An advertisement appeared on Twitter for novel writing software. Given that there are said to be only six plots in fiction and that every novel is a variation or combination of one or more of the six, it was presumably not hard to devise a computer package that incorporated all the possible permutations. But wouldn’t a novel produced using software be immediately spotted as ghost written by a machine? Wouldn’t it be the written equivalent of the discarnate voices of SatNav devices and phone blog address systems? Wouldn’t it seem artificial and contrived, an approximation to writing, but not the real thing? Wouldn’t using a software package to write a novel be like attempting to emulate Vincent Van Gogh by using a painting by numbers set? The result might look nice, but not for one moment would anyone take it seriously.
Having spent years and years writing hundreds and hundreds of thousands of words, including two million or so here, perhaps I should take a second look at the package, perhaps it might offer the secret to success that has been elusive for so long. Perhaps it might spot where I was going wrong and provide a springboard to becoming a moderately successful author with limited sales and occasional royalties. On the other hand, perhaps it might be just another means of separating a fool from his money.
Isn’t a computer package to write a novel the latest piece of snake oil salesmanship? Isn’t it in the tradition of the proprietorial medicines? Isn’t it like the books that are claimed to offer readers the secret of how to become a millionaire by working just two hours a day? Isn’t it like the slimming and fitness and health programmes that promise to make you a new person? Isn’t it comparable with the guide to successful investing, and the promise of eternal happiness, and every other product sold by hucksters and hawkers and shysters and charlatans?
And even if it worked, what satisfaction would there be in having your life’s great work authored by an electronic device? How many aspiring writers would buy such a package? Isn’t it part of being a shallow personality that you want to feel that it is all your own work? Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if a critic spotted the participation of a computer?
Not that I would be likely to buy it, anyway, if there is one thing shallower than this writer’s personality, it is his pocket.