Living in the Shadow: Celebrities and Ghost Writers

As a writer, I’ve always found the ghost writing profession to be rather confusing. To me, part of the satisfaction in writing is getting to see your name on the cover once you’re published. I feel like the  recognition for your work is easily sacrificed for the paycheck you receive. But is that ethical for a writer to give in for a paycheck and let someone else take the credit for what your mind has created?

Maybe for some it isn’t a philosophical issue, but it bothers me to no end. This problem bothers me most when speaking of celebrity books/memoirs. Now as much as I would enjoy reading the book written by Michael J. Fox or my favorite comedian, I must accept the fact that it almost always won’y be written by the celebrity. I get the reason behind it, don’t get me wrong. They’re busy with movies and traveling and just don’t have the time to write down all the things they want. So, they hire someone capable and willing to write it for them.

Yes, it is a noble task to write something while trying to sound like someone else.  But the problem lies in the reaction of the public and the credit that goes to the wrong. It’s no secret that many celebrities skip the higher education part of life and not anyone can just write. It takes practice and skills that you can’t receive by having a lot of money and fame. Yet, everyone from reality star Kate Gosselin to retired politicians like Tony Blair believe they are entitled to write as if it is as simple as breathing.

The truth is that no one is entitled to a book just because they are known for something else. There are thousands of people in the world who have stories to tell and struggle to get noticed. Just because someone is popular doesn’t mean their story is exciting and their writing good enough to read. I find it arrogant and despicable for stars like the Kardashians and the cast of Jersey Shore to put books out just because their name will get the idea published. Besides the fact that they don’t contribute anything substantial to their own fields, I find it insulting they think it is a piece of cake to do something in mine.

I get that people think their own lives are exciting enough to watch on tv and they get a reality show viewers enjoy. But do people honestly think Snookie, who on camera doesn’t even know what vegetable a pickle is made from, can form concise, clever sentences in a 300 page book. The answer is no. They don’t and yet almost every celebrity author will lie and swear that they wrote the entire book. Authors like Nicole Richie and Hilary Duff will deny the use of a ghost writer until they die because they will never admit that writing just isn’t their thing.

I will admit that there are unusual cases where celebrities sort of admit to the use of a ghostwriter as an aide or guide in the writing process. But these terms are just hiding the truth behind the celebrity’s ego. I don’t care if Hilary Duff came up with the plot and character. Plenty of people have suggested story ideas and changes to my works and I gladly take their suggestions. Are they the ones writing the story? No, so why should they be called authors when I did the writing.

Since there are about 7 basic plots that every story can be derived from, there is no story a celebrity wants to write that hasn’t in some way already been written. So, when they celebrity takes credit for all of the hard work of the ghost writer it pisses me off. Why should they get the credit for doing none of the work. Any human being can come up with ideas for a story, but it is the special mind of a true writer that can form those ideas into a story readers want to read.

There are a few exceptions to this rule as not all celebrities are only good at one creative talent.  I don’t know off hand any celebrity story that has been written by the celebrity, but I know they are out there. Some celebrities are brilliant when it comes to what they’re famous for in addition to writing. Take Sylvester Stallone, who wrote all of the Rocky screen plays. It’s not exactly like writing a novel, but the writing development is there and it is powerful. If they made the screenplays into books, I know tons of people would buy his work. Because of how bulky and buff Stallone looks, he doesn’t appear to have the smarts to write fantastic stories. But looks and fame don’t always carry the negative outlook I just described for most celebrity writers.

He admits to writing them and not many people know he did all of that work. The public and uninformed readers make two mistakes when it comes to celebrity writers. They assume that whatever name is on the front cover wrote it and when their favorite star writes something they blindly believe that star is extra talented and can write too! WRONG! It’s not just something you get up one day and decided you can do. It’s a life long need as important as making sure your heart is beating every day. A writer writes because they need to write the story in their head not to capitalize on fame and make their merchandise list bigger.

In addition, they think that some celebrities who actually have written their own stories could never be capable of doing it. Nine times out of ten, they’re correct. However,the stars who actually deserve the credit like with Stallone go unrecognized.

So there is a dual misconception about celebrities writing books.  The ghost writers, who dutifully sacrifice the credit they deserve for writing stories about these selfish celebrities who take all the glory for an incredibly hard task.  At the same time, some celebrities have the talent  to be famous for one thing and have a drive to become a good writer, too. They live under the scrutiny that they didn’t write their own work. It’s a vicious cycle of acknowledgment for those who do nothing and neglect for those who do all of the work.

I pose this question to you, readers. Should celebrities just stick to what they know and leave the story telling to us? Or should they continue to deceive the public into thinking they can do what takes us years or lives to accomplish?

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/02/fashion/noticed-celebrity-books-and-ghostwriters.html

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