From left to right: Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), ghostwriter Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), and BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett) in this summer’s newest Netflix original series.
If you do an Internet search for “ghostwriters in popular culture” or “movies about ghostwriters” (or “TV shows,” or “books” about ghostwriters) you’ll find plenty of information on what has been ghostwritten and what hasn’t—but what you won’t find is how ghostwriters have been depicted in popular culture. As ghostwriting becomes more and more common practice, it will begin showing up more in popular culture. We’ve noticed a few prominent depictions of ghostwriters in recent books, movies, and TV shows. Do these depictions of ghostwriters ring true, or do they demonstrate misinformed conceptions of what ghostwriters really do?
Ghostwriters on the Page
One of the longest books of popular, literary fiction of this century so far, Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, features a ghostwriter as a central character. The book, which has been hailed by some as Murakami’s magnum opus, is nearly 1,000 pages of postmodern, science fiction-influenced mystery. The novel alternates between two primary characters, one of whom is a math teacher and aspiring writer. The would-be-writer, Tengo, takes a hush-job rewriting a teenage girl’s novel in order to catapult it to literary fame. The combination of the novel’s (Air Chrysalis) original story and Tengo’s writing skills make the book a critical and popular phenomenon, while also unearthing a conspiracy involving a mysterious cult. Because Tengo’s rewrite of Air Chrysalis was entered in a ‘new writers’ contest with specific rules, Tengo’s ghostwriting was less than legal. This draws Tengo into a dangerous and fantastical conspiracy.
Ghostwriters on the Screen
This past summer Netflix released a new original series, BoJack Horseman. The animated comedy didn’t get great critical reviews, but the cast was star-studded. The first season of Netflix’s lackluster, adult-animation comedy centers on a washed-out sitcom star attempting to reignite his fame by writing a tell-all autobiography. When the star’s writing abilities prove less than reliable, he—BoJack Horseman—hires a ghostwriter. The season chronicles the ghostwriter and BoJack’s relationship, and concludes with the ghostwriter publishing her own book instead of the promised autobiography. The book is a first-person narrative, describing the ghostwriter’s personal experiences trying to write BoJack’s autobiography. Instead of jumpstarting BoJack’s career, the book reveals him for the narcissistic, lonely burn-out that he really is.
What We Think of Ghostwriters
Murakami’s ghostwriter, like the ghostwriter in Roman Polanski’s recent film, is a little shady and gets dragged further and further into a dangerous conspiracy. Netflix’s ghostwriter is barely a professional, breaking all kinds of contracts by publishing a book that not only goes against her client’s wishes, but also credits the ghostwriter as the primary (and only) author. While these examples are far from a scientific sample, they do seem to show some general misinformation about the ghostwriting profession. A good ghostwriter is a perfectly legal, trained professional. A good ghostwriter does not get entangled in conspiracies, nor does he or she break contract in any way. A good ghostwriter will never publish a book that either doesn’t satisfy the client or credits herself or himself as the author.
What Actually Happens When You Hire a Ghostwriter
A ghostwriter is a technician—someone who has mastered the craft of writing—and offers his or her services to ‘build’ the book of the client’s dreams exactly to the client’s specifications. In other words, the client is the true author of the ghostwritten book, while the ghostwriter is merely the technician stringing together the words. If the mysterious or untrustworthy fictional examples of ghostwriting in this article demonstrate anything, it is that there is a lot of misinformation about the ghostwriting profession currently in the public. Like with any rising practice, the culture can react with fear and uncertainty towards what it doesn’t understand—and recent examples in literature, television, and film reflect this attitude. However, even a cursory glance at client testimonials from a respected firm like our own, show that ghostwriting is anything but mysterious.
Hiring a ghostwriter is a great way to be the author of the book you’ve always wanted to write, but have never had the time. It is a great way to get your ideas down on paper, while assuring that the technical aspects of the writing are top-quality and professional. If you have more questions about ghostwriting, visit our FAQ page. If you’re ready to make your dream of writing a book a reality, contact us to hire a ghostwriter—today.