I recently had the extreme misfortune of seeing a film in which everything that can go wrong with both writing and directing came together in a glorious, ghastly, gooey mess and intended to write a post on the Charlie St. Cloud Drinking Game.
(For those wondering, the Game includes such rules as:
* Take a drink every time a character calls a friend or family member by name, and
* Drink every time Charlie repeats himself... Repeats himself.)
But that will have to wait. For one thing, it promotes rapid inebriation -- something I really don't condone. For another, while searching for the answer to "How did Burr Steers ever get allowed to direct Zac Efron after the execrable 17 Again?" I ran across an article Andrew Goldman wrote for the September 2010 issue of Details Magazine.
Now, Mr. Goldman is an accomplished writer who has a long and rich publishing history with such powerhouse publications as New York Magazine and ELLE. Details has featured his articles on Matt Damon and Ashton Kutcher. In the world of celebrity interviewing, he's a seasoned White Knight who knows what he's doing.
As I read the article, I was reminded anew that even White Knights must beware of dragons. And when battling the Dragon of Authorial Intrusion even the best of wordslingers can get singed.
The article reads less like an interview for a slick, glossy, well-paying magazine and more like a blog post. Though he's supposed to be writing about cover-boy Efron, the author refers to himself 4 times in the opening paragraph. A few column-inches later, he actually uses the term "retard-o" as a pejorative adjective.
In the opening salvo, it's as if the Writing Knight gets enveloped in the steam of some hot air.
The valiant writer re-enters the fray, but it shortly becomes obvious that this dragon will prevail. How else can one explain this description of Zac contracting poison oak?:
Maybe he also saw, down there on the rocks, the desiccated dreams of all the "real deal" actors who never panned out. All he needed to do was clear one little poison-oak bush directly below. No problem. He leaped. And the second before he hit the freezing water, he felt an ever-so-slight whoosh tickling his back and hands as the bush branches transferred enough of the dread urushiol oil to eventually spread over every part of his body—even his much-squealed-over teen-idol dick.Score one for the dragon. With "desiccated dreams" and "much-squealed-over" body parts, the writer's interest in his subject is completely overshadowed by his wink-wink, nudge-nudge interest in himself.
The battle continues, but it ain't pretty.
The writer squanders every opportunity to use his words to showcase his talent at interviewing. But he never passes up a chance to impose his personal views. It's as if he begrudges Zac for being his assignment and takes pains to illustrate his beliefs that he would make a far more interesting interview. (Perhaps he would. That's not the point.)
Nothing shouts "Authorial Intrusion" louder than a writer proffering an opinion about something with which the writer can not have any personal experience.
It's like single people offering marital advice. Or a childless person waxing eloquent on child-rearing. Or a dog offering tips on choosing kitty litter.
In any case, the very next paragraph contains this gem:
Whether you're the type who watches "High School Musical" and starts feeling so tingly that you think you've finally gotten your period...... and it becomes clear that this particular Writing Knight will not slay his dragon at any time in the immediate future.
Yuck. Just -- yuck.
I'm trying to imagine an incidence when it would be appropriate for a man of a certain age to opine about how an adolescent girl would feel when getting her period. (Though anyone who thinks the adjective "tingly" applies should be marinated in the aforementioned urushiol oil. But I digress...) I'm sure an incidence must exist. I'm equally sure it's not when writing a feature article that ostensibly focuses on a star.
When writing, the devil is in the details. If you're writing about you, then, by all means, state your opinion often and with great vigor. If, however, you are not the featured subject, then prepare to engage the Dragon of Authorial Intrusion. Be willing to fight him for every word.
The battle is yours if the reader falls in love with your subject instead of falling over your prose.
Not everyone can write. That's why we need the Writing Knights. And it's why we mourn when they fall prey to their own dragons.