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KatG
April 22nd, 2006, 06:32 PM
Dan Brown's writing style has come up a number of times in various discussions in this forum and recently I got the chance to read his third novel, "Angels & Demons," which is the first novel in the series of which "The DaVinci Code" is the second. Brown seems to write what have come to be loosely called science thrillers -- a wide group that includes many titles that can be considered non-category science fiction.

"Angels & Demons" does have the sf aspect in that the story centers on an anti-matter bomb (or rather an anti-matter storage device that will turn into a bomb when its battery runs out.) I'm not sure if "DaVinci Code" also has sf elements -- perhaps part of the appeal is that it does not -- but since the two books are in the same series together, I for now will count the second as also non-category sf. Interestingly enough, in "Angels & Demons" the Catholic Church, while accused of heinous crimes in the past, is the victim and courageous entity in the novel, with several brave cardinals being kidnapped to be ritually sacrificied, Vatican City likely to blow up, and the new Pope owing the hero a big favor at the end. So I'm quite curious to see what happens in "DaVinci Code" on the religious angle.

Brown's writing abilities are somewhere around the John Grisham area, by my assessment, at least Grisham in his early days. In approach, he's like Michael Crichton -- come up with a good premise idea, research the hell out of it and present most of that research to the reader in the course of a lot of action. This is the common practice for science, medical and technothrillers, and Brown pretty much makes it work for him -- he's not as bad at delivering the research as some others I've seen, though still rather heavy-handed.

He's using the third person omniscient viewpoint format, which again is very common for these kinds of thrillers. So for those who brought up pov slippage, it's just that he's using an omniscient narrator, though not perhaps gracefully. His short chapters are indeed because he doesn't use scene breaks. At the end of each scene, he starts a new chapter. This actually slows his pacing as lots of short chapters can do, but he gives each scene a tight central focus and he does try to put a bump on the end of each chapter -- a suspenseful close that will hopefully bump the reader onto the next chapter instead of putting the book down.

So anyone wanting to weigh in on Brown's writing style re "Angels & Demons," "DaVinci Code" or "Digital Fortress," here's your chance. :)

BrianC
April 22nd, 2006, 09:30 PM
Can of worms, meet can opener . . . can opener, meet can of worms.

I will not try to provide any kind of exhaustive analysis of The DaVinci Code ("DVC") because I am sure that there are more than a few people who have opinions and I don't want to stake my claim over everything.

At the outset let me say that, while I hated this particular book, I do not hate the success that Dan Brown has achieved with it. I do find it sad that the standards for a blockbuster these days seem so random and, frankly, abyssal lately. (That's abyssal--not abysmal--as in sunk so low as to lie on the bottom of the ocean, as in requiring an extraordinary effort to rise to the level of abysmal.) Nevertheless, more power to Mr. Brown.

SPOILERS BELOW:

But out of the forest of complaints that I might pile at your feet, Kat, let me offer just this twig: the entire plot is a house of cards, a tower of inconcievably implausible plot elements the very foundation of which is a murder committed by an albino assassin in the Louvre in the middle of the night--guards, security doors, alarms, and cameras notwithstanding--without leaving so much as a trace of his identity! I simply do not have the capacity to suspend my disbelief the distance and duration that Mr. Brown demands.

Hereford Eye
April 23rd, 2006, 07:44 AM
Writing style as flash fiction: what makes him easy to read, at least in The DaVinci Code, is the the length of his chapters. You get in and get out in a sound byte fashion facilitating the on-again/off-again reading style that most folk endure. The Lady Who Shares Her Life With Me read a chapter or two each night before sleep and it kept her interest enough to want to read the next chapter or two the next night.
It's been a while since I read the book so I don't remember POV from adverbs and adjectives. I remember there was nothing in his style that distracted me from the story. While I can enjoy the artistry of a great writer, all I ask from any author is that their words help me enoy their story.

Banger
April 23rd, 2006, 10:14 AM
I like this paragraph from The Da Vinci Code, in which Brown seems to have never heard of a portcullis:


As they approached, Langdon saw the entrance was blocked by an enormous steel grate that looked like something used by medieval castles to keep out marauding armies.

The Da Vinci Code is pretty bad. The paragraphs are short, but they also don't have much in them in terms of plot or character development. Langdon recites some inane factoids (as if I care how many Washington monuments laid end-to-end would equal the length of a particular hallway in the Louvre), provides as exposition various historical facts of dubious value, and then, before the reader falls asleep - BOOM! The chapter ends with a mini-cliffhanger, e.g., "You've been bored out of your mind so far, Langdon, but that's because you don't know the truth - someone wants to kill you."

Never mind the fact that Brown describes Langdon as "Harrison Ford in tweed." I mean, which did he write first, the novel or the screenplay?

It's amazing how popular these crappy books have become. I have friends who I didn't even know could read praising them up and down. In fact, from my experience, it appears that one's praise for The Da Vinci Code is inversely proportional to the number of books one has read.

In short: Brown's a hack.

Hereford Eye
April 23rd, 2006, 10:29 AM
Isn't it amazing the number of hacks who are best selling writers while the authors are barely surviving? Maybe we can develop a new literary law: If a book sells more than 100K copies, the author is a hack; if it barely sells 1K copies, the author is an important figure in the literary world and will wind up in our text books.

Dark_Sumerian
April 23rd, 2006, 10:49 AM
Dan Brown's success is due to his ingenius marketing strategy, similar to that of the horrendous "Blair Witch Project" movie.

create a controversy around what you write by saying it is based on truth, a truth others do not want you to reveal and spark the curiosity of millions.

It is the controversy which is selling his work. The whole conspiracy element surrounding his story is more intriguing than the actual plot itself.

You see whats going on with the music and film industry, why should the literary world, a business, be any different?

Hereford Eye
April 23rd, 2006, 10:58 AM
Since Digital Fortress, Deception Point, and Angels and Demons were already published prior to The DaVinci Code, published and not moving very well, then that marketing strategy is what is making people buy and read the other books? You mean to say that people, having read the first book and now famililar with the writing style, go read the other books because a marketing ploy requires them to do so?

Banger
April 23rd, 2006, 11:16 AM
Isn't it amazing the number of hacks who are best selling writers while the authors are barely surviving? Maybe we can develop a new literary law: If a book sells more than 100K copies, the author is a hack; if it barely sells 1K copies, the author is an important figure in the literary world and will wind up in our text books.

Contrary to the law you propose, plenty of talented writers are successful and plenty of hacks remain in obscurity.

I cannot discern any correlation between writing talent and success.

Hereford Eye
April 23rd, 2006, 12:52 PM
Then success as a writer is a function of something else altogether and all these threads we contribute to on this forum about grammar, character, style, tone, plot, et al, are pointless. Or does not writing talent lie in this direction?
Assuming that most of us have ambitions to become successful writers; what should we be paying attention to in the place of writing skills? Willing to be labeled 'hack' if success goes along with tag, what should we be concentrating on? What will make people desirous of reading our work as they have been desirous of reading Dan Brown's work?

kater
April 23rd, 2006, 01:35 PM
Since Digital Fortress, Deception Point, and Angels and Demons were already published prior to The DaVinci Code, published and not moving very well, then that marketing strategy is what is making people buy and read the other books? You mean to say that people, having read the first book and now famililar with the writing style, go read the other books because a marketing ploy requires them to do so?

I'm going to say Yes :) I know quite a few people, including me old mum, who having read DVC bought his other books to read more easy thriller filler pieces, and that's exactly what they got everytime, except in Angels and Demons where the absurdity of it all kinda escapes me :)
I didn't like the DVC and haven't changed my thoughts from here: http://www.sffworld.com/forums/showpost.php?p=228456&postcount=9 but I guess the adage 'if it ain't broke ....' comes to mind. I'm not going to buy/read any of his future books, assuming he wants to write any.