5 Issues with Good Omens + 1 Thing I Adored #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Welcome to another Author Toolbox Blog Hop post.

I’m back to talking about TV, with a twist: What I learned from watching/reading Good Omens.

5 issues good omens 1

I didn’t like Good Omens. I’m in the 3% of readers who gave it two stars on Goodreads, and if it weren’t for Aziraphale and Crowley I would’ve DNF’d it. I don’t usually talk about books unless I rate them 3+, but this is an exception because of the questions it raised.

1) Overusing Adverbs:

One piece of writing advice I come across time and again is ‘Don’t use too many adverbs.’ Good Omens is full of them, especially when the children are talking. Adam nearly always has one tacked on after said: Coldly. Severely. Firmly. Bluntly. Gallantly. Cue major confusion.

Too many adverbs leads to lots of ‘telling,’ which we’re also told to avoid. Surely it’s better to show ‘angrily’ with clenched fists, or let the tone of the scene or dialogue speak for itself? I found the amount of adverbs in Good Omens off-putting, but if popular writers are using them often is it a personal choice, or should we follow the advice to avoid them?

2) Errors and Abrupt Transitions:

Some punctuation was missing around the dialogue, I felt commas were overused, and some scene transitions were very abrupt. There was also a scene where ‘marital’ was written instead of ‘martial,’ which changed the context and was jarring because what kid says ‘Marital’?

Good editing is important: No matter what anyone says you can’t catch every error yourself. Editors aren’t perfect, but I expected better from Good Omens as it was reprinted by a top 5 publisher. Beta readers can also help by pointing out abrupt scene transitions and other issues.

3) Too many Supporting Characters:

There were tons of side characters, most of whom were given too much development, like call centre workers and a biker gang, and I was constantly wondering when Aziraphale and Crowley would be back. Some characters felt irrelevant, others I didn’t care about, and there were so many it felt like no one was particularly important.

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Carefully consider which characters need developing, and what details are necessary to the story. Some characters don’t need much backstory or detail, and some may not need to appear at all. TV Good Omens cuts some characters, which improved it as there were less tangents!

4) An Unsatisfying Ending:

I’m picky about endings: I still won’t see How to Train Your Dragon 3, and I found the end of Good Omens anti-climatic. Aziraphale and Crowley’s actions made little difference, and the conclusion felt a bit lacklustre. The more I think about it, the more I think that was probably the point though, it just went over my head and I prefer big battles.

Aim for a satisfying ending for your genre, that resonates with the start of your story, and ask beta readers their opinions. Good Omens seemed like it was racing towards an awesome conclusion, but it left me disappointed. I’m in the minority though, at least on Goodreads! 

5) Sexism and Homophobia:

A couple of homophobic scenes in the book made me cringe. They were removed in the TV show, it is after all an old book, but I feel it’s worth mentioning. Shadwell’s character was toned down for TV too, to make him less sexist. I appreciate that some characters have prejudices, but we should consider if it’s necessary to show them in our stories. 

+1 Thing I Adored:

I finished Good Omens, even though I didn’t like it and skimmed much of the book, because of Aziraphale and Crowley. I’m trash for the ineffable husbands ship. Normally getting into fandom warrants a 5 star rating, but I couldn’t do that with Good Omens because of everything else.

I rate the TV show higher, even though it’s practically identical, because of the extra Crowley and Aziraphale moments. I also loved David Tennant as a demon, the flaming sword, the witch hunts, and Aziraphale’s love of his bookshop.

If you’re like 95% of Goodreads members, or a fan of the authors, you’ll probably love Good Omens. It reinforces a point I’ve made before: Our writing’s not for everyone. I also think it’s a good example of writer’s writing for themselves. I can imagine Pratchett and Gaiman hashing out an adventure with lots of in-jokes mostly to amuse themselves!

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Thanks for Reading!

One of my main issues with Good Omens is that it ignores a lot of advice we’re told to follow as writers about characters, scene transitions, and adverbs. Is it because it’s an older book? Have writing styles and techniques changed that much since 1990, or is everything we’re taught wrong?

Have you seen Good Omens? Read the book? Which did you prefer? Has a popular book ever disappointed you? (I’m beginning to think I should avoid popular stuff: I couldn’t finish The Princess Bride either!)

Chat in the comments!

This post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted by Raimey Gallant. To read more posts from the hop, click here, or on the image below:

ATB

My past posts: Learning to Write for Ourselves
Work experience in Publishing at Penguin Books.
Lessons in Storytelling from TV and Film.

Next week, another short story: I’m practising writing in preparation for year two of university!

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40 comments

    • Oh and for some reason I just cannot enjoy Neil Gaiman. Everyone seems to love his books (his speeches are hilarious and completely awesome) but something about his writing just isn’t there for me. It’s actually kind of mystifying, given the entire premises of Good Omens and Neverwhere suit me so well…

      Liked by 1 person

      • This was my first Gaiman, after hearing a friend rave about him for years. Part of me is curious if his other stuff is similar or not, part of me doesn’t want to bother as I couldn’t get on with the writing in this one.
        I loved the idea of Good Omens, and if it was completely focused on Aziraphale and Crowley’s adventures across the ages I probably would’ve adored it 🙂

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  1. I read it years ago and really enjoyed it. I was a huge Terry Pratchett fan at the time, and I liked Neil Gaiman’s work. These days I love Neil Gaiman’s work more I think. At the time they wrote it, Gaiman wasn’t particularly well-known though he was writing comics such as Sandman.

    Liked by 1 person

        • Yes and no. The ending is a lot different. There’s no big showdown with the witches like there is in the film. I’m quite fond of the book. Originally it was published in four parts with illustrations by Charles Vess which I have as well (a prestige format comic though with text and paintings). The film was okay, but I had some misgivings about it, as you do with all adaptations of a book you’ve read I guess.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I remember quite liking the film at the time, but my partner hated it! Maybe I’ll read the book 🙂
            Exactly right on the adaptations thing. I read Harry Potter first, and although some of the films were good I felt book 6 missed out on a lot of Draco’s scenes. Made me sad cos he’s my favourite!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I watched a couple minutes of the TV show but kind of tuned out. I’m getting the sense that the humor is too British for me (I prefer the US version of The Office to the U.K one for example).
    I kinda sorta know that there’s a popular ship in the show? But I’m currently not in the mood for fanfic, so that’s that I guess (shrug).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m in the population which loved Good Omens. The whole book really is, as you guessed, just Terry and Neil throwing crazy plots at each other to juggle and a mash of their writing styles. Since I adore both it wasn’t as much of a problem for me with the abrupt transitions and endless side characters. That’s very much a Pratchett thing, and I’d read so much of his Discworld novels before Good Omens that I expected it. The darker bits were Neil Gaiman, his personal style is whimsically creepy. And I love a good adverb!

    It gives me so much hope to know that one bookworm’s peeves are another’s favorites. We really all love different things, so maybe a reader will like my writing style someday!

    I’m also total ineffable husbands trash 🙂 Gosh do I love those stinkers. David Tennant made a *perfect* Crowley.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My dad loved Pratchett, but I’ve never read any myself. Colour of Magic is on my list to read because apparently it’s an awesome example of description and bringing worlds to life 🙂

      That’s the thing about writing, we all have different styles. Writing is less about marketing to everyone and more about finding our niche, and I’m slowly learning no one can please everyone!

      I adore a good ship 🙂 David Tennant was so awesome, I felt like I was watching the tenth doctor who in places too 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t read the book or seen the show, but now that I know who the cast is, I’m curious. I like my ly adverbs in moderation. 🙂 Your second point is totally what my post is about this month! I’m re-watching the Veronica Mars series right now, and I can’t believe that a little over a decade ago, people put up with the really offensive stuff, so I get where you’re coming from with your fifth point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I eventually rated the show a 3.5, partly because of the cast, especially David Tennant 🙂 I also don’t mind -ly adverbs if there’s not too many, but in this case I thought they were overdone!
      I saw a post about Veronica Mars recently, on the latest season: I’ve never seen the show but I was curious. I hear Friends hasn’t aged well either. I grew up in the fanfiction corner of the internet where diversity flourished, and sometimes I get so wrapped up in that I’m shocked by how terribly intolerant people can be.

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  5. I enjoyed the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett and Coraline by Neil Gaiman, so it stands to reason that this book should be good. But sometimes too much of a good thing… I couldn’t finish Princess Bride either. And popular books seem to disappoint me on a regular basis. Sigh. (and it is usually because I’m a writer that these books disappoint… I wonder if there’s a correlation 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m the same with popular books, and shows too! My partner’s not a writer, and he’s far less picky (unless there’s a plot hole in which case mega rant incoming!), so I think there’s some truth in that!
      Glad I’m not the only one who couldn’t finish Princess Bride 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I haven’t watched that show or read the book, but you make great points. Especially #4. I’ve watched a few movies where the whole time you’re leading up to something big and it cuts off right before you get that answer or whatever. It’s infuriating, and the worst offender for me was The Grey. In the book world, especially within romance, there are people always trying to ‘change’ the genre by not providing the endings readers expect. It’s not new or edgy, it’s frustrating and if you don’t want to give a HEA or HFN ending with the couple you’ve spent time reading about, call it a love story not a romance.

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  7. Thank you for sharing what bugged you about this story and then explaining why. I agree any one of your points could turn me off from reading on. I always wonder what’s wrong with me when everyone else loves the show, book, or movie and I just don’t get it. Glad there are folks besides me in the same boat. Wishing you a great second year at the university! Looking forward to reading more insights from you.
    JQ Rose

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same, I felt so odd being in the 2% who didn’t love it, and I was pretty hesitant to post an unpopular opinion!
      Thanks 😀 I can’t believe August is nearly over, I’ll be starting classes again before I know it!

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  8. Good advice! I think what you say about changing writing styles over time is really interesting and true – I think a lot of great literature from the past wouldn’t get published today… I wonder how expectations for good writing will keep changing in the future?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks 🙂
      Writing seems to be an ever changing field, and I think you’re right: If someone wrote exactly like Shakespeare nowadays, or even Jane Austen, they’d be unlikely to be published as they are: Even though they’re classics, the way we write nowadays, especially dialogue, is vastly different.
      We have to keep on our toes and always be learning I think. I also think, thanks to television, we’re heading away from large descriptive scenes and into faster paced and easy to read stories 🙂

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  9. Your post reminds me how much I love reading book reviews from writers because there’s more than just content being discussed: I love that you pointed out the overuse of adverbs and the abrupt transitions. I’ve honestly washed my hands of the adverb issue. I don’t tend to use them anyway but I personally don’t think they should be entirely struck off because there has been many a time when I’ve come across an adverb that feels perfectly acceptable to use, even if it is clearly a shortcut. (J.K. Rowling, for example, doesn’t bother showing reactions if she can just shortcut to it with an adverb. And considering how long the books are, I’m not mad about it lol)

    Fantastic list you’ve got here! I personally enjoy Gaiman’s writing style, but not necessarily his storytelling style. Mostly for the reason you mentioned about the ending: he’ll tell a story that feels like it’s rushing to something Big and then… it… just… fizzles. But I appreciate his writing style, so there’s that.

    Thanks so much for sharing! Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks 😀 I can’t seem to switch off my inner editor even when reading. I’m sure I’m not the only one ^^”
      I think I’m okay with adverbs used sparingly, as they can be a good way to move on the plot when it’d bog down the story to describe things in detail, (you’re right, Harry Potter would be so long without them!) but not every sentence xD

      I’ve never read anything purely by Gaiman, but I’m tempted to try to see how his style is without Pratchett’s influence. Endings are a big thing for me, they have to be good, and I can count on one hand the amount I’m satisfied with, but I also think it’s really hard to write them! I think in the case of Good Omens they were aiming for an anti-climatic ending on purpose, almost satirical, but it went over my head xD

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  10. I didn’t watch the show or read the book. I read Gaiman’s American Gods and was so disappointed in the ending that I didn’t bother with that show either.
    I’ve noticed many times that ‘big name’ authors get away with things we’ve learned not to do. Guess you can make your own rules when you get there.

    Susan Says

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re not the only one disappointed in American Gods: Reviewers on Goodreads who disliked Good Omens also mentioned their dislike for it. Probably true, build a big enough fan-base and you can bend the rules a little 🙂

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  11. You couldn’t finish PRINCESS BRIDE? What kind of monster are you?

    Kidding… I feel like a lot of writers tend to be less enthusiastic about pop cult favorites than others. Maybe because we’re trying hard to be unique?

    I’ve got to say the Netflix/Amazon prime petition scandal alone piqued my curiousity; I’ll probably watch or read this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I also couldn’t watch more than 5 minutes of The Breakfast Club xD (So I think you’re right that writers are maybe less enthusiastic about cult favourites, or at least I am!)

      The TV show is worth a watch, I rated it a whole 1.5 stars higher than the book because of the extra scenes, the removal of some cringey scenes and one heart-wrenching scene with Crowley which David Tennant did so well 🙂

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  12. It’s interesting to see two of the biggest spec-fic authors making these kinds of errors with a traditional publisher. You summed it up very eloquently! I can’t help but wonder what happened, though. Perhaps it’s a mark of the time?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m wondering if the original book, published by a different publisher in 1990, was edited at all when Penguin got hold of it and reprinted it. I suspect it wasn’t, partly because of the errors and partly because if it were I thought they’d remove some of the scenes that made me cringe (like they did in the TV show).

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  13. I first read Good Omens years and years ago and I’ve always loved it although I can totally see how it’s not for everyone. And you made some good points about the transitions etc. I didn’t mind the side characters getting more time than they need because that often makes it feel more real to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks 🙂 If Good Omens was about Aziraphale and Crowley’s adventures across the ages I would’ve adored it, but I think I’ve always preferred focus on a few characters because I get to know them better 😀

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