Bursting into Fame

10 April 2011

You read that correctly, fame, not flame. I was happily writing away, but had this awful, gnawing suspicion that what I was writing wasn’t communicating the idea I had set out to talk about.

I think that I got so stuck on the idea of Heather being a narcissist, and that increased narcissism is what’s wrong with the world today, instead of focusing on other things. I actually can’t remember how I got from ‘hired a stalker’ to ‘narcissist’. This has happened to me more times than I care to remember, this whole losing the plot thing. Every other time I’ve decided I want to write a really ‘smart’ book (one that would never have its reputation sullied by being called literary fiction or even worse, popular fiction) I get all these ideas swirling around in my head and forget to focus on the important ones, so I can concentrate on the ones that strike my fancy most at the time. Which, I think, has happened yet again.

In my efforts to portray Heather as a narcissist, I’d also wanted her to stand in for things I don’t like about contemporary society and culture, so that I could then satirize them. And I was having trouble making the connection between narcissism and hiring a stalker, because, as my Mom pointed out to me at dinner the other night, the thing about stalkers is that you don’t see them, there is distance, and also, wouldn’t Heather, who is a narcissist, want to crow and brag about her stalker – since I was hoping to set it up with the stalker as the ultimate celebrity accessory. So. So. I thought about what idea I was most wedded to, and it’s the hiring of a stalker. I think that the hiring of a stalker is another dimension to our desire to be watched, admired, loved, respected, popular etc. Hiring a stalker, for Heather, is about being watched more than being a celebrity, she likes it because it’s something celebs have, but they aren’t the only people being stalked.

So instead of narcissism, Heather’s character is going to focus on her desire to be a celebrity, which is almost the same in my mind. That alone should be a sign: if, after researching the notion of narcissism, what my mind focuses on still is the notion of celebrity and fame, then really, that’s what I want to talk about.

As ever, this requires a little research on my part, and I hit upon some great books. One in particular was really helpful in understanding why someone would want to be famous in the way that Heather does. Being a writerly sort, I don’t quite understand why someone would want to actually be the centre of attention in a room full of people. The book I’ve found most helpful thus far is Illusions of Immortality by David Giles. In it, he discusses the notion of parasocial relationships, such as the ones viewers or fans have with celebrities. And it’s given me some great ideas.

The following quotation is, I hope, going to be really helpful in reconsidering the novel.

If celebrity is essentially a media production, rather than the worthy recognition of greatness, then its purest form must exist through the powers of hype. Hype in its truest sense must have no object of value; … hype implies that a phenomenon can be made to appear valuable, even when its value is non-existent.

Oh, and the title of this post (and possibly the novel) is a translation of the Japanese word suiseinoyouniarawareru, which means, to burst into fame. Which is what I think Heather just might do.