Discover more from Gerard’s Newsletter
How to Write: Lessons 15-16
Lesson 15: Authenticity, Lesson 16: Theme
Lesson 15: Authenticity
This should be the easiest lesson of all, but it's not. It's prit’near the hardest.
"The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made."
It's easier to fake sincerity than it is to be sincere. Bookshelves, movies and the internet are clogged with crap faking sincerity, faking authenticity. Why? People want it. People crave authenticity…there’s so little of it around. They’ll pay to get it. If you can fake authenticity, your book or movie or internet drivel will sell like hotcakes; you'll get “clicks” and “likes” up the wazoo.
But why fake it when you can give people the real thing? Real sincerity? Real authenticity? People don't believe reality, that's why. They've been so inundated with guys faking authenticity they've been conned into thinking that fake authenticity is real. It's not. It’s writerly bullshit, the tricks of the trade, the things you learn in books about how to write. The closest thing I’ve ever seen to “real authenticity” was in a movie called “Eighth Grade.” It was like the producers picked some random eighth grader out of a crowd and just let her talk. Judge Judy says it’s easier to tell the truth than it is to lie. In Chapter 12, the guy says:
"We talked and talked—primarily about her Negro poet. She was trying to ditch him. He was stalking her. She showed me pictures of the guy. He didn't look full of shit. That's the first thing I notice about a person. Even in pictures you can tell whether somebody's full of shit or not."
Don't be full of shit. Say what you have to say in your own voice as simply and truthfully and as briefly as you can. That Judge Judy, she’s one smart cookie. She knows it’s easier to be authentic than it is to fake authenticity.
Lesson 16: Theme
Don't write about politics, except tangentially. Let the people on TV and in podcasts cover politics. In Chapter 20, one of the lousiest chapters in the book, politics is summed up:
"‘Plus, there's the whole war thing,’ Thulin said, holding his forearms out in front of him.
‘Nobody cares about the war,’ I said.
‘What do you mean, man? Like who?’
‘Like anyone with any brains, that's who.’
‘So, what's all these demonstrations about?’
‘Politics. Anyone who joins anything's an idiot—that's all you need to know. You want to change the world? Be good. Don't fight. Eat your vegetables.’
‘Thank you Krishnamurti,’ Thulin said.”
In the multimedia version, I throw in some audio and video clips of people talking and singing about the politics of the time: JFK, Robert Welch, Mario Savio, Walter Cronkite, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Harry S Truman, Charles A. Lindbergh, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, The Beatles, Pigpen, etc., but politics, as the theme of a book, is as absurd as it is pervasive. Let the people on TV handle politics. It’ll makes some short-term money, sure. People like to see books about politics lying around on coffee tables, I guess, but politics and politicians are the most boring things and people on earth. By the time you write a book about their shenanigans it’s out-of-date…and necessarily stupid shitless. Write books that will last, books that aren’t dependent on current events, books that a person can read and enjoy a hundred years from now. Who were the politicians during Tolstoy’s time? Well, except of the tsar, I guess. But tsars are different from politicians.
Don't write Romance or Sci-Fi or Thrillers or Horror or True Crime or Mysteries, Chick Lit or Lit Fic, etc. In fact, don't write anything that has a genre. There are some exceptions, of course, but for the most part all genres are money-grubbing twaddle, which is how they got to be a genre in the first place. Start your own genre. Call it whatever you want. In the subtitle of an earlier iteration of Ginny Good, I called it “A Novel Biography of The First Hippie.”
“Novel Biography” sounds like a new genre to me. What genre is Tristram Shandy? Or Death on the Installment Plan? Truman Capote called In Cold Blood a “nonfiction novel.” Write nonfiction novels. That’s what I did. Be like me. Tee-hee. And while you’re coming up with a new genre, you might as well come up with a new vehicle, as well. How about an audio book? Or a video book? Or a multimedia video book? Or an annotated multimedia video book? Wouldn’t it be nice to sit in front of TV and watch a nine-hour video book? Or a thirteen-hour multimedia video book? Or a thirty-six-hour annotated multimedia video book? Of course, it would!