Write the Great American Novel

Watched The Great Gatsby last night. It’s been a good long while since I read the book, so I’ll likely have to do that soon. But it reminded me of a lot of lessons.

There are a lot of youths out there who, while writing, have friends and family encourage them by saying, “So are you going to write the next Great American Novel?” The child invariably scoffs and makes some snide remark about how they’re so much more edgy than Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Hemingway. How what they’re writing is nothing like the Great American Novels. These children have obviously not read the greats.

A man, obsessed with a married woman, creates a financial empire for the sole purpose he believes it will put his queen at his side. In the end, protecting the woman he loves by taking the blame for a wrong she committed, he is murdered. One of the themes? The only way to make sure hope in your dream never dies is to die first. Way to go, kid, you wrote a story about someone falling in love with a vampire. Way edgier.

A man, castrated in the Great War, tries to find purpose in life and in love, however physical and emotional emasculation make it all but impossible for him to create any meaningful relationships. You killed people by popping out someone’s eye. You’ve definitely outdone the greats.

First, your friends and family are trying to support you in the way they know how. I’ve been here. I understood that it was simply the complement my parents were able to give, and I was grateful for it (more or less). Unless it’s a mocking tone, they’re really not trying to make fun of you. They’re hoping at night that you succeed. That your dreams come true. That your book hits the New York best seller list. Don’t be a dick about it.

Next, you’re thumbing your nose at a great source of inspiration with story lines that would be welcome in any fantasy world. Oh no, you kill dragons, vampires and shape shifters are sexy, and everyone dies. That doesn’t make a good novel. That can make something that sells well, because we’re a perverted society begging for necrophilia and bestiality, as I saw one meme put it. But thank all that is good those novels will enter obscurity within my lifetime. While children in thirty years will still talk about Ned Stark, no one’s going to care about Bella and Edward.

Finally, I think we’re ready for a myth. We have a few good ones in the early days, but nothing recent. Nothing like Lord of the Rings. It would seem we’re ready for it. Embrace it. If I could write a fantasy version of the Great American Novel, I’d be thrilled beyond words. Don’t shirk at the possibility of doing the same.

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