the elves gallop “away,” then her horse surges “forward.” I think away and forward are supposed to be the same direction, even though the riders have turned around and are going back the way they came.

Made-Up Words Make Magic Sound Silly

The Shade jumped out from behind the tree, raised his right hand, and shouted, “Garjzla!”

That is some comical spellcasting. Don’t make up silly words when you don’t need to. The Shade could have “shouted in a harsh tongue” instead.

A red bolt flashed from his palm toward the elven lady, illuminating the trees with a bloody light. It struck her steed, and the horse toppled with a high-pitched squeal, plowing into the ground chest-first. She leapt off the animal with inhuman speed, landed lightly, then glanced back for her guards.

The Urgals’ deadly arrows quickly brought down the two elves. They fell from the noble horses, blood pooling in the dirt. As the Urgals rushed to the slain elves, the Shade screamed, “After her!”

Wait, after describing every piece of weaponry those two elves had on their bodies, now they’re dead before they had a chance to use them? And what was up with that helm? I guess it’s purpose is to be found on his dead body or something. This only confirms my suspicion that the horses are the actual main characters.

Again, Know What Words Mean

A cry tore from the elf’s lips as she saw her dead companions. She took a step toward them, then cursed her enemies and bounded into the forest.

Haha, Arwen’s bounding like a lil bunny rabbit! Bounding implies a bouncing motion, it’s used to describe how four-legged animals run. Humanoids don’t “bound” unless they are jumping between specific points – like stones in a river. I think Paolini is relying too much on his thesaurus.

Don’t Invent Things That Break Your Plot

While the Urgals crashed through the trees, the Shade climbed a piece of granite that jutted above them. From his perch he could see all of the surrounding forest.

Where did this big piece of granite come from? If it was there before, why wasn’t he using it to spot the riders before the ambush?

He raised his hand and uttered, “Istalri boetk!” and a quarter-mile section of the forest exploded into flames.

Holy crap! Why didn’t he just get on his granite perch, explode the elves and their horses, and take the McGuffin from the ashes? Or if the McGuffin is too flammable, a quarter mile of flame would still have helped his ambush plans.

Grimly he burned one section after another until there was a ring of fire, a half-league across, around the ambush site. The flames looked like a molten crown resting on the forest.

So… he can keep doing that? I’m sure questions about why he doesn’t just explode things will never come up in the story ever again.

Don’t Let Important Things Happen Off Screen

Suddenly, the Shade heard shouts and a coarse scream. Through the trees he saw three of his charges fall in a pile, mortally wounded. He caught a glimpse of the elf running from the remaining Urgals.

I know the Shade has good vision, but can he really tell through the trees at a distance that the wounds are mortal, specifically? And how did they come to fall in a pile? Paolini should have shown a few blows rather than telling us the results. Perhaps Arwen skewered three at once, like a shish kabob.

She fled toward the craggy piece of granite at a tremendous speed.

Wait, what? Wasn’t she running in the other direction? It does make sense that she would turn around, ring of fire and all, but we should have seen it happening. This is especially true since she had a bunch of Urgals running after her. She could have been trapped between the flames and her pursuers. It’s convenient that she’s heading straight for the Shade.

Also, “tremendous speed”… she’s still on foot, right?

Awkward Foreshadowing Is Awkward

Black Urgal blood dripped from her sword, staining the pouch in her hand.

Is Arwen carrying her sword and the pouch in the same hand? Otherwise, is she waving the sword over the pouch or something? Of course, this is just an excuse to remind us she has the McGuffin, which isn’t a bad idea.* But Paolini should have just said something to the effect of “she clutched the pouch against her side,” etc. This isn’t subtle, just awkward. If you actually need to hide some foreshadowing, you have to disguise it as something else, not just put it in there and hope no one notices.

In addition, readers gain nothing by keeping this thing a surprise. At this point in the story, some magic item or other won’t mean anything to them.

Use Powerful and Meaningful Language

The horned monsters came out of the forest and hemmed her in, blocking the only escape routes…

“Get her.”

As the Urgals surged forward, the elf pulled open the pouch, reached into it, and then let it drop to the ground. In her hands was a large sapphire stone that reflected the angry light of the fires. She raised it over her head, lips forming frantic words. Desperate, the Shade barked, “Garjzla!”

Why lookie here, Paolini does know how to narrate spellcasting without making up silly words. He just chooses not to. Also, put that Shade dialogue in a new paragraph where it belongs… or die.

We also have a couple phrases that have been weakened by making them secondary to the action. For instance, instead of “As the Urgals surged forward, the…” Paolini should have put “The Urgals surged forward. The…” Anything that happens while the main action occurs should be something you want to de-emphasize.

Villains Need to Be Effective

A ball of red flame sprang from his hand and flew toward the elf, fast as an arrow. But he was too late. A flash of emerald light briefly illuminated the forest, and the stone vanished. Then the red fire smote her and she collapsed.

The Shade hollered in rage… He shot nine bolts of energy from his palm–which killed the Urgals instantly…

The Shade can casually shoot energy bolts from his palm that kill people. Why did he need the Urgals again? Besides simply making his enemies and everything around them explode in fire, he could have just shot energy bolts at them and taken the stone.

I get that the Shade is the Big Bad,* and so he’s supposed to be both evil and powerful, but this is an unsustainable situation. Remember that Sauron doesn’t appear in person during the Lord of the Rings, because if he did, he would squash the heroes. He’s still threatening because readers have only heard intimidating rumors about him; they haven’t seen him in action. The Shade doesn’t have Sauron’s aura of mystery, and he doesn’t have a good reason not to kill the good guys. It’s only the prologue, and he’s already suffering from Team Rocket Syndrome by pretending he doesn’t have amazing powers.

And even with exploding fire and bolts of energy, he isn’t intimidating. The entire point of a prologue like this one is to set up the threat of the story. How does watching him lose do that? Paolini would have done better by showing The Shade succeed at a smaller goal, and then cackle about how he will soon have the stone or something. That is, assuming he bothers to explain what the stone can do, so we know what the stakes are.

Miraculously, Arwen is still alive. Apparently the big red fire that downed her horse was just a sleep spell. The prologue ends with the Shade grabbing his horse out of no where and taking her as his damsel. I imagine it will be up to the chosen one to rescue her – but why should readers care? To make your opening effective, you’ll need to demonstrate why the conflict matters… or die.

Need an editor? We’re at your service.

Read more about , , ,

 

Comments

  1. Sara

    Wow! I begin to think that all “big” books published were paid to be so famous. How stories like that managed to be published? The market was not as saturated like today?
    Anyway, when I read the post title, I opened my mouth and thought, “Christopher Paolini, did you wrote so bad for your 18?”
    Well, I have to admit that at least my opening scene is better written. It is true that today we have more information and opportunity to correct errors with so many in this world of books. (sorry for any typos and grammars, ’cause I don’t write in english)

    By the way, you’re addicted to read or you also write? I see you have so many good tips that your stories should be awesome!

    • Chris Winkle

      I’m sure there’s a variety of reasons why bad books get published, but I suspect a big one is that there’s a large market demand for that type of story, and publishers want to publish this type of story enough to overlook flaws. For instance, since Buffy became popular, there’s been high demand for urban fantasy. And readers craving another Tolkien, Harry Potter, or Buffy might overlook flaws too.

      I do write, I’m hoping to put some of that writing on Mythcreants in the next year or so. Whether it’s any good, I’ll let readers judge for themselves.

    • Michael

      He wrote it when he was 14 for a writing assignment. Published it when he was 15 and toured with it until it got enough attention that the big six took notice and he got picked up for a publishing contact.
      I’ve noticed a thing about the black swans none of them seem to have good writing, none of them seem to follow the rules. However, they should have edited it better once big six got ahold of it.
      Interesting though that he had such a work ethic that young. Have you seen the size of those books? Clunky prose, or not he worked hard, and did something adults struggle to do. Anyways that’s my two cents.

  2. Rand al'Thor

    I think Eragon is okay but once you thoroughly analyze it it seems like the modern Sword of Shannara. I guess we’ll be seeing a lot of Eragon clones in the future.

  3. cait

    I never could get into it, it reminded me of Tolkien too much and I never liked his work either. *waits to be burnt at the stake for saying that*

    To be fair I only got a few chapters in before I was putting it down and the people I spoke to who read it enjoyed it. (It was the only series that kept my dad reading even though he hates reading)

    But It bugs me when younger writers praise him, like they do Tolkien for being the best fantasy writers out there. In my writing group I see this way to often. It often brings up lack of diversity in their work and clichéd their stories become. But can you argue with a mass of young writers and authors who hate diversity.

    I knew there was some specific reasons why his work bugged me and I didn’t get far enough to be able to articulate them. Thanks for the article!

    • Chris Winkle

      Tolkien has its strong points and its weak points – as many very popular works receiving praise do. I just finished Lord of the Rings, but it was my second attempt, and I only managed because I knew and liked the story from the movies. However, I will say that Tolkien’s work is vastly superior to imitators such as Paolini and Brooks – at least the portions of their work I’ve read. They’re trying to create the same effect as Tolkien, but they don’t know how because they haven’t mastered wordcraft like he has, and they’re trying to skip all the buildup he put in.

      I’m glad I could help you figure out what was bothering you about Paolini’s work. Hopefully now you’ll have more fuel to argue with the pro-cliché crowd you’re dealing with

      • Krssven

        Not just ‘vastly superior’, but also ‘created the modern fantasy genre virtually single-handedly’.

        I’ve read LotR and all of the other books, and where Tolkien falls down slightly is his propensity for songs, overly flowery dialogue (for a modern reader) and a strange unwillingness to write battle scenes. For example, Helm’s Deep is a major event in the war, but it gets a few pages at best while many more were wasted earlier in The Two Towers describing Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli running (and talking, and sleeping, and running some more).

        • Renna

          Okay yeah I know I’m a year too late but I have a theory about the lack of battle scenes – he fought in one of the World Wars and lost friends. A huge core message found in the books is the value in simplicity, peace, friendship, and compassion. When I read LOTR it’s not a ‘war’ story, it’s a uniting story, a friendship story, a hopeful story. I am sure drawn out battles would have personally been difficult for him to write as he despised war. he may also have felt that the battles were not the actual point of his book and placed his emphasis where he felt it was due.

  4. Andrew C. Erickson

    I immensely enjoyed this book while growing up. The story of Star Wars in the world of LOTR has plenty of appeal for a boy still finding the good bits of fantasy (Side Note: Little do you know that you have just read the opening scene of Star Wars: A New Hope in fantasy form. I would be hardly surprised to learn that pseudo-Arwen’s frantic mutterings were something to the tune of “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi; you’re my only hope”). It wasn’t until later that the main character’s knack for having a “revelation” 3 times day began to bother me.

    On another note, I would totally read your Eragon rewrite, fixing his tendency to tell not show and write with a thesaurus at his elbow, among other things. Please provide….or die!

    • Chris Winkle

      Haha! Oh wow, it’s really Star Wars plot in MIddle Earth? That makes a scary amount of sense. Are the “revelations” his Jedi powers? I was hoping they were smell-related. Boy wakes up, smells whatever it was that alerted the Shade, and discovers that he is the one chosen to smell the… smell.

      I’ll be doing more of these critiques. so I may have to die many times over.

  5. Tamara Ryder

    Quite apart from his amateur plot construction mistakes, the greatest flaw in Paolini’s work is the emotional maturity of his characters. Since he was in his teens when he started writing the story, all his characters think, feel, and react like teenagers. Which is okay for characters like Eragon who actually is a teenager, but for his supposedly elderly mentor and his elf girlfriend it comes off as a little ridiculous. This is also the main reason why the Shade is so not scary. He reacts to failure pretty much like a toddler if toddlers could shoot fire from their hands. He strikes out randomly, killing his own allies out of spite. So I know from the get go that unless the hero is totally incompetent, this guy will be pretty easy to defeat. A few chapters in and what do you know? The hero is totally incompetent. This is why I’m not a big advocate of teenagers getting published. You need practice to write a really good book. You need to write a few bad ones first, but there’s no reason to inflict your learning process on the entire sci-fi/fantasy fandom. The genre has enough trouble getting respected in the world of modern literature. But what you need most of all is life experience and emotional maturity. It’s the characters and their relationships that make a story really compelling. If you’ve never had to deal with the complications of a real relationship, you can’t possibly write about one convincingly. I think Paolini has a lot of potential as a writer, and in another few years if the success of Eragon hasn’t given him a swelled head, he may turn out something worth reading. But that’s the other thing about getting published at that age. You’re not mature enough to handle the fame and money without losing the ability to write just for the joy of it, and every really good book that’s ever been written has been written for the joy of telling a good story, nothing more or less.

  6. Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux

    Beautiful. Thank you– especially for the correction examples. Now I’m going to go learn what Team Rocket means… I have a feeling my first villain might be in that category.

    Do you do copy editing?

    -Rose (Rachel’s friend)

    p.s. you can check out my current WIP if you like: http://www.lizziebluebeard.wordpress.org

  7. Kayla

    I agree that these are flaws in the book, though your criticism is a bit harsh. I read this years ago so I didn’t pick up on this stuff at the time, but while it helps to be perceptive the article comes off as kind of mean. I figured you were a writer yourself, so you must know about how difficult it can be and that everyone makes mistakes. Just thought I’d speak in his defense

    • Eriberri

      Constructive criticism is not the same as criticism used for the sake of hurting someone, it instead helps us to learn from our mistakes, shows us things from another perspective, etc. Harshness should be expected from time to time, particularly with Paolini’s stellar example, but it’s not a personal thing.
      A passionate writer knows that constructive criticism, given well, can be one of the most helpful tools they can receive (far, far better then praise) as it helps the writer see their work from a fresh perspective, reflect on it, and so grow as a result. Harsh constructive criticism is the best kind, free from sugar-coated delusion which serves no good purpose; After a while you develop a thicker skin anyway, especially when you begin to see the results of your newly applied knowledge.
      A writer’s writing style is a living thing, constantly growing and evolving with a lifetime of experiences – both personal and shared. As a writer you’re never too good or too famous to learn from advice and better your art. There’s always someone better then you at this thing!
      Anyway, Paolini could have gleaned a lot from a tool like this but then we wouldn’t have this excellent article to help us, so I’ll forgive the awful writing for my own sake.. just this once.

      • Oren Ashkenazi

        Also, something to consider, this isn’t how Chris would have phrased feedback had she been one of Eragon’s beta readers. This is a book that someone thought was good enough to publish, and made bazzillions of dollars. If the author’s feelings are hurt by criticisms of the work (not of him, there are no personal insults here) he can take comfort from his giant pile of money.

    • eric horn

      i todaly agree with you

  8. Stephanie

    Aww, you didn’t make it to my favorite part–how Eragon HAS to kill a deer or his family will STARVE, but then he–oooh, shiny rock! I’ll just take this home and I’m sure the fam will be fine.

    *snort*

    Thank you, though, for pointing out that Christopher Paolini, who might have had the core of a decent story in there somewhere, really needed a serious editor and about five or six more years to grow up.

  9. Rand al'Thor

    Christopher would have been better off writing children’s books.

  10. Eirenn

    The most hilarious article I have read in a very long time. How easy it is for a bunch of no names in the writing world to critique another who found success. It must be much harder for them to find success. I know many a young adult who devoured his books and perhaps he did not find the need to over-complicate his books for an audience that would in large, never understand or appreciate all the adult idiosyncrasies you imply the book is missing. Each author’s style and voice is unique and I do not ascribe to never breaking haughty ridiculous rules. Many HIGHLY proliific and adored authors advise the same. The basics are there with a highly entertaining story that obviously hit a note for both its intended audience and movie makers. This was a meager attempt to sound more knowledgeable and successful than is reality and nothing more. It worked for him and his intended audience. That IS success as an author.

    • Bailey

      Eirenn knows what’s up.

      • Inanna

        I agree. His books were intended for the younger crowd. I liked it, when I was a teen. I will never not like it. Most of this is rubbish.

  11. Orose

    I understand the criticisms, I was never into Eragon myself, but I would argue that it is the audience that determines what equals good writing and what doesn’t. His writing worked for the overall audience, who were able to overlook ‘flaws’, and enjoy the story. He obviously did what needed to be done on a higher level than many people out there who write so-called correctly. The consumer is still the ultimate deciding factor & didn’t his family publish the first book themselves? It hit the right market at the right time and was written in a way that was easy for the audience to understand & accept.

    It’s not about doing it right, it’s about writing the way you want to and getting positive audience reception regardless.

    I’ve seen so many would-be famous authors complain in forums that they’re, “Doing it RIGHT!” while so-and-so, “Did it WRONG!” so, “Why did they get famous and I didn’t!?” It’s the audience. They either like your writing or they don’t, most of them don’t care about The Rules. It’s really all about their perception of the new world they’re entering. Of course few actually like to hear that fact so…

    I’m not trying to say it’s useless to critique, but in this case I feel that it comes off pretentious. Some think Paloni fumbled the ball, but many thousands of others thought and still think differently. In the end he was successful despite his ‘errors’ and if that’s the case then were they really ‘errors’?

    Not liking someone’s writing style doesn’t make the author wrong or a bad writer. You perceived faults that prevented you from enjoying the story, but others did not. If it was universally hated then I guess we could say it was “terrible writing”, but personally I’m tired of seeing people put an all-encompassing stamp on works just because they didn’t enjoy them; that totally discounts the experiences of others.

    It’s one thing to say, “I didn’t like it and here are my reasons,” but that’s not what happened here.

    • Chris Winkle

      Hi Orose,

      You say it’s not useless to critique, yet at the same time you repeatedly imply that Pauolini’s work does not have real flaws or errors because it is popular, and you also imply that a critique is not valid if it comes from someone who is less well-known than the person they are critiquing. If those things were true, we might as well send art critics of all mediums packing. (Also, editors.) We would have no reason for the Hugos, because all worthy works would have already been rewarded by their own popularity.

      I agree with you that popular works are clearly doing something right, and often critics overlook that. Unfortunately, the thing they are doing right is not always what most people consider merit. For instance, a book with a white male hero might be more popular than a very similar book with a black female hero, but that’s because of the biases of the audience, not because white male heroes are just better.

      Furthermore, a book can always be MORE popular. I could just as easily say Paolini must be doing something wrong, because Eragon isn’t as popular as Harry Potter. Books can be good in some aspects and terrible in others, having good traits does not mean they are flawless.

      We have strong reasons for criticizing popular works here at Mythcreants. Readers are familiar with them, so they’ll understand examples better, they’re more interested in reading about them, and last, we don’t want to pick on the little guy.

      As for my “terrible” label, clearly that’s my opinion, and I have defended that opinion pretty thoroughly in this critique. If you think I’m wrong, by all means defend its merits. But I don’t see how saying it can’t have flaws because it’s popular is productive. I could just as easily say that because my critiques of popular works are popular, any flaws you think they have are non-existent.

  12. Maria

    I completely agree with Orose. I enjoyed reading this series as a teen, and while I do recognize the writing has its flaws, they are overall great books. Sure, you can dissect his every sentence and criticize that he should have used the word “shaking” instead of “vibrating”, but the truth is, Paolini created a world you could get lost in, with characters who change and grow throughout the story. His story was imaginative, interesting and connected with the audience, which is really more than a lot of books manage to achieve.

  13. Nova

    This is disgusting. While I do admire learning from other writers mistakes, all I took away from this was how teenagers shouldn’t even bother writing. It’s totally uninspiring. I am no longer a teenager, but I am still a young aspiring writer. After reading this, and all these comments, it has me feeling like I won’t even stand a chance. Writers are supposed to encourage each other. Not discourage.

  14. Nightshade

    hi, I get it that critique helps writers in their writing and the setup and all but it’s not very helpful to young writers when they stumble apon this. It’s not an inspiration for young writers like myself to read this, and then get hit with someone commenting about how their writing is , or might be determined by age.

    If a 30 or 40 year old decides to write their first book , it may be at this same level, beacause they haven’t written before. It’s a good thing that more people are writing young beacause by the time they’re older they will have more advanced writing. Go and check out Christopher Paloini newer writing , it’s an example of how if he hadn’t have written this book, at 18 then he might not have better advanced writing he has now

    -The kid who is in pre ap

    • Chris Winkle

      Hi Nightshade, thanks for the feedback.

      People have widely different skill levels at all ages, but we send young people to 12 years of school and then higher education to refine their writing skills. Teenagers are rarely done with that education, and they haven’t had as much opportunity to build fiction skills as older people. By this I don’t mean teenagers are all poor writers, I just think it’s a reason to cut them a little slack.

      But Paolini is a bestselling author; he doesn’t need any slack. I chose him because if somehow he notices I exist and I hurt his feelings, he has money and fans to comfort him.

      However, you’ve demonstrated that Paolini’s success doesn’t mean young people won’t get discouraged by this, which isn’t the intent of my critiques. I have to entertain my readers, but in the future I’ll consider how I can do that without being quite so harsh.

      • L.A.C

        Hey i don’t think that Paolini work was that bad, of course he had flaws but every writter has it. Even Tolkien and Jk Rowling.

    • Kira

      Actually yes, it’s an inspiration for me. These kinds of articles are useful, because they allow us to consider the flaws that can have our writing and help to improve it, as amateur author. If you can’t ignore the ”harsh” attack on the author’s writting (which I find otherwise quite amusing) and the hesitation expressed in this article toward the work of the youth, because this could discourage them, well, it’s their loss.

  15. Faith Chapman

    My new dream in life is to publish a popular novel so you can make fun of it. This is awesome.

    • Chris Winkle

      Haha. Just wait for the next novel that’s an innovative hit, then imitate it. That’s worked for quite a few authors

  16. Jess

    I really enjoyed this critique! Harsh? Perhaps. On point? Definitely. I don’t believe the goal here was to bash a young writer because he is (was) young, but to illustrate how a lack of experience can impact your work. With a great copy editor, Eragon could have been a beautiful piece of fiction. Obviously, it was successful despite it’s flaws, which should tell us that people respond to characters and story, even if the writing is less than stellar. As a writer myself, however, I don’t believe writing to what is “popular” is ever an excuse to write poorly.

  17. j. Baxter

    I’m a professional editor who works primarily with new/unpublished authors who are trying to take their manuscripts to the next level, and I come across a lot of writers like you who get so hung up with all the little pieces and parts, that they fail to realize what makes a story people will love. Most readers didn’t notice any of the things you pointed out, because they were too caught up in the story to care. C. P. managed to capture people with his books, and despite some issues (like pacing), he successfully suspended disbelief for his readers, and gave them characters they could care about. Flawed? Yes. Successful? Wildly. I think aspiring authors like you would be far better off analyzing and trying to learn from the things he did right than focusing on the minute details that do not a story make. Can they improve it and leave authors like you with less to dissect and critique? Sure. But even though I myself am not a huge Eragon fan, I have an immense amount of respect for what he accomplished, as should every one of his fellow authors. After all, he clearly did far more right than he did wrong, because the true measure of a book’s success is in how well it connects with its audience, and aspiring authors like yourself would do well to remember that in the end, that is the only true measure of success.

    • Krssven

      This sounds a lot like the ‘it made loads of money, of course it’s good’ argument that defenders of cinematic garbage like Transformers make. Success does not a good work make. How many musicians, artists, film-makers and indeed writers suffer because their work was edged out by some kid who happened to write something popular? Criticism serves a big purpose: to highlight poor work and show others in the business exactly why and how it is poor, allowing them to make their own work better.

      Eragon reads like it was dashed off to the presses after a lazy scan-read – the publisher was too distracted by the ker-ching noises in his head to actually check the damn thing. Some of it looks like it wasn’t even read back when it was first written.

  18. Aspiring

    My husband I both enjoyed the series but I never read it with a critical eye but from a desire simply to enjoy the story. Now I’ll never view it the same again! As an aspiring author, I am more critical of others` works and crave the feedback as well. This article was helpful to me, a 40 something writer, and I look forward to putting the tips to use.

  19. Lydia

    First of all, you made me laugh a lot with the “…or die” thing. Kudos, it was quite enjoyable. Second, thanks for the literary critique. I can tell you have a good sense of high quality prose and I learned some things myself. Third, how much high quality prose matters really does depend on the writer and their audience. I agree with both sides here, because both are valid in different lights. On the one hand we have lasting classics like Tolkien, who because of his resonate story, experienced prose, and depth of his world building, has a legacy that will outlive us all. Eragon does not have that. It does, however, entertain its audience. I loved it when I read it as a kid, but going back to read it now, I am rolling my eyes quite a bit. He wrote it for teenagers, and teenagers loved it, so he succeeded (similar to Twilight. Read it as a kid, didn’t know better, loved it. Read it now=gagging). At the same time, it is NOT high quality prose, so if your definition of a “good” book is that, then it’s not a good book. It all depends on the perspective of the critic. I think Paolini was a successful author, but Eragon won’t be remembered for generations like Tolkien already has been.

    On another note, Chris, I actually disagreed with some of your critique. Not in the sense of what is quality prose, but in personal taste. I actually preferred some of Paolini’s brief, simple descriptions of what was going on, over your longer, more oblique showing. I don’t know if that makes me an inferior consumer, but in some of your specific instances I preferred the brief telling that moved the story along instead of getting distracted by all the imagining I had to do to connect the picture you were painting to what was happening. Again, it is all subjective and depending on personal taste, which is why the enormity and diversity of the literary market is a wonderful thing: it leaves room for a variety of writers writing for a varied audience.

    Now that I think about it, I’ve concluded it has a lot to do with the literary maturity of the reader: a large percentage of average teenagers don’t have the reading experience or attention span to appreciate/enjoy “high quality prose,” so there is a market for writers like Paolini and Meyers (also why many teenagers are bored to death by classics like Of Mice And Men or To Kill A Mockingbird). High quality prose, like wine, is acquired and taught taste. It’s a great thing to teach our kids, but many kids haven’t acquired that taste, thus the market for Paolini.

    Anyway, keep critiquing, you have great suggestions and experience to share. If someone doesn’t like it, they are free to not read it…or die.

    • Chris Winkle

      Thanks Lydia. My purpose is to entertain and inform, if I’ve done that for you, then I’ve succeeded. I don’t need to convince everyone that Eragon is bad, or even that my way of doing things is the best way.

  20. Joanna W.

    Ah, yes. The good old Inheritance Cycle. What a blast from my middle school past. *dissolves into somewhat embarassed nostalgia*
    I was aware of the series’ flaws from the beginning. I cracked open the first book and my immediate reaction was, “this is actually not that great, but imma keep reading anyway…”
    … which actually is one of the reasons why I admire C.P. He managed to create a series of largely mediocre books that ended up getting a huge fanbase anyway, in spite of their flaws. I think what really gripped me about the books was the plot. Oh, and the dragons. Gotta love the dragons.
    But in the end, I think what matters is touching the reader in some way. As writer, I place more value in my story and my characters than I do in syntax and logic issues. Which isn’t to say I don’t comb through my sentences like crazy. Believe me, I do. But if anyone in my audience feels like they’ve experienced something by the end of my book, I won’t care so much about the quality of my writing. I’ve done my job.
    Make the reader feel… or die.

  21. KT

    I thought it would be interesting to post this, found on Paolini’s website about how it was published:

    “Christopher was fifteen when he wrote the first draft of Eragon. He took a second year to revise the book and then gave it to his parents to read. The family decided to self-publish the book and spent a third year preparing the manuscript for publication: copyediting, proofreading, designing a cover, typesetting the manuscript, and creating marketing materials. During this time Christopher drew the map for Eragon, as well as the dragon eye for the book cover (that now appears inside the Knopf hardcover edition). The manuscript was sent to press and the first books arrived in November 2001. The Paolini family spent the next year promoting the book at libraries, bookstores, and schools in 2002 and early 2003.

    “In summer 2002, author Carl Hiaasen, whose stepson read a copy of the self-published book while on vacation in Montana, brought Eragon to the attention of his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. Michelle Frey, executive editor at Knopf, contacted Christopher and his family to ask if they might be interested in having Knopf publish Eragon. The answer was yes, and after another round of editing, Knopf published Eragon in August 2003.”
    -http://www.alagaesia.com/christopherpaolini.htm

  22. Paul

    Great article. I started writing because I saw the “Written by a 15 year old!” blurb and thought “Why not me?” Then I read Eragon, loved it, discovered fan sites, then discovered hate sites. I spent more time on the hate sites and they were negative. But they were also constructive. There were articles about writing and plotting and characterization. There were articles about how to pace a story, how to build worlds, and how to really draw your reader in. There were articles about what Inheritance was copying. I discovered some of my favorite books through criticism. This article isn’t going to make teen writers who like Eragon despair. It’s going to tick them off. It’s going to make them think. They’ll look for rebuttals. They’ll dig deeper. Good practice for getting your own work thrashed is reading the criticism of your favorite authors, even if it’s tough.

  23. De

    I’m sorry, but I think you are all a big crock of meanies. This kid is a famous writer because his story has heart and soul. His creativity was enough to make it big, and y’all need to get off your high horses.
    Obviously it’s good storytelling, whether the writing is perfect or not. No reputable publisher is going to allow a story to go out there unedited. Maybe it’s not perfect, but it’s a brilliant story told with heart. That’s why it was popular. You guys think it’s cute to knock a teenage writer? I think it’s cruel.
    But I’m sure he doesn’t mind, after all, he’s the one with his book in bookstores, a movie on his shelf and millions in his pocket.

    • Karen

      You don’t get it. This is meant to be lessons for writers, and Eragon is full of examples of bad writing that other writers — including 15-year-olds — can learn from. No one’s writing is so perfect that it’s beyond critique, and sheltering anyone from a critique is just going to teach them that criticism is bad rather than something to learn from.

  24. Scrambled

    For a book written by a 15-year-old kid, Eragon is exactly what I expect it to be: fantasy/adventure SunnyD – not very sophisticated, doesn’t really taste good, but it’s got all the sugar a kid could want. I agree that Paolini does not have the life experience and emotional maturity to create deeply compelling characters, and it is apparent that though he has access to the tools of the trade, he has not yet learned how to use them effectively. Therefore we get generic descriptions, a rather ridiculous villain, and an implausible and irrelevant prologue.

    But hey! I’ve seen what other teens are writing. Most of them don’t write beyond the minimum requirement, much less for fun. So, no, Paolini does not have the years of experience (nor taken out the student loans) to perfect his craft. He’s just a kid, and the books resonate with kids. I, for one, am glad they’re reading. What irks me is that throughout the series, as he grows older, Paolini’s writing remains stunted, stagnate, locked forever in its adolescent form. I would have enjoyed the books much more if I had been able to see his craft mature. (It also would have helped if I had not been able to predict the second book in its entirety.)

    This article is excellent as it points out the flaws prevalent in many young adult novels. It may – with the author’s permission, of course – turn up in a middle school English class or in an after school tutoring session. Not to be overly hard on Paolini, but even bad writing can be used to produce informed readers and better writers.

    I will add one more tiff, this time about publishing companies: They are not interested in providing the public with quality, but getting quality dollars out of the public’s pocket.

    • Scrambled

      I should add that my comments are aimed at the Inheritance series, especially to Eragon, and the age and experience of the author when it was written. I’m aware that he is much older now, and a much more experienced writer.

  25. Mark

    Just have to say. While I thoroughly enjoyed both the critique of Eragon and the book itself I agree that its is poorly written. I however, believe in seeing past the limitations of an author and enjoying the story for what it was meant to be. We are all human and as a teenager this kid wrote a pretty interesting book with a world that he developed. Just my two cents though

  26. Sayde

    This article is ridiculous. I cannot possibly see how an accurate review of an entire series of books could be made from the prologue of the first novel, and in reality the criticisms come across as petty and nitpicking. Every writer writes differently, and there is no wrong way to write, no matter what ‘rules’ you may be referring to. This kid was published at an extremely young age, and instead of marveling at that, you’re picking apart his writing in a tone that makes me see you as a jealous child. I would suggest reading a book before you attempt to tear it down for poor writing, because then you know what you’re talking about.

  27. Cindy

    He was 14 and there it is; but he was published lucky chap! I actually quite enjoyed the book though agree it had a few problems. I definitely loved some of his characters.

  28. Luna

    I didn’t read the book, and if this article’s points are any indication, I’d have never gotten past the second page. Regardless, the teenaged author was able to resonate with young readers (many of whom can’t write a full sentence without using the term LOL). That’s a big win in the publishing industry, regardless of the end quality.

    I am still shocked though, that someone in his or her mid-teens wouldn’t know the correct spelling of the word squeal (“…the horse toppled with a high-pitched squeel”) and, worse yet, two rounds of adult editing didn’t catch it either.

    Some years back, I wrote for a newspaper. We were told to keep it to an eight-grade reading level, because basic literacy was at an all-time low at the time.

    I understand that fifth-grade is the goal now. It’s called the Dumbing Down of America, and sadly, it’s not going away. Don’t believe me? Ask the talentless Kardashian clan. They’re also laughing (and squeeling) all the way to the bank.

    • Chris Winkle

      The misspelling of squeal was probably a typo I created when copying in the excerpt. Unfortunately I can’t be sure because I no longer have the book. If it was in the book, it has been corrected in more recent versions on Amazon. I’m going to correct it in this post.

      Regardless, you can still be shocked, because several editors looked at this article and they all missed it This is not because they don’t know how to spell “squeal,” but because people pay much more attention to the shape of a word than the individual letters when they read. The substitution of one letter for another of similar size and shape is surprisingly difficult for people to catch.

      • Krssven

        Whenever I read a sentence (my own or someone else’s), just reading it makes the spelling and grammar mistakes very obvious. I don’t think I have a superpower, but it’s astounding how few can actually reliably catch bad spelling. I think I was a better speller at age 14 than most adults will ever be in their entire lives (mathematically, though, I’m distinctly average – and only mathematical skill is really valued by society these days). Do people just not pay attention in English lessons? I mentioned mathematics – I’m still able to do complex calculations despite not having a natural aptitude, because I paid attention in school.

  29. Krssven

    While the criticism is valid (if phrased in a very harsh way at times – you’re reading a teenager’s work, and we were all there once), it’s a little too easy a target to go after. He was 14, wrote a story and it happened to get published. I’d rather see an article by Paolini himself, after he went back through his books today editing the unholy heck out of them.

    • Paul

      I have been dying for years to see where Paolini goes in the world of writing. We all have those early notebooks we keep hidden. The ones that we cannot read without cringing. His got published.

  30. Nadine

    Wow, I also wonder how publishers publish the badly written stories! Makes you wonder if you were to publish a story through one… And now I also wonder about my stories. But this article’s links can help me fix my errors.

  31. Erebus

    My primary issue with this review is one of context, over half the criticisms are accurate only if you take the sentence on its own. The Urgal for example do at first seem exactly like an orc substitute, in the first book at least. Then you learn what they really are like, you realise they’re people, have families and suddenly you feel kinda sad.

    That’s called buildup, a concept the critiquer never seems to quite get, all these reviews are utterly obsessed with instant gratification, which you just don’t get in good novels, a good novel world builds, it includes unnecessary detail, because whenever you write a book there’s more to what’s going on that what the main character gets to see and it’s important the readers know that.

    The Shade for example, you don’t know what it is, you don’t know what makes it special, what it can do,, for half a novel that’s the primary threat, the not knowing, then you find out.

    The critiquer needs to learn that instantly gratifying the audience actually ruins a book, it leaves you with nothing to build upon because you’ve already played your hand to its fullest extent, a good author does eke out the information, otherwise most books would be a couple of sentences long, because why write more when you can fit the plot in the same.

  32. Vivienne M.

    “It’s popular, so it must be okay,” seems to be a common opinion. No work is above criticism just because it is famous or well-loved–especially if it was written by a kid. Children’s writings SHOULD be critiqued. That’s how they learn how to write better. Don’t the readers deserve good writing, too, even if they are just children, themselves? A lot of kids who read Eragon might be inspired to write a book someday. Do we want them perpetuating the same mistakes, or do we want them to be encouraged to express themselves more clearly and to make their ideas more interesting?

  33. Nick

    Haha, you should run a weekly series where you dissect each chapter of the book.

  34. VanessaA

    I have to say the series had its flaws as well as shining moments after I read the first book I struggled through the last 3 books. I could barely handle the extra characters(his cousin and Nasuda I think- I can’t remember their names), they were unimportant to me as a reader because I only wanted Eragon’s journey I thought the sudden add-ons dragged the story out and muddled it. I like multiple characters but I think he could have been great without them (it’s just was too much).
    I think he did good as a teenage writer but lacked some knowledge because of how young he was, If i were to write a book right now at 18 years old I’m not sure how much better I could do.

    • VanessaA

      I think my grammar would be my worst flaw

      • VanessaA

        I actually would love write a fantasy

  35. Adam

    I remember reading Eragon and it’s sequels when I was about twelve, I am nineteen now and it was a massive inspiration then and it is now. I don’t go into books intent on critiquing and from the sound of it, the article sounds like you have not read the book in it’s entirety, while it is good to provide criticism some of them come off quite harsh and despite it’s flaws(as many books do, expecially Harry Potter *hint hint) it was still widely successful. A further point is that and I mean this as polite as possible but at the end of the day he still has a published book that not alot of people, you and I included have not.

  36. Peter

    Some of the criticism is good, some of it just directly conflicts with the rest of the story, the air of mystery in the next 100 or so pages. He asks questions that are intentionally left unanswered. Some of the technicalities of his descriptions are just poor in general, but I believe a small amount of it makes sense – like the “astounding speed” part. Elves in this story run incredibly fast, about the same as a normal horse. And yes, in this story the horses they’re riding ARE magical. I’m not going to say the books are written well, but a little bit of the criticism isn’t justified.

  37. Tumblingxelian/Vazak

    This is an excellent breakdown and guide, thanks!

  38. Evelena

    I don’t know what you think your problem is with YA series and books. Now I understand the real awful ones like Twilight and stuff, but “Eragon”? Really? The Mortal Instruments series? REALLY?!?! I think that Paolini did an amazing job, and you know…
    THE BOOK WOULDN’T BE PUBLISHED IF HE DIDN’T HAVE GOOD WORD CHOICE!!!!! I don’t think that you have EVER written a book at the age of fifteen. I don’t think I’ve heard of ANY of your books. I’m pretty sure that he’s finished a VERY LARGE book series and um… HOW OLD IS HE???? I’ll answer this for you:
    Twenty.
    TWENTY YEARS OLD, and I’ve NEVER heard any of YOUR books. So I’m sorry if I think you are erroneous in criticizing him.

    This is just me, I mean he wrote most of that first book when he was 15 with a bit of help from his sister. Also I got to know: Did you even read the book? I mean things are going to seem blunt only if your combing through it, and you don’t know everything. Please read the book before you criticize it. Thanks.

    • Cay Reet

      Just to point something out: Twilight and 50 Shades of Sh*t (eh, Grey) also were published, so the argument ‘the book was published, so it has to be good’ isn’t working.

      The age of the author might actually have been a selling point, something to advertise like ‘a book from a teen for teens to read’ or something like that. And I’m pretty sure it was heavily edited, too. However, ‘he wrote the book at 15’ isn’t that strong an argument, either. Mozart composed his first pieces at 5, but it’s not a requirement for everyone who goes into music. And I’m sure Mozart didn’t overly like them once he was older, because then he could see the flaws in them.

      I’m also sure there are many books out there you haven’t read (including the five I have published so far), because nobody is reading everything that is out there. Nobody would have the time, even if they did nothing but read from the moment they are born (magically gifted with reading skills) to the moment they die (not even stopping for a bite to eat or a nap even once).

  39. James

    Soooooooo

    I was really feeling gloomy today and I inadvertently found one of your posts on pinterest. It’s now been 3 hours reading one after the other and not only have I learned and brainstormed about writing, i’ve also laughed. Like, a lot. And I feel better and I want to write again and I think i’m going to spend the night reading every single post.

    I really need to patron you guys/girls/funny aliens

  40. CJ

    You really nit-picked this kids work. This stuff is subjective, and this whole post is condescending and mean-spirited. You can blab all you want about whether or not his writing is good, but the fact of the matter is that it is successful. It obviously resounded with a lot of people. Have you ever made something people like?

    • American Charioteer

      If the quality of media could only be assessed by measuring financial success, then Kafka, Thoreau, and Poe were failures, “Fifty Shades of Gray” is high quality literature, and pornography is our most important form of media.
      Media exists to be discussed and analyzed. It would be mean-spirited to write a blog post about an unsuccessful work, but critiquing highly popular media is how we get new and better media.

  41. Cay Reet

    Suggestive username…

    And, no, the original is not better than this. It’s actually much worse for introducing the Big Bad. An omnipresent narrator would work like that, instead of just saying ‘the Shade looked human, excepf for the hair and eyes.’ Especially since neither crimson (say: red) hair nor yellow eyes are impossible for humans to have.

    Like this, by going into omnipresence, you can give the reader a better impression of that enemy the hero will soon be dealing with – a creature seemingly human and harmless, but deadly to all who approach.

  42. Oren Ashkenazi

    Editor’s note: I deleted a comment for being deliberately insulting to the post’s author. We’re more than happy for critical comments, even harshly critical ones, but we draw the line at personal insults.

  43. Mjolnir

    I don’t understand why people are saying you’re “picking on a kid” as C.P is 33 as of 2017. I picked up Eragon in grade 9/10, an age where I would read anything that had dragons in it. Even at the time I found it derivative and forgettable and I never finished the trilogy. He might have written his first draft at 15 but he was 19 when *his parent’s publishing company* published the book, and he was 20 when it was picked up by Knopf. Five years is a good, long time to do multiple rewrites and have it read by multiple editors to make a polished product.

    I was an aspiring writer when I read the book and his story of success at such a young age did inspire me. He did have a few advantages that others do not, however. His parents already owned their own publishing company, and he was home-schooled and graduated highschool at 15. This allowed him the freedom to tour across America with his parents (they visited over 135 schools and libraries) to promote his self-published book.

    His books have sold very well but critically they did very poorly across the board. Many terrible things get published and sell incredibly well: Twilight, Fifty Shades, Transformers movies, BvS, Justin Bieber, etc. Just because something is popular does not mean it is immune to criticism nor does that make them objectively good. I really enjoyed this article and breakdowns like these are not meant to insult the reader or the author, they are meant to *educate* people on how to do better, which is something we can all learn.

Leave a Comment

By submitting a comment, you confirm that you have read and agree to our comments policy.