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Why I don't think I would be a good author

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by EccentricGentleman, Jan 15, 2014.

  1. My ambition is to be an author but part of me feels I am lacking in what it takes to be an author for the following reasons:

    1. I don't understand Shakespeare.
    All my life William Shakespeare has been portrayed to me as this iconic literary giant but frankly I don't know why. I've studied his plays for my GCSE's and I still have a hard time understanding them. Not just because I have to make a conscious effort to translate almost every sentence but because I simply don't understand why his stories are so monumental. And I fear that if I can't understand the meaning of his plays are my own and then maybe I'm just lowbrow. Someone once told me that the reason Shakespeare's plays are so revered is because they delve into human nature, which brings me to my next problem.

    2. I don't know what human nature is.
    No one ever sat me down and told me what human nature is, what is human nature and what isn't, it was never covered in any of my schools. Also I don't know why human nature (whatever it is) makes for good reading and I don't really want to write about that anyway because…

    3. Literature often portrays humanity at its worst and I don't want to do that.
    Not very long ago I was in the grips of a spiralling depression over man's inhumanity towards man. And part of this belief was because of fiction. When I was doing my GCSE's I was given a list of approved books to write an essay about, they were raw things like An Inspector Calls, Of Mice and Men and Lord of the Flies. There was not one single book that had a happy ending. Also there are countless stories in books, film and television showing humanity as corrupt, racist, biased, violent and incapable of an altruistic existence. My train of thought ran like this: The reason none of the GCSE approved books has a happy ending must be because such a book is not considered serious enough to write an essay about. And the reason people keep writing these dark books is because people keep wanting to read them which must mean that the darker aspects of man must be more believable than his lighter side. What I'm saying is that if I become an author of have to make it so my characters are bigots, have their own agendas or succumbed to some of the horrible fate. In a recent post I made on this website this fear seemed to be confirmed when someone complained that my character was too altruistic.

    What do you think about this?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  2. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

  3. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    Let me tell you a few secrets of the universe...

    Shakespeare is awesome. I LOVE Shakespeare. But he was also crass, lowbrow, and catered to the masses - in other words, he was a best-seller. Don't be intimidated, and don't worry if you have a hard time reading him. Shakespeare is meant to be heard. If it bothers you so much, there are some wonderful modern productions of his plays you can catch on DVD that may help you to make more sense of the Bard.

    Also, Shakespeare, as great a read as he is, is not the only name in the game...

    And no one ever will. This is something you learn as you go along. The only way to learn about human nature is to be a human and live life, to live with others living their lives, and pay attention to the world around you. We writers are great observers. We people watch. We not only read books, we read papers, read faces, listen in on conversations and watch the crowd pass as we take it all in and turn what we see into story fodder. You want to understand human nature? Go looking for it. And if you figure it out, be sure to tell someone, because you'll be in good company with other seekers.

    For starters, if you don't like what you've been reading, if you want to read something else - then write the stories you want to read. If you see a problem in the world, fix it. Be the voice of change. Writers have power.

    Secondly, it doesn't sound like you've been reading very much genre fiction, if that's what you think is all the literary world has to offer. Get thee to a library, young one! "And they lived happily ever after" got its roots in the world of fantasy, after all. If you want to read, and write, more positive stories, then go looking for them.
  4. buyjupiter

    buyjupiter Maester

    The Princess Bride comes to mind. Mercedes Lackey does gentle non-sexy stories that generally end happy. Terry Pratchett has lots of characters that are nice, my favorites being Carrot and Cheery. Oh, and Mickey Zucker Reichert's "Beasts of Barakhai" duology is fairly pleasant.

    Right now, though, the trend in fantasy (and elsewhere) is gritty, violent, dark desires. I'm with you on being about done with gritty fantasy and I'd love to see a resurgence of light, escapist reading.
  5. Sam Evren

    Sam Evren Troubadour

    I think my first fantasy novel was Piers Anthony's On a Pale Horse. I moved on from Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality to David Eddings' Belgariad, starting with Pawn of Prophecy. The '80's were different, but the fantasy was, perhaps, considerably lighter.

    In the world of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, it may not make you the belle of the ball to write about hopeful fantasy, but it's there. It's doable. I attest to doing it myself.

    As A.E. Lowan mentions, I wrote what I wanted to read - not necessarily what the market wanted me to write. Does that make my book less valid? No. Less profitable? Maybe. But you know what? It's my book. It's out there and dashing across the digital lanes of nations!

    Write what you love.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2014
    Jabrosky likes this.
  6. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    If you have the time and money seeing a really good performance of Shakespeare is worth it.
    I've seen Twelfth Night and Taming of the Shrew and didn't get them until I saw and heard them.
    The comedies are usually easier to pallet than the tragedies [but that might just be me].
    I love the films 10 things I hate about you and Kiss me Kate and they are both [loose adaptations of] Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew [and that has one of the best songs ever written Brush up your Shakespeare].
    In case you think I just like moves about dating... The BBC series The Hollow Crown [Richard II, Henry IV Pt1, Henry IV Pt2 and Henry V] was stunning.

    No-one knows about human nature - that's why we keep writing - one of us is bound to find the secret eventually!!!

    I agree I think there is too much doom and gloom in modern culture... so if you want to, bring back the light and hope. I will cheer you on!

    Not exactly canon but I found this while looking around for the BuyS
    Monty Python - Hamlet
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2014
  7. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    Hang in there my friend! The way you feel about Shakespeare is the way I feel about Salinger's "A Catcher in the Rye". I mean, I just don't get why it's so critically acclaimed. To me it's some spoiled rich kid who whines about how much life sucks. My advice is to just do whatever makes you happy.
  8. I hate The Lord of the Flies but I've never heard anyone say a word against it.
    I can't help but feel that if don't darken my story, no one will take it seriously.
  9. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    Are you aware that Shakespeare wrote comedies as well as tragedies?

    And as for darkening your story - do you want to write The Great Novel, or do you wan to tell stories? Personally, I write darker stories, but they also have comedy, joy, love, and laughter - in other words, real life. But I write the stories I want to read - if I was a different person I would write different stories. Are you more concerned with pleasing literary critics, or writing the stories only you can write?

    You want to hear someone say a word against The Lord of the Flies? Do an internet search. Or you can ask me. I hate it. I also hate Steinbeck and Hemingway. But I have my own reasons for my vitriol, because the appreciation of literature is a subjective experience.

    So stop. Just stop. If you want to write, then write. Now get back to work.
    Noma Galway likes this.
  10. Noma Galway

    Noma Galway Archmage

    Then here you go. I hate it too. The plot was good, but the ending was awful. The ending ruined the entire book for me.

    My story started out fairly lighthearted, but it has darkened as I go. This is mainly because of how much I've matured as a person as I went on and the different things I'm addressing. I feel like if I hadn't darkened mine, I wouldn't have taken it seriously, but feel-good fantasy exists, and I love reading those. I just knew that the light version of my story wouldn't be good at all. But it isn't that dark, either. How light is your story?
  11. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    This reminded me of an issue I struggle with in my own writing, namely characterization. Reviewers have told me multiple times than my characters tend to be one-dimensional and that I don't put much thought into their inner psychology (or "get into their heads"). I wonder if this has something to do with my Asperger's Syndrome, which impairs my intuitive understanding of other people. If I can't read and understand other individuals in the real world, how can I create realistic people in my own writing?
  12. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    I, too, am an Aspie. The way I get around it is by not dealing with our characters as "other" people, but by burying myself so deeply in their skins that they themselves are basically doing the writing and I'm just cleaning up the prose. It's a slightly crazy way of writing, I know, but it works extremely well for someone like me who has issues reading social cues. Plus, I may not have an intuitive understanding of other people face to face, but I do have empathy and as a writer I am awesome at playing pretend. I can empathize with people and characters I see and read about, and this is how I learn to mimic emotion and depth in our own characters.
    buyjupiter, Jabrosky and Ireth like this.
  13. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

    That's okay. Agents and editors (probably) won't kick you out if you don't catch a Shakespeare reference, and Amazon doesn't quiz you on Othello before you can upload your book. I agree with CupofJoe that there are enjoyable retellings of Shakespeare that make me think there's a lot more to that guy than I can get from reading the texts. But I wouldn't worry about him. As long as you're reading fiction at all, you're miles ahead of people who attempt to become writers without being readers first.

    I feel like the whole point of literature is understand human nature. It's a pretty broad topic. Millions of books later, we still haven't solved it. ;)

    I try to understand human nature by understanding myself. In the beginning, my assumptions based on how I'd act fell flat, so I learned to incorporate others' reactions into my framework of "how humans act and think." It seems like my fiction and poetry is an exercise in understanding why people do the things they do. It's a fun way of working out problems because the narrative is like a simulation where I control the external factors. Of course, this is probably a quirk in my personality. Most people probably don't look at writing like that.

    Often, but not always. Literature also portrays humanity at its best with characters who suffer misfortune and then overcome their situation, their adversaries, and even themselves. It speaks to empowerment and allows readers to imagine themselves overcoming obstacles, too.

    I think in fantasy there has been a big trend toward gritty, dark stuff, but trends wax and wane. What was popular before will become popular again. I wouldn't sweat it. There will always be readers who prefer darker stories and those who prefer lighter ones. There are readers who can't stand romance and those who can't enjoy a book without it. And so on. Write what you want to read, write it as well as you can, and then find the people who've been looking for a story like yours. It's easier said than done, but it's not impossible.

    I think if you are reasoning yourself out of writing and it's working, you should stop. If it's just pangs of doubt and you can't honestly see yourself not writing, then this too shall pass. The only person who can convince that you have nothing to offer is you.

    And lots of people hate Lord of the Flies. (Tried to google "I hate Lord of the Flies" and the first auto-complete selection was "I hate Lord of the Rings." Interesting.)
  14. Yellow

    Yellow Minstrel

    Not understanding Shakespeare is fine. The stories may be timeless, but the language is not, and it's perfectly understandable that it's harder to understand in the XXI century. Language has evolved (i'm not saying language now is "better" than language then, that would be silly, it's just different). Besides, the only thing you need to be a good writer is a love of both consuming and producing stories, loving or emulating X or Y famous author is secondary. Also, if there is one thing art has taught me (even if i still suck at it), it's that the only one you should compete against is yourself.

    I think human nature isn't meant to be understood, at least not as a concept. I also doubt it's a static thing that we can eventually figure out and resolve, because...well, what would happen to the human experience if we found out a definitive formula for human nature? Everything would be tasteless and flat. I think it is meant to be experienced and lived, and what are stories if not one of many ways to experience human nature? I guess my point is, relax on this one, no author has ever completely revealed the secrets of human nature. If they had, we wouldn't have books, we'd have The Book.

    And for all we don't know about human nature, one thing is certain: It's both light and dark. Pick the side you feel more compelled to explore through writing, and explore on my friend! Sometimes it's heañthy to simply ignore the trends in the market and the whole comercial aspect of books, and simply write what you love because you love it.

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