One of the things that bothered us most about 50 Shades of Grey was how impressively poorly she wrote even the most mundane passages. Also, her insistence on using the “historical present” style of “he says,” “she says,” instead of “said”. Messing with the tenses can be fun as a gimmick, but persistent throughout an entire novel? Grating.
I took it upon myself to quickly rewrite a completely random page from the book. The mild set up you need is that the main character, Anastasia, is currently wondering if she should sign the contract Christian has sent her. The contract states the nature of the proposed relationship (he’s the dominant in their sexual relationship, and she’s the sub). She is nervous about it, and is stalling. In the meantime, he has sent her a package, and it has just arrived.
In my version, I’ve kept some of her most annoying tropes (everyone is always shrugging, internal monologues, etc.), just to see if they can work at all. This was a very quick rewrite (I spent about five minutes on it), but I hope it demonstrates that the book didn’t have to be awful. So why was it?
The original version:
And I immediately know who the parcel is from.
“Yes,” I answer cautiously.
“I have a package for you here, but I have to set it up and show you how to use it.”
“Really? At this time?”
“Only following orders, ma’am.” He smiles in a charming but professional he’s-not-taking-my-crap way.
Did he just call me ma’am. Have I aged ten years overnight? If I have, it’s that contract. My mouth puckers in disgust.
“Okay, what is it.”
“It’s a MacBook Pro.”
“Of course it is.” I roll my eyes.
“These aren’t available in the shops yet, ma’am; the very latest from Apple.”
How come that does not surprise me? I sigh heavily.
“Just set it up on the dining table over there.”
I wander into the kitchen to join Kate.
“What is it?” she says inquisitively, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. She’s slept well, too.
“It’s a laptop from Christian.”
“Why’s he sent you a laptop? You know you can use mine.” She frowns.
Not for what he has in mind.
“Yes,” and I slowly reach out to take it.
“Actually, sorry, I have to set it up for you.” He smiles awkwardly.
“Okay, why?” I hope he doesn’t notice the crack in my voice. What is he sending that require’s ‘set up’?
“If I knew, I’d say.” He shrugs.
“What is it?”
“It’s the newest MacBook Pro,” he says, smiling widely this time. “It just came out last month. You’re a lucky girl.”
“You could say that.” I wave him inside, toward the dining room table.
He steps inside and I close the door behind him. He walks off toward the table and takes a box cutter out of his shirt pocket. As he starts cutting open the package, I head into the kitchen.
“What is it?” Kate asks, anxiously sitting up in her chair. She leans over to look into the dining room, studying the box being unpacked.
“A computer, from Christian.”
“But you know you can always use mine,” she says with a small, confused smile.
Not for what he has in mind.