Best of the Worst

Okay, yesterday I got some good input on the best opening lines in fiction, music and movies from you guys. You did a good job providing me some great openings to books and songs and such. So today, I’m looking for the flip side, the B-side, the side nobody listens to.

dashiellhammetWhat’s the worst line you’ve ever read in a piece of fiction? or scene from a movie? line from a song?

The worst thing you’ve run across. Something which made you groan, roll your eyes, heck, maybe even put the book, song, movie, whatever aside.

It doesn’t have to be the opening this time. Just something really bad you ran across somewhere in your experience. There are a ton of ‘em, I’m sure, and there are going to be some really fun examples given. But, as I did last time, I’m going to kick things off. For me, the worst line I’ve ever read comes from a classic book, written by Dashiell Hammett, in his hard-boiled novel The Maltese Falcon.

His eyes burned yellowly.

Okay, “yellowly” does a couple of great things for me. First, it’s an adverb. I hate adverbs. Second, it’s not even a real adverb. It’s so absurd and ridiculous, I actually laughed aloud when I read it. Then I had to read it to my wife. And she laughed, then groaned, then we laughed some more. I mean … c’mon, Dashiell. That’s bad.

So, that’s my entry. What’s yours?

Sound off and give me a giggle. I can hardly wait. 🙂


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13 thoughts on “Best of the Worst

  1. There’s this song by T.Rex, a British duo that made really sugary sweet glam pop in the early 1970s. In their song Children of the Revolution, Marc Bolan sang the line “I drive a Rolls Royce ’cause it’s good for my voice.” Quite possibly the worst line ever. But when such a line is delivered with the right attitude, it’s badness makes the bad line work. That line is my best example of “it’s so bad it’s good.”

    Sometimes, you need bad lines to stand out and grab the attention of the audience. It’s badness stands out for all to see.

    It’s sort of like if you were looking at a collection of beautiful Faberge eggs, but somewhere in the middle of the collection is a steaming pile of dog shit. What’s the first thing you’re going to remember about the exhibit? It won’t be any of those beautiful egg art things; it’s gonna be the poo.

    In conclusion, bad has a function. Poo is useful.

    Wow, a mini-treatise on the many benefits of poo in art. You’re impressing me anew every day, WIGSF. 🙂

  2. Faberge eggs and poo. Wow, I’ve missed this craziness 🙂

    Oh, WIGSF has a million of ’em.

    As for best of the worst… do the entire Twilight series count as one entry or multiple entries? C’mon, ‘dust moats dancing across the window’ definitely counts as horrific writing. The rest of them get thrown in just because of the sparkly vampires.

    Okay, here’s the problem — I don’t see anything especially wrong with the sentence you’ve cited here. The whole series would be multiple entries though, and while it’s cliche, I bet you could’ve found a better example if you tried. I’ll let you off the hook this time for being so busy of late, but you’ll have to do better next time. Remember some of us here were smart enough NOT to read her books. 😉 (J/K)

    • Yes but some of us were dumb enough to listen to avid “Twilight Moms” and bought the whole series then couldn’t get past the 3rd chapter in the first book and are stuck with hardback copies I’ll never read because they are sooo freaking bad.

      I refuse to watch the movies either:)

      Join the club, Delaney.

  3. Ugh, I know plenty of folks will disagree on this one – they always have… “After all, tomorrow is another day” worst ever ending to a movie that sucks away part of your life. Gone With the Wind, ugh.

    Have never seen/read it, but one of my beloved’s all-time faves. I bet she will disagree. But me? That’s a bad cliche to toss into a multi-national and historical bestseller. Shame on the author. 🙂 Still, it IS dialog, and she did get away with it. 😉

    • Was that a cliche when she wrote it? I mean, every cliche was original at some point. The only line I can think of straight away is when Luke Skywalker whines to his uncle that he was going into town to get some power converters.

      Yeah, I wondered that myself, and almost commented on it; WAS it cliche when she used it? Hm.

      And can anyone write an entire novel without a single unfortunate sentence?

      I don’t know. I’m gonna try though. 🙂 😉

  4. Oh my, there are so many of them out there – what to choose, what to choose?
    How about this one:

    “The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the toad’s deception, screaming madly, “You lied!”

    That’s VERY purple, but now I’m sort of intrigued by the sated, sodden amphibian she just had intercourse with and what that was about. What work is that one from, Delaney? MUST READ IT. (So, maybe poo IS useful?)

    Or this gem?

    “He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare.” (from Twilight, of course, ugh!)

    Of course. And that’s pretty icky, especially when you consider this was written as a YA novel targeting tween and teen girls. *Sigh*


    “Like an overripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.”

    Okay, where’s THAT gem from? That might be one of the worst similes I’ve ever read.

    and the worst of the worst, the classic…

    “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

    –Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

    The basis for Snoopy’s writing skills in Peanuts.

    I recall good ol’ Snoopy banging away at his manual typewriter hammering out “It was a dark and stormy night…” many a time. I also recognize, however, that this line is one of the most memorable in all of literature, if the worst. I wonder, though, if it was considered the stinkburger then that is now. My wife, by the way, mentioned this one, but I don’t think either of us knew the author or work. Thanks, Delaney, all great choices! 😀

  5. I, personally, cannot get thru a Patricia Cornwell novel. Her writing annoys me for some reason. Here is an example:

    “Then experience had become my mentor, wiping its feet on the pristine part of myself that was idealistic and analytical.”


    I’ll second that. WTF indeed? This got PUBLISHED?

    “It is disheartening when a thinking person is forced to admit that many cliches are true.”

    Sorry, hope I didn’t offend anyone . . . this stuff just frustrates the reader in me.

    Nope, no offense, this is about opinions. I’m asking, you’re telling. I think the examples provided are prime ones. 🙂

  6. My mother once wrote a story for school when she was a kid. She wanted a synonym for “moist”, so she turned to her handy thesaurus and ended up with:

    “The Prince kissed the Princess on her dank lips.”

    She really shouldn’t have gone for the slime-flavoured lip gloss when there were so many fruity flavours to chose from.

    Ah, the evils of the thesaurus! I read something on an editor’s blog about that very thing this morning. It can be a lot of trouble. Your poor mom — but now she knows the perils of unguided synonyms!

  7. Okay, this probably sounds dumb, but I can’t remember any real bad line; I even like Seuss’ stuff! I have been thinking about this all day, however, and one line kept coming back to me. “It’s not about you.” This is the first sentence of Purpose Driven Life, which I read a few years ago. It’s not that it’s a bad sentence . . . it was offensive to my mega-ego. 🙂

    HA! Non-fiction sneaks in again! Nice! And anyone who doesn’t like Dr. Seuss is a JERK, I say! (J/K, but I love his stuff. 🙂 )

  8. I’ve thought about this all day and all I can come up with is 98% of every country song ever written has some line in it that is so totally absurd it offends me. I have to listen to country music at work all.the.time and it is quite common for me to ask the ceiling, “WTF was that? Did I hear that right?” Of course I heard it right.


    And that’s enough to say. 🙂 Fair is fair! We likes what we likes and don’t what we don’t! 🙂

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