Best of the Worst

bad writing

So Karen and I were talking about bad lines we’ve written, from mere foibles to grand catastrophes. We’ve been swapping short stories since the ‘90s, so we have a wealth of crap to draw from. “Remember that horrible story you wrote about the dead dog?” We howl with laughter. “Remember the one about the girl whose mother was a hooker?”

So here are a couple of our worst. Karen once wrote a story about a guy traveling with his dog. It’s a very somber, low-key, sad piece. Then he walks into a convenience store and thinks:

“And then I spot it behind the cashier: The Slush Puppy Machine!”

And from me, in a story about a kid having a bad day at school:

“He leaned his head against his locker door, barely resisting the urge to bang it.”

These were stories we submitted to workshops, so to know others actually read them is, to say the least, humbling. But, hey, here are some that actually made it into print:

From E.L. James, 50 Shades of Grey:

“Mentally girding my loins, I head into the hotel.”


“The muscles inside the deepest, darkest part of me clench in the most delicious fashion.”


“My inner goddess is beside herself, hopping from foot to foot.”

From Charlene Harris, Definitely Dead:

“The birds were tweeting and chirping, the bugs were buzzing, and the pollen-heavy air was full of peace as if it were yet another plant emission.”


“Lindsay was able to reduce boys to drooling idiots hyenaand keep them trailing after her like stunned hyenas.”

From David Baldacci, The Whole Truth:

“To say that this hit the earth like a molten-lava tsunami would have been the grossest of understatements.”

From Claire Delacroix, Unicorn Vengeance

“The feel of her tongue in his ear was enough to send Wolfram bursting from his chausses.”

And a page and a half later:

“The sight of her creamy flesh was enough to make him burst his chausses.”


From Jamaica Layne, Knight Moves (in which a knight is asked by a woman how he knew she’d had multiple orgasms):

“Your lady-softness told me herself when she was wrapped round my codpiece.”

Still want more?

Google “worst lines” and “Dan Brown.”

I’d post more of my own, but I’m too busy sewing my husband’s chausses—like a stunned hyena.

So I’ll ask you. I know we’re not alone in this. Give us the worst line (or lines) you’ve ever written—from a novel, a story, an essay, a lyric—hell, a book report for school. Come on, you know you’re proud of yourself. Post them here. We’ll send the winner a candy cane pen!




8 thoughts on “Best of the Worst”

  1. Cathy, that was hilarious, and a little disturbing 🙂 When I think of bad writing I always think of this line from a made-for-tv Stephen King movie we watched together back in the 90’s … remember the awful “cereal noise” movie? Here’s the quote,
    “It’s a really terrible, scary sound; and it’s awful, a little like Rice Krispies after you pour the milk.”
    Oh the horror of Snap, Crackle and Pop, that terrorizing trio!

  2. Not sure if typos count, but I once wrote this headline:
    “Vote on School Budget Causes Pubic Outcry”
    (Must’ve been a zipper malfunction.)

    1. Ha! My first job as an editor was writing a hazardous materials newsletter. There was always a public outcry of some kind, and I was forever leaving out that dreaded “L.” Glad to know I’m not alone. Thanks for sharing! –Cathy

  3. How’s this for bad?
    “When the door opened, there was nothing there because there was nothing in the room.”

    Come on, it made you smile….

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