the debate around ghostwriters – Palatinate
By Caitlin Ball
You may recall in recent years the backlash some YouTubers and social media celebrities turned “authors” have garnered for their alleged use of ghostwriters. More often than not, this criticism (and derision) stems from outrage at inauthenticity – a belief that the piece of literature being sold is a cop-out and exploitation of the gullibility of young followers solely for the purpose of lining the pockets of already rich. people.
The term “ghostwriter”, by its very name, continually forces those involved in its practice to confront connotations of deviousness and dishonesty. It is often assumed that a professional writer is hired under the guise of legally binding nondisclosure contracts and the pride of inflated public figures and forced to do all the real work just so others can take all the credit. .
Although this view is not entirely wrong, the ease with which anyone, regardless of their intellectual abilities, can today claim to be the author of bestselling works means that it is becoming increasingly more dominating.
The reality is that attitudes towards ghostwriting vary widely across a multitude of industries and settings, from academia and literature to medicine, music and even the visual arts. And in many cases, using a ghostwriter solves countless practical problems.
In the music industry, a ghostwriter may be hired to write a new song in the style of the artist in question to meet demand and solve scheduling and timing issues.
Likewise, it may seem slightly ridiculous to demand that an inexperienced celebrity of dubious intellectual ability find the time in his busy schedule to write – single-handedly and on a salable level – his entire life story under form of autobiography. While the author’s familiar personality often serves as the initial hook for the individual browsing the bookstore shelf, if that personality is then barely detectable by excessively poor written expression, then the benefits will not be realized. .
In this case, a ghostwriter would simply facilitate the transition from brain to paper, refining the “author’s” ideas to ensure they make a compelling read.
The argument persists, however, that the overabundant use of a ghostwriter—especially for intensely personal projects such as autobiographies or memoirs—makes the whole thing a pretty much useless exercise.
How much are we sacrificing the sense of honesty and intimacy that we would have had we read an autobiography written entirely in the subject’s own words? Certainly, vocabulary choices and sentence structures are a lot like fingerprints – crucial and invaluable keys to an individual’s identity (as well as their state of mind and experiences). Frustratingly, with works written by ghosts, we can never really be sure how much of the author’s voice was lost or altered in the writing process.
As the figure and culture of “celebrity” grows increasingly sour in this new age of morality and media scrutiny, it no longer seems ridiculous to ask how much longer ghostwriter skills will be desirable in the world. same level as they have been throughout the past. decade.
The recent rise in popularity of works written by so-called “normal” people testifies to this notion – take the immense success of Adam Kay This is going to hurt, for example – a collection of journal entries he made as a junior doctor. In a case like this, readers may feel more betrayed to learn of the presence of a ghostwriter than in the autobiography of a random 25-year-old celebrity because of the level of intimacy the book tells us. promise.
With that in mind, I would say that many of us have become somewhat desensitized to the use of ghostwriters in celebrity literature, and will now always read books of this strain with an underlying awareness of their presence. .
However, I still can’t come to terms with how many other readers are misled into believing they are reading the genuine words of someone they admire when in reality they are reading the words of an imitator.
Of course, the use of ghostwriters in certain contexts is objectively morally wrong, such as in student essays or personal statements. But in forms of literature where there is a greater level of moral obscurity, the debate is hard and complicated.
Ultimately, I think if there’s someone with a really important story to tell who really lacks skill as a scribe, then using a ghostwriter isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I disapprove more of the use of ghost writers where the only motivation is money and the books are written just for fun.
For genres such as novels, autobiographies, and memoirs to retain their integrity, arguably more needs to be done to prevent them from being considered mere commodities. Perhaps not being so secretive about other people’s contributions would help de-stigmatize the use of ghostwriters and further open up the relationship between reader and author.
Image: Thomas Hawk via Unsplash