Posts Tagged ‘collca publishing’

“Fifty Shades Lighter”: the difficult follow-up to the surprisingly successful debut

So, first of all, THANK YOU to all the lovely people who bought “Lighter Shades of Grey” – the e-book of the blog-post that went all around the world and got me astonishing amounts of attention, and a book-deal. And especially big thanks to the lovely people who reviewed it so kindly.

Lots of readers have asked if I was going to do the next two books, so I’m really pleased to say that “Fifty Shades Lighter” is now available, for Kindle, Kobo and other e-readers, from all the usual outlets. To help you make up your mind if you’d like to buy or not, I’m giving a free sample of my favourite bits!

But before we get to the free sample, this also seems like a good moment to say that I’ll be donating half my royalties from this book to Women’s Aid. Just so we’re clear, this absolutely doesn’t mean WA are endorsing my book, approve of my book, have read my book, or are even aware of its existence. It just seems like the right thing to do.

Here’s why. In “Fifty Shades Darker”, Ana manages to make over her monster into a hero just by hanging on in there and loving him hard enough. In the real world, thousands of women stay in violent and abusive relationships because they hope that if they hang on in there and love him hard enough, he might change. And every week, two women in Britain die at the hands of their violent partners. WA provide lifesaving advice, support and escape options.

Okay. That’s the serious bit. Now here’s a random sample of fifty entries from “Fifty Shades Lighter”…

1. Ana enters the workplace
[Jack to Ana] “Excellent work, Ana. I think we’re going to make a great team.”
Somehow, I curl my lips upward in a semblance of a smile.

“I’ll be off, if that’s okay with you,” I murmur.

“Of course, it’s five thirty. See you tomorrow.” (p5)

Hi, Ana. Welcome to the workplace! Right, let’s get down to business:

a. When your new boss says something nice and encouraging on your first day, like, “I think we’re going to make a great team”, or “You’ve made a great start”, or even just “We’re pleased to have you on board” – responding with “LET ME OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW” and running for the exit is almost never the correct response.

b. On the plus side, you appear to be working at the only publishing house on the entire planet where the staff keep standard office hours and are not required to take armloads of work home with them. Good work there.

2. Ana contemplates the awfulness of her grief
I walk towards the bus stop with my head down, staring at my feet and contemplating being without my beloved Wanda, my old Beetle…or the Audi.

I shut the door on that thought immediately. No. Don’t think about him. (p5)

Well, Ana, technically you were thinking about cars.

3. Contradictory contradictions
I am numb. I feel nothing but the pain. (p6)

If I talk to Mom, I know I will break even further – and I have nothing left to break. (p7)

And so a pattern develops: wake, work, cry, sleep. Well, try to sleep. I can’t even escape him in my dreams. Gray, burning eyes, his lost look, his hair burnished and bright all haunt me. (p6)

Okay, Ana, just a few points here:

a. If you can feel pain, then you’re not numb.

b. If you have nothing left to break, then you don’t need to worry about further breakages.

c. If you’re dreaming, then you’re quite definitely able to sleep.

d. Although I must say you’re getting some very cool dreamscapes here. Eyeballs on fire, disembodied expressions and floating hair. Very Kubla Khan. Have you been taking opium by any chance?

4. Not necessarily a symptom of heartbreak
Even the jingles in commercials make me shudder. (p6)

Me too, Ana. Me too.

5. Ana looks forward to seeing Christian again
Oh my. I’m going to see Christian… (p11)

This seems like a good moment to share the observation made by Shelby, who dropped by my blog to point out that if you read the words “Oh my” in George Takei’s voice, this book automatically becomes one hundred per cent more entertaining.

6. Tokenism has a new champion
Nervously I walk through the foyer with a smile and a wave to Claire at Reception. I think she and I could become friends. (p12)

Oh yes; Claire! The un-named non-speaking extra who featured in two paragraphs on p378 of “Fifty Shades”, and with whom you’ve exchanged – let me check – yes, that’s definitely right, a total of zero words in the intervening one hundred and forty-four pages!

Yeah, Ana, you and Claire are totally going to be BFFs. After all, she’s black.

7. Christian gets back in the driving seat

“When did you last eat?” he snaps…

Crap. “Hello, Christian. Yes, it’s nice to see you too.”

“I don’t want your smart mouth now. Answer me.” His eyes blaze. (p13)

You know what? I can actually hear the sound of the Fifty Shades Handmaidens wailing that No, you just don’t get it, he’s not a monster, he’s a lovely, damaged, fucked-up man. He’s only angry because he loves her so much and he wants to care for her but he just doesn’t know how to express it…

No. No, he doesn’t. This is not love. A loving man would feel remorse, shame and tenderness. A loving man would not verbally abuse and insult a woman whose forgiveness he should be begging for on his knees.

And a man who deserved to be called a man wouldn’t even think of coming near the woman he beat with a belt except to own his actions, sincerely apologise for them, and then go away and wait to see if she ever wanted to hear from him again.

8. Ana, remind me again what your major was at college and what you do for a living?
The last time we flew to Seattle it was dark, but this evening the view is spectacular, literally out of this world. (p17)

Ana’s Alternative Dictionary:
Literally (adv.)
1. In a literal manner or sense; exactly; actually; “The motorist literally drove over the roundabout”
2. In a metaphorical manner or sense; not exactly; not actually; “The motorist did not literally drive over the roundabout”

9. The shape of things to come
A young woman dressed in black with very short brown hair, bright red lipstick, and large hooped earrings greets up. She glances briefly at me, then much longer than is strictly necessary at Christian, then turns back to me, blinking as she blushes. (p20)

I’m pointing this out because from hereon in, every single woman who lays eyes on Christian is either

a. Speechlessly besotted with his ineffable male beauty
b. A close female relative
c. Gay

10. Let’s not all jump to conclusions here
“I looked for pictures of you with dates on the Internet. There aren’t any. That’s why Kate thought you were gay.” (p22)

In a world where John Travolta can be papped giving another man a lingering kiss on the mouth and still not be officially gay, I’m struggling to see how “has never been photographed in a social situation” automatically makes you gay, rather than, for example, “shy” or “busy” or “not very keen on being photographed”.

11. Christian fails to own his actions
“You have to stop intimidating me if you want that,” I snap.

“You have to learn to communicate and tell me how you feel,” he snaps back, eyes blazing. (p24)

Of course! It’s all Ana’s fault, isn’t it?

I bet you think you hit her because she deserved it too.

12. Ana gives Christian a nickname
[José] is talking to a group of young women. I stalk off towards him and away from Fifty. (p25)

I wonder if Fifty Cent would be interested in playing Christian?

13. In a restaurant, Ana tries expressing an opinion
[Ana to Christian] “And if I don’t like steak?”

He sighs. “Don’t start, Ana.” (p28)

Don’t start what? Having opinions? Wanting to choose your own food? For the love of God, why are you still sitting at the same table as this man?

14. How to read a wine-list
“Would you like to choose the wine?” he asks, raising his eyebrows at me expectantly, arrogance personified. He knows I know nothing about wine. (p29)

See, Ana, that’s the nice thing about ordering wine in a restaurant. Someone else has done all the hard work for you. Rather than requiring you to recall and then accurately name something appropriate from memory, those lovely men and women in charge have compiled a list of nice, bland, middle-of-the-road wines that aren’t too expensive and go with most things on the menu. You just look at the list, decide how much you want to spend, and then pick that one.

If you have a preference – for example you like a particular variety of grape, or you have a huge fondness for the wines of a certain vineyard, or you’ve fallen for the Gallic propaganda machine and believe that the French are the only wine-making nation on earth who truly know what they’re doing – then feel free to express it. But no-one is going to point and laugh because you picked a Rioja when they would have preferred a Merlot.

Well, nobody sane and with a semblance of good manners, anyway. I’ll be the first to admit that definition doesn’t necessarily apply to Christian.

15. While you were sleeping
“You said you’d never leave, yet the going gets tough and you’re out the door.”

“When did I say I’d never leave?”

“In your sleep.” (p31)

I wonder if Christian ever tries this on business colleagues. “No, you definitely said you’d sell me that candle-making factory at a fraction of its actual market value. It was on that plane to Rio…yes, I know you were asleep all the way to Rio, but you said it in your sleep and that totally counts! Okay?”

16. You know that thing that happens where you say a word over and over and over and it starts to lose all semblance of meaning?
[Christian to Ana] “I have a proposition for you.”

“This started with a proposition.”

“A different proposition.”

…He has a proposition? (p33)

The only possible way out of this conversational loop is for the entire restaurant to break out into a gigantic musical number, with all the diners transforming into chorus girls and twirling around with the waiters, and everyone singing:

“He has a proposition,
He has a proposition,
A proposition that could change her l-i-i-i-i-fe…”

17. Good looks get you off the hook for everything
I allow myself a brief moment to examine his profile: straight nose, sculpted full lips, hair falling deliciously over his forehead. This divine man is surely not meant for me. (p33)

I wonder, Ana. What would happen if Christian were to become facially disfigured somehow? Would you still love him just as much as you do now?

18. Future continuity fail
[Christian to Ana] “You are exquisite, honest, warm, strong, witty, beguilingly innocent…”

My mouth goes dry. Holy shit. If that isn’t a declaration of love, I don’t know what is. (p36)

I’m just mentioning this because over the course of this book, Ana will completely forget about this and waste a really quite astonishing amount of time wondering whether Christian does, or does not, love her.

19. Things that do not need explaining
Jack has [an iPad] at the office, so I know how they work. (p40)

E L James, pre-verbal children can figure out how to work iPads. You really don’t need to waste a sentence assuring us that your heroine has been exposed to the right educational experiences to enable her to figure out the mysterious wonders of the capacitive screen.

20. Ana has a new project
…I drift slowly into sleep, marvelling how the world has righted itself in one evening and wondering idly if I should make a playlist for Christian. (p45)

Oh yes please, let’s make a playlist for Christian! Here’s mine:

10. “Bye Bye Badman” by the Stone Roses
9. “Scary Monsters” by David Bowie
8. “Mean Mistreater” by Grand Funk Railroad
7. “Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
6. “The Woman in the Wall” by The Beautiful South
5. “Black Heart” by Stooshe
4. “Me and Mr Jones” by Amy Winehouse
3. “Narcissus” by Alanis Morissette
2. “I Hate Everything About You” by Three Days Grace
1. “You’re Such A Turd” by Big Time Rush

21. Ana meets a ventriloquist
As I head out of the building, I hear my name called…an ashen young woman approaches me cautiously. She looks like a ghost – so pale and strangely blank.

“Miss Anastasia Steele?” she repeats, and her features stay static even though she’s speaking. (p52)

Now all she needs is an agent and a terrifying puppet, and she’s got an entire career lined up.

22. Who does this remind you of?
She stops, staring at me from about three feet away on the sidewalk, and I stare back, immobilised…like me, she has dark hair that starkly contrasts with her fair skin…Her beautiful face is pale, and etched with sorrow. (p52)

Ana, are you completely sure you’re not just staring madly at your own reflection in a shop window?

23. This book needs editing, she pointed out adverbially
Jack shuffles back uncomfortably.

“Jack, this is Christian,” I mumble apologetically…

…”I’m the boss,” Jack replies arrogantly. “Ana did mention an ex-boyfriend.”…

…”Well, no-longer-ex, “Christian replies calmly.

“Please, stay and join us for a drink,” Jack says smoothly. (p55)

So – many – adverbs – text – becoming – too brilliant to mock – must – worship – glorious sentence construction – and never write another word again about how much this book needs editing –

Just in case you’re unable to tell, I’m saying that sarcastically.

24. Oh, well that makes everything okay, then
“…what kind of responsible business executive makes decisions based on who he is currently fucking?”…

…“Firstly, I haven’t fucked you for a while – a long while, it feels – and second, I wanted to get into publishing. SIP is profitable, but it’s on the cusp and it’s going to stagnate – it needs to branch out.” (p58)

Okay, Christian, just a few things here:

a. If your interest in getting into publishing dated from before your interest in getting into Ana, then I would have expected you to mention this fact to her at some point. Possibly during the numerous conversations where you were trying to convince her to come and work for you.

b. If you were really looking to make the best overall business decision, I can’t think of any stupider purchase than a company that is doing really well right now, but which you have good reason to believe is about to start tanking. Why would you want to pay top whack for something that’s almost certainly going to be worth less than you paid for it this time next year?

c. Furthermore, I’m struggling to see how an expertise in ship-building, solar energy and telecommunications (that somewhat eclectic collection of industries you apparently operate in) would in any way qualify you to transform the fortunes of a reasonably successful mid-sized regional publisher.

d. And so, for all these reasons, I’m going to assume you only decided to buy it when you heard Ana was going to work there.

e. Let’s get onto the mechanics of this deal you’ve supposedly just done. If SIP is publicly listed, the chances of you concluding a takeover in the few weeks since Ana received her job offer are basically zero. You wouldn’t even have had time to get round and speak to all the shareholders, let alone get them all in the same room to discuss and agree whether or not they were going to accept your offer.

f. And if SIP is privately owned, the chances of you doing this deal are still basically zero. Any sensible business owner, receiving an offer for the purchase of his business, would at least want to consider the possibility that someone else might be willing to pay even more, and would therefore want a couple of months to think about it.

g. And while we’re at it – since a maximum of five days have elapsed since you last fucked Ana, and you’re plainly within about ten minutes of fucking her again, I don’t think the “We were on a break” defence is going to fly for you here.

25. Not sure this was quite what Baden-Powell had in mind, to be honest
Dragging his shirt over his head, he then reaches down to his discarded jeans, and like a good Boy Scout, produces a foil packet. (p69)

Suddenly, scouting Jamborees are sounding a whole lot more entertaining.

26. I could really have enough of this hey-let’s-repeat-each-other’s-words thang you two have going on
“Come and cook me some food, wench…”

“Wench?” I giggle.

“Wench.” (p71)

You know, this is really starting to piss me off.


Yes. PISS.

See? Not even faintly amusing. Please stop it. Now.

27. This is not the sign of a healthy relationship
“Do you know who she is?”

“Yes.” He runs a hand through his hair…”It’s Leila.”

I swallow. The ex-sub! (p81)

Okay, Ana:

a. If you meet your boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, and realise you look just like a non-crazy version of her, there are a couple of questions you might like to ask yourself. For example: does he love me, the inner person, or is he just slotting me into the woman-shaped hole in his life which can only be filled by girls who conform to my particular physical type? Would he still be interested if, for example, I got a suntan, or went blonde, or shaved my head? And – since very few men are keen on dating women who are demonstrably crazy to start with – what part, if any, did Christian play in sending Leila over the edge?

b. Please stop referring to Leila as “the ex-sub”. It makes her sound like an expired sandwich.

28. Things that are not okay
I lean over and tenderly kiss one of his scars…I kiss another and his eyes open.

“Hi.” I grin at him, guiltily…I run my fingers down his happy trail. He captures my hand, narrows his eyes, then smiles a brilliant Christian-at-ease smile, and I relax. My secret touching stays secret. (p86)

Ana, just to illustrate to you how wrong this is, let’s replace the notion of a touch-taboo with a phobia of spiders:

‘I lean over and tenderly place a massive spider in his navel…I add another spider and his eyes open.

“Hi.” I grin at him guiltily…I quickly whisk the spiders away and put them back in the secret compartment beneath the sheet. He smiles a brilliant Christian-at-ease smile, and I relax. My secret spider-placement stays secret.’

29. How to throw a party
[Ana to Christian] “…there’s your father’s function this evening.”

“Remember, it’s black tie…[it’s at] my parents’ house. They have a tent.” (p90)

What, like this one?

30. Ana has an exceptionally bad hair day
My scalp is trying to leave [the beauty salon]. It’s prickling with apprehension, and my subconscious is screaming at me to follow it. (p94)

This is an especially good idea because, if your scalp succeeds in its escape attempt, the chances of you needing a haircut are remote.

31. Ana the literature student strikes again
Why, oh why, have I fallen for someone who is plain crazy – beautiful, sexy as fuck, richer than Croesus, and crazy with a capital K? (p104)

This is so dumb that I don’t think I kan even be bothered to komment.

32. Ana has the memory of a goldfish
[Christian to Ana] “That’s one of the things I love about you.”

I gaze at him, shocked. Love about me? (p109)

Yep. He loves you, Ana. Like he said on p36. And p41.

33. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
“My mother had a mantra: ‘musical instrument, foreign language, martial art.’” (p114)

Oh, good thinking, Grace. Because the emotional and psychological problems faced by adoptive children – especially those who have come from abusive situations – can totally be overcome by the power of massive parental expectation.

34. An inexplicable tube of bright red lipstick
“I think I’m in need of you. Here.” He hands me a tube of lipstick.

I frown at him, perplexed. It’s harlot red, not my color at all.

“You want me to wear this?” I squeak.

He laughs. “No, Anastasia, not unless you want to…” (p116)

So, what – this is Christian’s lipstick? Does he keep a tube of it around at all times, just in case he accidentally meets and brings home someone who this shade of lipstick would suit?

Or, um –

35. Man, I’m glad I’m not Christian’s housekeeper
The lipstick marks remain on his exquisite body. I note some smears on the duvet cover, though, and wonder briefly what Mrs Jones will make of them. (p123)

[Christian] leans behind me, lifting me again, and removes his condom, dropping it unceremoniously on the floor beside the bed. (p123)

But hey, on the plus side, Ana – at least speculating on the origins and meaning of the lipstick stains will help take her mind off being forced to pick up Christian’s disgusting used condom.

36. Just because it worked for Batman…
“Mr Grey!” one of the photographers calls. Christian nods in acknowledgement…How do they know it’s him? His trademark unruly copper hair, no doubt. (p133)

Oh, my picture in the press again. Leila briefly enters my mind. This is how she found me, posing with Christian. The thought is unsettling, though it’s comforting that I am unrecognisable beneath my mask. (p133)

Ana, I think you’re over-estimating the power of a simple eye-mask to perfectly conceal your identity from the world.

Also, since Leila already knows your name, the place where you work, your relationship with Christian, and Christian’s home address, I’m not quite clear how her seeing a picture of you two in the Seattle Times is going to give her any more information than she already has.

37. “Single” is not a synonym for “gay”
[Mia to Ana] “You must come and meet my friends. None of them can believe that Christian finally has a girlfriend.” (p134)

“Of course, we all thought Christian was gay,” [Lily] says snidely, concealing her rancour with a large, fake smile. (p135)

Although if I’d just got together with a man in his late twenties, and the reaction of absolutely everyone who knew him best was, “Huh. We always thought he played for the other team, actually” – I might have to give some serious consideration to the possibility that they might have a point.

38. Ana and Christian get all frisky
Slowly and surreptitiously, so I don’t realise his game until it’s too late, he eases my hand up his leg and against his erection. I gasp, any my eyes dart in panic around the table, but all eyes are fixed on the stage. Thank heavens for my mask. (p144)

Unless your mask is on Christian’s lap, I’m not sure it’s really contributing much here. A better thought to have at this point might have been, “Thank heavens for the tablecloth.”

39. Christian likes girls who do as they’re told
“Ana, no,” he grunts, trying to still me. But I want him too much, and I grind against him, watching him thrust for thrust.

“Ana, shit,” he hisses… (p154)

Oh, if only she had.

40. A strange compliment
[Carrick to Ana]: “You certainly have had a very positive effect on hi, Anastasia. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so, so…buoyant.” (p163)

“We tested this out by throwing him in the Sound earlier. Before you started dating him he just used to sink like a stone.”

41. Put a lampshade on it
“Are you going to call the police about the car?” I ask as I turn around…

“No. I don’t want the police involved. Leila needs help, not police intervention, and I don’t want them here. We just have to double our efforts to find her.” (p174)

And clearly the best way to find the woman who’s recently bought a gun and has just vandalised your girlfriend’s car, is to not enlist the help of the dedicated and well-trained professionals with legal powers of arrest, but instead get your crack team of security guards to keep checking behind the sofa from time to time.

Of course, if I’d got extensive form for beating up women, I might not be all that keen on having the cops coming around my place, either.

42. Ana and Christian on the subject of Ana’s car
“How could [Leila] have known it was my car?”

He glances anxiously at me and sighs. “She had an Audi A3. I buy one for all of my submissives – it’s one of the safest cars in its class.” (p179)

Especially since you never actually let them drive anywhere.

43. Things that are not surprising to hotel staff
“Do…you need a hand…with your bags, Mr Taylor?” she asks, going scarlet again.

“No, Mrs Taylor and I can manage.”

Mrs Taylor! But I’m not wearing a ring. (p183)

Oh, no! Quick, steal a curtain-ring from somewhere or she’ll have you thrown out on the streets as a scarlet woman!

44. I do not think this means what you think it means
I trail my fingers down his arms, down his lower back to the waistband of his jeans, and push my intrepid, greedy hands inside, urging him on and on – forgetting everything, except us.

“You’re going to unman me, Ana,” he whispers suddenly. (p187)

What I think you mean: “Ana, you are about to bring me to a premature orgasm”

What you actually just said: “Ana, you are about to forcibly remove my penis”

45. Love is in the air
He gazes down at me, his eyes wide and panicked, and all we can hear is the steady stream of water as it flows over us in the shower.

“You love me,” I whisper.

His eyes widen further and his mouth opens. He takes a huge breath, as if winded. He looks tortured – vulnerable.

“Yes,” he whispers. “I do.” (p196)

Yes, Christian. We know. You told her. Several times.

Maybe the problem was that the previous three occasions when you told her, you weren’t looking like a deer that’s about to be run over.

46. Ana the art critic
Gazing at us both in the mirror – his beauty, his nakedness, and me with my covered hair – we look almost biblical, as if from an Old Testament Baroque painting. (p199)

Ah yes; the parable of the Naked Wife-Beater and the Woman With The Towel On Her Head, from the Book of What The Hell Are You On About. I especially enjoyed Rubens’ interpretation.

47. Thoughts on safe cars
[Ana to Christian] “A Saab?”

“Yeah. A 9-3. Come.”

“What is it with you and foreign cars?”

“The Germans and the Swedes make the safest cars in the world, Anastasia.” (p204)

In which case, Christian, you might like to consider Volvo, which is also a Swedish brand and which is generally held to make the safest cars in the world.

48. Ana and Christian take a walk
We stroll arm in arm to the waterfront, where the marina stretches out in front of us.

“So many boats,” I murmur in wonder. (p207)

A marina full of boats! What are the odds?

49. Ew
[The cabin] has a king-sized cabin bed and is all pale blue linen and pale wood…

“This is the master cabin…you’re the first girl in here, apart from family. They don’t count.” (p211)

The mental picture I am forming here horrifies even me.

50. Rewriting history
I let my fingers wander, tracing his erection through the soft denim. He flexes his hips into my palm and closes his eyes briefly, relishing my touch.

“You’re getting so bold, Ana, so brave,” he whispers. (p218)

Christian, she gave you a blow-job the first time she went to bed with you. Since then she’s let you tie her up, tie her down, spank her, actively encouraged you to put silver balls in her vagina and jerked you off at the dinner–table. Touching you through your jeans while you’re alone together with the door shut is honestly not the boldest thing she’s done.

And that’s the end of the sample! If you’d like to read the rest, here’s the link to purchase. I’ll be donating half of my royalties to Women’s Aid.

Thanks for dropping by!

Read Full Post »

Dear lovely readers,

Since I posted my article “Fifty Things That Annoy Me About Fifty Shades Of Grey”, it’s become by far my most popular blog entry. Lots of you have mentioned it in various forums, tweeted about it, shared it on Facebook and generally spread the word. Thank you all so much – you’re all fabulous, and I’m delighted everyone’s enjoyed it so much.

Anyway, I’m thrilled to announce that thanks to your fantastic response, I was commissioned to write a whole e-book on the subject. “Lighter Shades of Grey: a (very) Critical Reader’s Guide to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’” covers the whole of the magnificent folly that is “Fifty Shades of Grey”, chronicling the many, many more things that annoy me about it. If you’d like to find out how many times Ana uses the phrase “Oh my”, how often her lip is bitten, whether Christian Grey is a diagnosable psychopath and exactly how he gets away with a kidnapping, it’s available right now from e-book distributors on both sides of the Atlantic, from prices starting at £1.49 / $2.34.

Thank you again for your support, your tweets, your links and your many, many kind comments.

And if you were just wanting to read the original blog entry that started it all, below is a copy of the original post.

After weeks of dithering, it finally dawned on me that I can’t blog about genre fiction and not face up to the existence of the Genre Fiction hit of the year. On the other hand…well, frankly, I don’t want to face up to the existence of the Genre Fiction hit of the year. It annoys me. I wish it wasn’t there.

So I decided to read it until I’d found fifty things that annoyed me, and then stop. Here’s my list.

1. We meet our heroine.
“I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair – it just won’t behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal…Kate is my roommate, and she has chosen today of all days to succumb to the flu.”

A bad start.

a. In the scheme of things, bad hair is not a problem. Please try to be less self-absorbed.

b. I seriously doubt that Kate got flu just to spite you.

2. Anastasia arrives at Christian Grey’s headquarters and takes the elevator.
I walk into the enormous – and frankly intimidating – glass, steel and white sandstone lobby. Behind the solid sandstone desk, a very attractive, groomed, blonde young woman smiles pleasantly at me…[after taking the lift] I’m in another large lobby – again all glass, steel and white sandstone. I’m confronted by another desk of sandstone and another young blonde woman dressed impeccably in black and white.

a. It is not possible to create the impression of luxurious yet understated opulence simply by over-using the word “sandstone”.

b. Maybe you just got in the lift and forgot to press the button.

3. Anastasia waits outside Christian’s office to start the interview
“To be honest, I prefer my own company, reading a classic British novel, curled up in a chair in the campus library.”

In literary terms, there is no such thing as a “classic British novel”. There are Romantic novels, picaresque novels, High Victorian novels, epistolary novels, Utopian novels, satirical novels, Condition-of-England novels…but not “classic British novels”.

Therefore, merely by the use of the phrase “classic British novel”, you have entirely undermined the impression you were intending to create by the use of the phrase “classic British novel”.

4. Anastasia speculates on what Christian Grey will be like.
“Judging from the building, which is too clinical and modern, I guess Grey is in his forties: fit, tanned and fair-haired to match the rest of the personnel.”

a. A more logical way to estimate his age would be to consider the likely length of time it would take to reach the position of CEO of a multinational conglomerate, make the working assumption that he attended college, then adding the likely length of career to his likely graduation age. There is little or no point trying to estimate people’s ages based on the architectural style of the building they happen to be in at the time.

b. Really successful businesspeople almost never hire people based on the basis of how much said prospective employees resemble them.

5. Further speculation on Christian Grey’s hiring practices.
“Perhaps Mr Grey insists on all his employees being blonde. I’m wondering idly if that’s legal, when the office door opens and a tall, elegantly dressed, attractive African-American man with short dreads exits. I have definitely worn the wrong clothes.”

a. Between 2% and 4% of the world’s population are naturally blonde. Even if this were legal (which we’ll get to shortly), insisting on all your employees being blonde would constitute a ridiculously restrictive limit on your available talent pool, as well as making everyone who came across you question your sanity. Since Christian Grey is apparently very successful and well-regarded, the chances of him imposing such a bizarre requirement for people working for his organisation are small.

b. Please stop speculating if this is legal or not. You have been to college.

c. Your entire theory is based on meeting a grand total of two employees. This is a ridiculously small sample and any conclusions drawn from such an inadequate range are highly likely to be wrong. For example, if I were to judge your entire novel based on the one per cent I’ve read so far, I might accidentally conclude it was written by an idiot.

d. This is the best example of tokenism I have ever seen. You may be eligible for some sort of award.

e. Your statement “I have definitely worn the wrong clothes” implies that briefly sharing physical space with a black man requires some sort of special outfit. Please elaborate.

6. Anastasia enters Christian’s office.
“I push open the door and stumble through, tripping over my own feet, and falling head first into the office.”

a. I am aware that “Fifty Shades” began life as a Twilight fan-fiction. I know that falling over with absolutely no provocation is one of Bella Swan’s most recognisable traits. However, the minute you used the Find / Replace function to convert from Bella Swan to Anastasia Steele, you instantly became free of the constraints of your original genre. Anastasia is not obliged to fall over. You may want to consider this, because…

b. I have been in a lot of meetings in my life, and I have seen a lot of people walk through a lot of doors to get into these meetings. However, I have never, ever, ever seen a grown adult (man or woman) fall over and land face-down on the floor of a meeting-room. And I’m including meetings where half the participants were drunk.

I’m not saying it never happens. I’m just saying it doesn’t sound very plausible, and therefore it sounds dumb.

7. We get to see what Christian Grey looks like
“He’s tall…with unruly dark-copper-coloured hair”

This in itself is not annoying. However, I am flagging it now because it represents the start of a disconcerting love-affair with Robert Pattinson’s Twilight hairstyle that will soon be absolutely doing my head in.

8. Christian Grey’s office
“His office is way too big for just one man”

That would be because his office is also his meeting room, where he holds his meetings, which involve other people coming into the room and being in it.

9. Christian Grey holds forth on the subject of success in business
“Business is all about people, Miss Steele, and I’m very good at judging people. I know how they tick, what makes them flourish, what doesn’t, what inspires them, and how to incentivise them.”

a. Nobody talks like this in real life.

b. Especially since the idiom you are actually looking for is “what makes them tick”.

10. More magnificence from Mr Grey’s Big Book Of Business
“My belief is to achieve success in any scheme one has to make oneself master of that scheme, know it inside and out, know every detail. I work hard, very hard to do that.”

Dude, you are talking about yourself in the third person. Even the Queen can’t do this without sounding weird. She is eighty-six and has never had anyone correct her on it. What’s your excuse?

11. Even more magnificence
“I make decisions based on logic and facts.”

Christ almighty, as opposed to what?

12. This is all from the same unbroken paragraph of direct speech, by the way
“I have a natural gut instinct that can spot and nurture a good solid idea and good people.”

I bet you can also design roller-coasters in under six hours and stare at the sun unblinking.

13. Christian decides it’s time to show Anastasia his human side
“Immense power is acquired by assuring yourself in your secret reveries that you were born to control things.”

a. No, I think it’s probably acquired by a whole lot of hard work.

b. This is really more of a third-date revelation.

14. Bizarre hiring policies
“I employ over forty thousand people, Miss Steele…If I were to decide I was no longer interested in the the telecommunications business and sell up, twenty thousand people would struggle to make their mortgage payments after a month or so.”

Possible explanations for this extraordinary remark:

a. Your entire empire is based on telecommunications, therefore forty thousand telecoms employees. Your business is so lamentably over-staffed that any buyer would be able to instantly lay off at least half your workforce within a month of purchase with absolutely no consequences whatsoever – something which you (despite your apparently ruthless dedication to business success) have completely overlooked. Therefore, you’re an idiot.

b. Telecommunications represents half of your business empire, and is staffed in proportion. If you were to sell it, the buyer would somehow be able to run it at a profit without needing anyone working for them at all – a point which you (despite your apparently ruthless dedication to business success) have completely overlooked. Therefore, you’re an idiot.

c. You’re indulging in a spot of dubious grandstanding to impress Anastasia. Therefore, you’re an idiot.

15. Christian in his spare time
“I’m a very wealthy man, Miss Steele, and I have expensive and absorbing hobbies.”

Soon he’ll be offering to show her his special gold-plated toilet-paper.

16. Question: “You invest in manufacturing. Why, specifically?”
Answer: “I like to build things.”

I laughed so loudly at this that the cat got up and ran out of the room in a panic.

17. More wisdom on the subject of manufacturing
“I like to know how things work: what makes things tick, how to construct and deconstruct. And I have a love of ships. What can I say?”

a. “Investing in manufacturing” is not the same as “making stuff”. Most CEOs are too busy running the company to get deeply involved in understanding the exact construction of everything the company makes. This is why the rest of us have jobs as well as them.

b. “Manufacturing” is not a synonym for “liking ships”.

18. “Are you gay, Mr Grey?”
“I cringe, mortified. Crap. Why didn’t I employ some kind of filter before I read this straight out?”

Hell if I know, Ana. Maybe you’re related to Ron Burgundy?

19. Christian’s PA is astounded by a last-minute change to his schedule
“We’re not finished here, Andrea. Please cancel my next meeting.”

Andrea hesitates, gaping at him. She appears lost.

Later that day, Christian asked for a different sort of biscuit with his coffee, and Andrea keeled over and died.

20. World’s creepiest job offer
“We run an excellent internship program here,” he says quietly. I raise my eyebrows in surprise. Is he offering me a job?

Since he doesn’t know who you are, what you’re good at or even what your major is, I sincerely hope he isn’t. That would be the act of an idiot. And I would so hate to have to think of Christian Grey as an idiot.

21. Anastasia has no self-awareness
“No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why. Is it his looks? His civility? Wealth? Power?”

Yes; finding yourself attracted to a good-looking, age-appropriate billionaire who clearly also fancies you back makes absolutely no sense at all.

22. Anastasia and the Law: Round Two
“As I hit the I-5, I realise I can drive as fast as I want.”

Um, no. No you can’t. You can drive at speeds up to and including the applicable speed limit. Same as always.

23. Sauce for the goose: Kate’s commentary on Anastasia’s love-life
“You, fascinated by a man? That’s a first,” she snorts.

Just out of interest, why does no-one ever ask Anastasia if she’s gay?

24. Obligatory piece of clunky intertextuality (1)
“I work on my essay on Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Damn, but that woman was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong century.”

Yep, she should have been born in our time. These days, we’re totally down with stabbing your lover through the heart because he makes an ill-judged crack about your ex-husband.

25. Things that are not dreams (1)
“That night I dream of dark places, bleak cold white floors, and grey eyes.”

Really? How does that work, then? Are the bleak cold white floors in the dark places? If the places are dark, how can you see the bleak cold whiteness of the bleak cold white floors? Or do you move from one to the other – like, one minute you’re in a dark place, the next minute you’re standing on a bleak cold white floor? And how about the eyes – are they just rolling around loose on the floor, or what?

26. Fundamental misunderstanding of how home-based businesses work
“[My mother] proceeds to tell me about her latest venture into candle-making…I hope she hasn’t mortgaged the house to finance this latest scheme.”

a. Unless she’s actually built a candle-making factory in the back garden, which seems unlikely, I seriously doubt she will need to mortgage the house to pay for her starter-kit.

b. Also, I doubt that any bank would actually sign off on a mortgage where the stated purpose was “Start candle-making business. Get rich. Buy island in sunshine. etc.”

27. Obligatory piece of clunky intertextuality (2)
“Ray is a skilled carpenter and the reason I know the difference between a hawk and a handsaw.”

a. No, the reason you know the difference between a hawk and a handsaw is because they are absolutely nothing alike.

b. Clearly you think so highly of this reference that you feel compelled to make it again later.

c. Being able to quote from someone else’s masterpiece does not imply that you yourself are actually clever.

28. Anastasia the alcoholic
“Standing on our doorstep is my good friend Jose, clutching a bottle of champagne.”

At this point I would just like to flag up that – despite a later claim that she never gets drunk – Anastasia gets through a really quite astonishing quantity of alcohol in this novel.

29. A poor basis for a friendship
“Not only do we share a sense of humor, but we discovered that both Ray and Jose Senior were in the same army unit together.”

I doubt my dad could pick my friends’ dads out of a police line-up. Does this mean we should cancel our friendships and start hanging out with the children of people our parents went to war and traumatically shot foreigners with?

30. She has read too many books, and it has addled her brain
“Perhaps I’ve spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high.”

a. Mr Rochester was rude, sarcastic and frequently cruel. Mr Darcy was rude and socially awkward. Alec D’Urberville was a rapist, and Angel Clare ran for the hills as soon as he found out he wasn’t marrying a virgin. Heathcliff was a psychopath.

Exactly which of your ideals and expectations would you say these men have set far too high?

b. Has anyone ever met anyone who died a virgin and a mad old cat lady solely because they never met anyone who matched up to Mr Darcy?

31. The Mark Of The Sue: Wilful blindness to another’s obvious devotion
“I watch Jose open the bottle of champagne…Jose’s pretty hot, but I think he’s finally getting the message: we’re just friends.”

Yeah, when I was a penniless student I used to take bottles of champagne round to my male friends’ houses for absolutely no reason all the time.

32. Surprise about things that are inherently not surprising (1)
“Saturday at the [DIY] store is a nightmare. We are besieged by do-it-yourselfers wanting to spruce up their homes.”

You are working at a DIY store, and have been for four years. It should not take you by surprise that Saturday is your busiest trading day.

33. Mr Grey has entered the building
“Holy crap. What the hell is he doing here…? I think my mouth has popped open, and I can’t locate my brain or my voice.”

a. Unless you have suffered an injury to your cerebellum, resulting in a disorder of proprioception, you should be perfectly capable of determining whether your mouth is, or is not, open. Please consider consulting your nearest neurologist.

b. Your vocal cords are stretched across the front of your larynx, as always.

c. Your brain is in the jar where I’m presuming you usually keep it.

34. …or something.
“His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel…or something.”

Description 101: if you need to qualify your simile with the phrase “or something”, it probably wasn’t that good of a comparison to start with.

35. Things that sound good until you picture someone actually doing them (1)
“I shake my head to gather my wits.”

While this adequately conveys the notion that the heroine is overcome by the presence of her
leading man, the unintended consequence is to force the reader to picture her in the guise of a large wet dog that has just exited a body of water.

36. Basic anatomy fail (1)
“Why is he in Portland? Why is he here at Clayton’s? And from a very tiny, under-used part of my brain – probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata where my subconscious dwells – comes the thought: He’s here to see you.”

a. Pretty much by definition, your unconscious is just that – unconscious. It is not possible to engage in dialogue with it.

b. Similarly, your Medulla Oblongata takes care of the boring-but-necessary housekeeping stuff like breathing, heartbeat, temperature regulation, etc. As such it is not capable of generating active thought such as “He’s here to see you”.

c. The word “subconscious” has no real scientific meaning and as such, does not belong in the same sentence as “located at the base of my medulla oblongata”.

37. When there are two explanations for someone’s behaviour, and one of them could pose a serious threat to your life and liberty, and the other is lame and doesn’t really fit with the available evidence, always pick the lame one. Because that’s better in a lot of ways.
“He gazes at the selection of cable ties we stock at Clayton’s. What on Earth is he going to do with those?

…”Is there anything else?”

“I’d like some masking tape…no, [I’m] not redecorating,” he says quickly then smirks….”And some rope, I think.”

Yeah, nothing remotely threatening or disturbing here. And I’m sure the guy who came in and bought seventy-five pounds of ammonium nitrate and sixteen detonators was just planning to give his garden a really, really deep feed this season.

38. Another item in Anastasia’s collection of slightly stalky Just-Good-Friends
“Paul hugs me hard, taking me by surprise…”You’re looking well, Ana, really well.” He grins as he examines me at arm’s length. Then he releases me but keeps a possessive arm draped over my shoulder. I shuffle from foot to foot, embarrassed. It’s good to see Paul, but he has always been over-familiar.”

If he is touching you in a way you don’t like, you have the right to say no. Please forget about shuffling from foot to foot in embarrassment and consider kicking him in the nuts with your foot in righteous outrage.

39. Paul gets dazzled
“Mr Grey,” Paul returns his handshake. “Wait up – not the Christian Grey? Of Grey Enterprises Holding?” Paul goes from surly to awestruck in less than a nanosecond.

a. Think back to your college days. How many CEOs of major corporations could you name? Yeah, I thought so.

b. Even allowing for the fact that Paul is studying Business Administration at Princeton, “Christian Grey” isn’t that unusual a name. It’s a pretty big leap from “You have the same name of someone who has absolutely no reason to be in my family’s hardware store” to “You are that actual person”.

c. The name “Grey Enterprises Holdings” is stupid.

40. Things that sound good until you picture someone actually doing them (2)
“Would you like a bag?”

…”Please, Anastasia.” His tongue caresses my name, and my heart once again is frantic.

a. In pronouncing the name “Anastasia”, the tongue stays entirely behind the teeth and is not visible at all. In order to accept the premise that Christian is, indeed, caressing Anastasia’s name with his tongue, I am forced to conclude that he is licking her name-badge.

b. On the other hand, I quite like the idea that this is what he’s doing, so I’m quite tempted to let this one go.

41. Things that sound good until you picture someone actually doing them (3)
“My scalp prickles at the idea that maybe, just maybe, he might like me…I hug myself with quiet glee, rocking from side to side.”

Why not try this one in public and see what happens?

42. Basic anatomy fail (2)
“Ana, you’re the one with the relationship.”

“Relationship?” I squeak at her, my voice rising several octaves. “I barely know the guy.”

The average human voice has a natural span of about an octave and a half. A trained singer can generally manage between two and three. At four octaves, Freddie Mercury’s range was so exceptional that almost no-one can sing his work the way he sang it.

For your voice to rise “several octaves” (i.e. three or more), you would either have to have a natural speaking voice somewhere in the range of James Earl Jones, or be capable of producing a pitch somewhat beyond the range of normal human hearing.

43. Things that are not dreams (2)
“I am restless that night, tossing and turning. Dreaming of smoky grey eyes, coveralls, long legs, long fingers, and dark, dark unexplored places.”

I especially like the introduction of “coveralls” into this bizarre still-life collection. Sort of like a collision between “American Gothic” and an abattoir after dark.

44. Good hair, pants that hang from hips
He’s wearing a white shirt, open at the collar, and grey flannel pants that hang from his hips. His unruly hair is still damp from a shower.

a. I refer you to Item 7. From here on in, Hair References will be coming thick and fast.

b. The other thing Ana really goes for is pants that hang from men’s hips. Mentioned once, this is not annoying. Unfortunately, this is not the last we’ll be seeing of Christian Grey’s well-hung pants.

45. Social mobility fail
[Kate] shakes [Christian’s] hand firmly without batting an eyelid. I remind myself that Kate has been to the best private schools in Washington. Her family has money, and she’s grown up confident and sure of her place in the world. She doesn’t take any crap. I am in awe of her.

Welcome to America; the land of opportunity. FFS.

46. Things that sound good until you picture someone actually doing them (4)
“Christian Grey has asked me to go for coffee with him.”

Her mouth pops open. Speechless Kate! I savour the moment.

a. As an experiment, spend a day telling people mildly surprising things like “I thought I might give up sugar in my tea for a week” or “I have six tattoos” or “I met the Queen once when I was small”. Count the number of times anyone’s mouth pops open. If n > 0, I will humbly retract my objection.

b. Kate has been telling Anastasia for pages and pages and pages that Christian likes her. Therefore, speechless shock is not an appropriate reaction to them going to get coffee.

c. Unless she knows Anastasia is gay, of course.

47. Coffee shops do not only sell coffee
“I am going to have coffee with Christian Grey…and I hate coffee.”

Then you will just have to stand outside the shop like a dog waiting for its owner while he goes in on his own, won’t you.

48. In the coffee-shop, Anastasia comes over all sophisticated
“I’ll have…um – English Breakfast tea, bag out.”

“…Okay, bag out tea. Sugar?”

For a moment, I’m stunned, thinking it’s an endearment, but fortunately my subconscious kicks in with pursed lips. No, stupid – do you take sugar?

“No thanks.” I stare down at my knotted fingers.

a. Since the word “Sugar?” is modified by a high-rising terminal, and you’re in a coffee-shop, this is clearly a contextually-appropriate question rather than an endearment. Interpreting it as anything else makes you look like an idiot.

b. We’ve already covered the impossibility of engaging in meaningful dialogue with your unconscious, so I’ll just refer you back to Item 36.

c. As any mother but yours would undoubtedly tell you, staring down at your knotted fingers when someone asks you a perfectly civilised question makes you look surly and rude.

d. In a post-SATC world, any reference to “tea, bag out” or “bag out tea” is automatically funny.

49. Good hair, pants that hang from hips (2)
“He’s tall, broad-shouldered, and slim, and the way those pants hang from his hips…oh my. Once or twice he runs his long, graceful fingers through his now dry but still disorderly hair. Hmm…I’d like to do that.”

a. There is a limit to the number of times I want or need to be told how well these pants hang from his hips, and we have now exceeded it.

b. While it’s traditional for TwiHarders to venerate Robert Pattinson’s hair, as this book is not officially Not Fan Fiction any more, it’s okay to get rid of this particular trope. In fact, I insist.

50. Idle speculation about things that normal people already know
“He has a coffee which bears a wonderful leaf-pattern imprinted in the milk. How do they do that? I wonder idly.”

Oh come on.

That’s the first fifty things, and they haven’t even kissed yet – never mind got to the recreational floggings. However, I was tragically compelled to finish the entire book, getting more and more annoyed with every page. And then I was commissioned to turn it into an e-book. Which is for sale, right now! If you’d like to buy it, that would be lovely.

And if I have managed to inspire in you a raging appetite for Fifty Shades Snark that cannot wait to be satisfied, you may like to swing by my friend Heidi’s blog and enjoy her musings on the subject.

Laters, baby.*

*Just so we’re clear, I’m quoting “Fifty Shades Of Grey”. Yes, really.

Read Full Post »