On Fifty Shades of Grey … the shackles of human evolution.

Will readers get dumber?dumb, yes

Thanks to fellow writer Shay for asking:

 “We have moved into a world where writers are able to showcase unpolished work without going through the usual editing or learning process. Does this mean that… readers may get dumber?”

I mean, say kids start getting basic Kindles at a young age and end up downloading all these unpolished works.

Personally I find unpolished works to be frustrating reads, in fact, getting through one chapter is very hard. The reason I bring this up is because someone suggested I read Fifty Shades of Grey because they enjoyed it.

For me, the weird thing about that book is that it’s not written very well but people enjoy the “plot” but then if this is the case why not put that book down and find something similar but written better?

Is it possible that people like bad writing? And as a result we’ll get dumber”

Shay’s blog: http://www.bluebicblog.com/


You’re right, Shay, we have moved into a world where writers are able to showcase unpolished work. But does that mean readers may get dumber? I don’t think so. What it means is that we humans will get cleverer slower.

The arrival of the internet is probably the most important jumping point in human evolution since the arrival of the wheel. By jumping point I mean a time where great advances can be made… and it’s true right now as we see scientists and universities around the world sharing their knowledge, teaching each other in the process, and making surging advances in medicines and sciences.

But despite the web resources available to the common man, enabling him to learn about the science, the medicine et al, the internet also provides space for the thimbleriggers to trade their craft, their quack medicine, their snake oils. And common man, in his ignorance, will forever buy the snake oil.

Same goes for writing.

One writer I came across recently was telling the world how he had sold close to 250,000 eBooks, how he was making a comfortable living by churning out six novels a year. “Don’t bother honing your craft,” he said. “Readers will buy it regardless.” and “Jump on the wagon and make big bucks like I do.”

His particular USP (unique selling point) is that most readers are ignorant.

And he’s right. And he’s making a living from it.

You mention Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, what a delightfully rubbish book.

Julie, my neighbour, says there’s nothing better than plopping herself in the bath with FSOG and a glass of wine while hubby watches the football downstairs.

But what about the dumb characterisation? I ask. Julie shrugs. “I didn’t notice, just enjoyed the sex.”

And what about the pov slips, the head-hops, the irrelevant scenes like flying in a helicopter and listening to the tower instructions? Julie shrugs… “I just skimmed those bits.”

I can and do mock those writers producing rubbish and making a quick buck but the truth remains; there are millions of Julies around the world and they’ll throw their bucks at anything.

Now, if I took Julie to one side, gave her a few lessons on how to get the best from reading and from writing; if I showed Julie where the real magic is, I’m certain Julie would dump her saucy trilogy and go searching for better.

Fact is, one must `know` the magic before one can `see` the magic, and there will always be the snake oil peddlers producing copies of the latest bestsellers, uninterested in improving their craft, uninterested because they know ignorant reader will throw bucks their way.

So, to answer your question “Does this mean readers will get dumber?”

No. Reader’s reading ability will simply evolve at a slower pace.

As with any human advancement the ignorant will always be prey and the greedy will always be present with their scams and substandard product and, more often than not, using sex to sell them.

What we could do is teach our kids less about religious education, geology, that kind of thing, and more about how to read and write and THINK.

THAT might just get us there quicker.

Wherever there might be.


Leave a comment


  1. But the thing about unpolished writing is that it’s -harder- to read. You lose track. You forget who did what, because the writer forgot to remind you. You find out that a character was sitting down, only when he stands up–and then you have that mental hump to get over. It doesn’t require any training to prefer the easy to the hard.

  2. Huge effort goes into writing a good piece of prose in order that the reading of it is effortless. That’s how it should be. It’s a tired old rant but I find it depressing that the book-buying herds don’t seem to notice or care about bad writing. And yet…perhaps those of us that care about decent writing are the unlucky ones. The undiscerning are swamped with reading options, whereas with print publishers now either cynical or nervous our choice of new books is becoming ever narrower.

  3. Which is why it is so important to polish the story until it shines, surely. For the reader, for the writer and most importantly, for the story itself. It’s like planting a rose cutting and then not nurturing it. If you do, the flowers reward you time and time and time again…

    • But as long as those people who don’t know the difference between a fine specimen and weed exist, Prue, the rose’s story will always suffer.

  4. Wendy

     /  January 8, 2015

    I have struggled to find books that my son will engage in. The books he has to read at school are, well, awful and do absolutely nothing to encourage children. Although he has finally discovered Artemis Fowl… It’s a start.


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