Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have seen me tweet quotes from spam comments posted to my blog. If so, you might have noticed I get some very “interesting” comments.
It’s gotten to the point that I look forward to reading spam comments. Even more pathetically, I’m disappointed when they’re the usual lame collection of links.
Most of the spam comments to my blog are worthless. But the remaining percentage is highly entertaining. (Note: All comments quoted here are 100% genuine. Yes, really.)
Some of them are produced by a random word generator, which creates poetic-sounding nonsense:
“So if you make a anguish are not listed, we be aware, you baptize us.”
Others are written by someone in a non-English-speaking country and go through a translator program—for hilarious results:
“soviet with a room to a vladimir – knocked up from the bicuspids”
(I’m not sure what that one was trying to say, but I think it means a vampire made a soviet pregnant by biting them. I could be wrong though. *shrug*)
My point is that even though these are spam comments, I still read them. Why? Partly to make sure that no “real” comments get caught in the spam folder (which has happened), and partly because no matter the source, reading others’ writing can teach us something.
What Writers Can Learn from Spam
- Be Truthful—to a Point:
“Hi, it’s spam bot, please, delete this message”
While we want to be truthful in our writing (letting readers know the genre, story premise, etc., or being vulnerable on our blogs), there is such a thing as being too honest. Story pitches, whether for query letters or back-of-the-book descriptions, are marketing, so pick the biggest drama and stakes and forget all the little details. The acronym TMI for “too much information” is well known for a reason.
- Grammar Matters:
“Most helpful Web site Content I had Ever before Spotted.!.!”
We may have the best story in the world, but that won’t matter if poor sentence construction, misused commas, or an abundance of sentence fragments makes it unreadable. Grammar rules exist to make communication easier, not just to make our jobs HaRdEr.
- Word Choice Is Important:
“Live Copulation Cams”
Yes, “copulation” might show up in the thesaurus next to “sex,” but the subtext behind the words is different. When agents or editors say to beware the thesaurus, they’re pointing out this danger of picking the not-quite-right word. We edit and use beta readers to make sure the reader experiences the story we mean to tell.
- Controversy Gets Attention:
“I will prove that this website has more to offer than merely sex.”
Artists of all types tend to push the envelope. We often want to make people think or see the world from a different perspective. Sometimes, that creates controversy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We shouldn’t be afraid to push ourselves or our characters into difficult situations.
- Play Nice:
“An injury is much sooner forgotten than an insult.”
However, trying to get attention by slamming other writers or our readers isn’t the right way to create controversy. Let our work speak for itself. If our behavior is stealing the focus from our writing, we’re only hurting ourselves.
- Beware False Flattery:
“I am indeed in love with this page”
I’ll admit that comment made me smile. But then I deleted it like all the others. We all start off as nobody wanna-be authors. Somewhere down the line, we start making a name for ourselves. New “friends” will emerge from the woodwork—and want something from us. Real networking isn’t about flattery and favors.
- Keep Secrets and Say “No”:
“how do you have the capacity to ward off all the spammers?”
We don’t want to give away plot secrets, and we don’t have to oblige everyone who asks for a favor. It’s okay to play coy with our writing. And it’s okay to guard our writing time ferociously. (*psst* It’s the Akismet plugin. *smile*)
- We Are People, Not Brands:
“I wish you the best of success being a professional topic”
I’ve frequently talked about branding on this blog, but I’ve always had the attitude that our brand is simply the impression others have of us. Our brand is not something separate from us that we’re building over in that far corner. Our brand is the culmination of everything people see us say and do. If we want others to see us in a certain light, then we have to be that person. Branding isn’t a magic potion to erase our weaknesses and reveal only our strengths.
- Content Is King:
“While this is a low-class hornet’s snuggery”
I have no idea what this means, but someday I want to include the phrase “a low-class hornet’s snuggery” in a story—just because it sounds cool.
Do you get interesting spam? Do you ever read it for the entertainment value? Which of these spam quotes is your favorite? Are there any lessons here you struggle with? Do you have suggestions for how to use “a low-class hornet’s snuggery” in a story?