Friday, January 11, 2013

Write Here, Write Now

By Russel D McLean

I can't promise I'll never do it, but one of my pet hates is writers as characters in fiction.

Writers who writer about writers,

Not only is it a weirdly incestuous feeling, it also often feels wrong.

As with all things, there are exceptions:

Stephen King nails it in The Shining and Misery.
And Michael Chabon in Wonder Boys.

But that's about it. Most people when they write about writers, they talk in this weird way that doesn't sound real. They create writers who are succesful, who appear on talk shows. Or they talk about working hard on drafts and sending them out and getting rejected.

And every time it comes off as either wish fulfillment or oddly disconnected from the emotional reality of writing. I rarely read about a writer in a book and think, "boy, that's me!" or, "Yeah, that's how it is."

Maybe its the same for cops who read crime novels.

Or matchmakers who read romance novels.

But then, maybe its because writers focus on all the wrong things when writing about writing. Maybe because we're too close to it and are trying to find ways to communicate the truth to non readers but it just isn't possible to do it.

Or maybe, just maybe, its because writers writing are dull.

When we lose who we are in the words, or when we write frantically to deadline, we do little that is actually dramatically interesting. Honest to God, there's nothing exciting about me sitting around trying to watch that little movie in my head and translate it into the words that then appear on the screen in front of me. And there's nothing exciting about getting cheque that pays off the credit card bill. Or me eating an entire pack of crisps while swinging in my chair trying to think of a witty last line for some poor schmuck before he gets chibbed.

Somewhere there's a sense that writers should be interestong. And some of us are, that's why there are biographies written about them. But they're interesting beyond their writing.

The act or writing?
Its nothing.

Its uninteresting and tough to communicate as a dramatically intriguing character trait.

So please, let's call time on writers in books.

Unless they're interesting.

Unless they're Paul Sheldon with his missing "e" on that very special typewriter.


Graham Powell said...

I haven't read it in 20 years, but as I recall the character of "Phil Dick" in PKD's VALIS was pretty well done. So, not only was the protag a writer, it was a self-portrait.

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