Last week, Alice wrote a post derisive of dead white guys. Are you a dead white guy? Don’t be sad, you probably still have merit. What’s more important than who you are is what you do, after all.
Feel free to replace “dead white guy” with pretty much anything. Be slime in a jar, be an Afghan bird, be a leather chair. But what do you do? That’s what makes Alice’s cash register cling.
Still, today, there’s a lot of trumpeting about who you are. Sometimes Alice tires of that. “John Strong opens with a strong debut!” And, “Another powerful John Strong novel!” And, “John Strong takes a stand against animal abuse!” Author brand and all that. But where’s the actual text? It’s as if you could slap the author name on any old piece of soap to sell it! (Wait…)
What Alice would like, for a while, is for all authors to join the dead white guys in the grave. Be deceased, for a change. It’s peaceful under the soil, where the worms are. Nobody hears, and nobody cares.
Let the text talk, if it has something to say. And if not, let it burn.
Alice believes most writers instinctively know this. The writer is less important than the writing. When Alice writes, she may have a grand plan – and then the text comes along and rips the plan apart like a playful cat. The text lives. The text has a will. And if the writer tries to force her own will over that of the text, pure A-grade shit comes out the other end.
Don’t make a number of yourself in the text. If your ego shows in the novel, get it out! Alice has heard these pieces of advice many times. Still, it’s really difficult sometimes to follow the advice – for two reasons.
One: the grandmother effect. Say Alice writes a text about child abuse. Then her grandmother reads the text. And the next thing she says is: “Oh my God Alice! I never knew you were abused as a child!”
No, grandma. I was not abused as a child. I was… Oh, never mind. (Grandma will want to find your ego in the text regardless of your efforts.)
Two: the ego is insidious. We’re happily writing along, letting the text plot its course. Then, we have a dazzling idea for a character, or a fancy turn of phrase! Only, it doesn’t fit the text. And the text is queen. But somewhere along the line we forget that. And so the clever phrase finds its way in, and the reader reads, and thinks, “So, they just had to show off…”
Lastly, a combination of one and two: It’s just too sweet to hear, “John Strong surprises the reader yet again!”
Unless you’re not John Strong.