With a skill such as singing, dancing or making music, chances are you’ve either got it or you haven’t. This is why television across the world is filled with talent shows, reality TV programmes and competitions which seek to draw out the best talents from the public through a series of challenges and rounds of judging. But is this possible with writing? Is the skill and the talent of a writer something that you’re born with, or does everybody really have the possibility to write and publish a successful novel?
This is exactly what the Italians set out to discover at the end of last year as they launched their brand new television show “Masterpiece” which encourages aspiring authors to partake in literary challenges until one contestant wins a major book deal. A concept which isn’t too far away from that of “The X Factor”, which is, incidentally, produced by the same company as “Masterpiece”.
Famous Italian novelists sit on a panel judging contestants as they read their work aloud, not only judging the content, but also the delivery of the copy and the pitch and general idea for the novel. Some of the challenges that the contestants are put through include a one-page story from the perspective of a specific character, or an insightful paragraph of the writer’s own unpublished novel.
Many things can be said for this form of talent search, and one that applies particularly to the search for a talented novelist is that writing is an extremely intimate skill, and is often something that we, as writers, do not tolerate other people seeing until finished. It is therefore no surprise then, that contestant’s delivery of their work was often stiff, trembling and surrounded by small beats of sweat.
Many people will argue that this type of entry into the world of a published novelist is fake, a phony, and an unrealistic introduction to one of the best careers in the world. True, good writing will come from somebody sitting alone in a room, staring wistfully out of the window and conjuring up weird and wonderful circumstances while absent-mindedly chewing on the end of a biro.
However, others might argue that, particularly in the UK, a television show promoting books or made especially for book lovers is non-existent. We are currently sitting in the middle of our self-publishing revolution, hoping and praying that people buy our books that we spend so long writing, marketing and publishing by ourselves, without ensuring that the world of books remains relevant to the general public. In a world where entertainment is at the forefront of the younger generations’ daily life, it could be argued that as society we desperately need an entertaining format which will enable books to capture the imaginations of a wider audience.
Does fiction writing need an outlet in primetime TV, or is self-publishing the equivalent of marathon running, leaving the sprinter, or the talent show contestant, panting for breath?