Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's so easy, anyone can do it.

Write fiction, that is.

As I was looking for a visual to puncutate this post, I ran across this book cover. There's just so much wrong with this, from the warped notion that a complete idiot should be encouraged to write anything, to the blurb with the cheesy, self-promoting pun by Jerry B. Jenkins.

And Christian fiction? Isn't that the New Testament?

Sorry. That was gratuitous. But as Sam Goldwyn said, if you want to send a message, call Western Union.

Today, everyone wants to write a book. And yet, few people know how hard it is to write something really good.

Every celebrity wants to be known as a serious author, and if you have a famous name, then your book doesn't even have to be good. You can just pull something out of your ass. For instance, here's the noted novelist, Ivana Trump:

"Fiction writing is great. You can make up almost anything."

Yes, you can. And it helps if someone writes the book for you. I've ghosted a couple novels and neither of the guys whose names appeared on the covers had a bit of trouble with the second act. But if they did, there are lots of places they could have turned to for advice.

Character quirks. Here's a whole catalog of behaviors you can slap on your character and make him seem almost human. Call me crazy, or quirky, but I believe character quirks grow out of the, you know, character. They're not something you put on your protagonist like a fucking hat.

And to really understand your character, you have to have a strong sense of empathy. Like Mariah Carey, for example:

"Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean, I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff."

That is one quirky broad.
Now here's a novel idea. I can see the pitch now.

"But Charlie," says his agent, "there are a million books out there about writing fiction. Hell, there's even a Complete Idiot's Guide to writing Christian Fiction, for fuck sake. How is your book going to be different? What's your hook?"

Charlie leans in and whispers, "I'm writing this one for profit."

"Brilliant," says the agent. "Why didn't we think of that sooner?"

And all the while, the otherwise smart Matthew Yglesias is telling his readers that everything out there is shit anyway, so why even bother.

"Meanwhile, contemporary fiction is pretty sharply divided between crappy genre fiction and literary fiction that often seems very artsy-fartsy. For a well-crafted, but basically straight-forward story of people doing things and interacting with each other in a moderately realistic way, you need to turn to narrative non-fiction."

And fuck you, too, Matt.

Why do we bother? I mean, it takes me years to write one book, and then there's no guarantee it'll get published, and if it gets published, the chances are slim it'll sell enough copies to make anyone happy. But every night I go home and try to clock another 500 words on this piece, without ever resorting to a book that will tell me how to add quirks to my characters or how to make money.

Christ, I must be a complete idiot.

Hey, that gives me a great idea.


Charlie Stella said...

Davey, Davey, Davey … what did I ever do to deserve such disrespect?

Charlie leans in and whispers, “It comes with a Citibank credit card with a five hundred 'ollar limit. Don’t worry about the details, Mr. Agent, I’ll take care a’that. I can get some plastic. The cards’ll be fugazy so we won’t lose any money. Buy the time the geniuses running Citibank or the Government figure it out, we’ll be on all the bestseller lists. Then we claim it was an honest mistake, like a joke or somethin’. Barney Frank couldn't figure out what was goin on in his basement, whose gonna be so stupid as to think we’d give away five hundred in credit to anybody paying for a twenny-fie dollar book? They’re that stupid, they deserve what they get (a book that’ll put them to sleep and a piece of plastic). Just relax, Mr. Agent. Leave it to me. You just sell the __king thing. We’ll be mystery writer awesome before you know it.”

Charlie Stella said...

In case you think my scam wouldn't work ...

Michael Pelligrino (born 1966) is a US man who fooled US publisher Simon & Schuster to think that he was Michael Gambino, grandson of Mafioso Carlo Gambino.

I'll say ... $500,000 worth of fooling. S&S must be having a blast trying to get that money back.

Like poppa Tommy (my Dad) always used to say ... "It's a good country, America."

The Nephew said...

All you've got to do is sell one book to make me happy. Come on now, get writing, I want my book!

deangc said...

Mariah Carey didn't actually say that.