Everyone who has ever put pen to paper (or imagination to some sort of medium in an effort to create a novel) has at one point or another, thought of themselves as the next William Shakespeare. To which I say "Poppycock!" while also admitting that I am personally guilty of such thoughts. *blushes* Allow for me to break down both why our world today is making it more and more impossible for Shakespeares to be reborn.
So, Shakespear is known for a lot of things, iambic pentameter, moving speeches that ring in our hearts for ages, stories we will never forget, but there are three things that people can unanimously say define Shakespeare: a world class sense of humor, moving dramas, and wordsmithing.
Humor is something that requires great whit, something that many authors have in spades. I have a fantastic friend in the UK that has such a brilliantly dry (and very British) sense of humor that I can read some of her stuff and crack up for hours afterwards just remembering her sharp lines. The problem is that this humor, often times, removes us from the overall drama of a deep and interesting story line. Shakespeare was, in his highly gender biased, highly classist Britain, was able to blend these two things in such a way that it appealed to both sexes and all classes. His humor bled into his dramas. His drama bled into his comedies. This is something that is often lost in modern literature.
On another note, Shakespeare didn't have to worry about these stereotypes. From the dull underclass soldiers in Much Ado About Nothing, to the highly staunch and aristocratic McDuff in That Da** Scottish Play Shakespeare writes highly stereotyped, classist characters. And yet, we love and drool over these plays as some of the highest pieces of literature ever written.
So, why can't we write similar stereotypical characters? In modern terms, you'd have to write a plethora of stories that cross
all classes, truly human stories. In our world of multicultural,
international extremely diverse relationships, it's becoming
increasingly difficult to write something that you feel may apply to all
human kind without being called racists. This is particularly true for
The accusations and cat calls of whitewashing characters, calls for more
diversity, are attacking our creative abilities. I write international
characters. But I still believe that my characters would best represent
their areas by not being hyper stylized, or hyper stereotyped! At the
same time, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your character
realistically representing a certain culture and that culture fitting
certain stereotypes. Some tropes and stereotypes are true and accurate
representations, but they do not represent the full depth of a
character. We, as authors, must be careful when walking these stereotype
Having addressed these two things, which are often addressed in modern literature and have indeed been conquered by many modern authors - JK Rowling, Steven King, Stephanie Meyers (particularly with The Host, I don't even count Twilight), and Suzanne Collins are just a few of the most popular modern authors that have managed to entwine humor, drama, and transcendentally human stories.
Now! Wordsmithing! In modern culture, it seems that wordsmithing has been transitioned from authors to music artists like Snoop Dog that think that adding -izzle to the end of a word all of a sudden makes the word cooler. But then when authors go to their editors with a new word that they feel fits the description better than any existing word and the editor tells them that the word doesn't work... this is a disservice to creators everywhere.
In Hard Bank Left one of the chapters is titled "Unwillfully Discontent". It is not a hyphenated/compound word. This is a portamento. My friend and editor offered me some better antonyms for "willful": involuntarily, unwillingly, unconsciously, unfeelingly, unintentional, unknowingly, disregarded, forgotten, neglected, unplanned, chance, indeterminate, methodical, wittingly, impartially, unenthusiastically... The list goes on. But the words didn't sit right with me. They didn't convey precisely what I meant with the word. For me, the meaning of "unwillfully" or "unwillful" means, "against what one intends to do, but not without desire to do so." In other words "unwillfully discontent" = "being discontent out of duty to one's personal code rather than being discontent by what one actually feels" or "being discontent out of sheer stubbornness, but wanting to enjoy one's self." I'm sure that any number of the antonyms would have done well, but I was looking for a perfect match - and seeing as how many if not all of the antonyms have predefined cultural and contextual definitions, they wouldn't do. I had to come up with something more specific.
When editors are involved, and you have Grammar Nazis around every corner all of whom see it as their duty to correct what they think are nonsense words like "acclimatize" *cough* my dad *cough* then the English language is not allowed to evolve. Sure, you have sites like Urban Dictionary that do post popular nonsense words, or words that are so obtusely mispronounced that they are considered a new word. But most true blue editors and hard core Grammar Nazis will use such sites as proof that new words cannot and should not be invented. And yet, there are so many options of what words can and should become. Editors should not put limits on author's creative license because they (the editors) believe that there is a better word. Sometimes the author isn't just pulling crap our of thin air, sometimes they have actually weighed all the options and decided that their word is more tasteful and better fits what scope of language they are going for.
If anyone is interested in the English language, it's origins, and where it's headed, I strongly recommend one of my new favorite books: The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way by Bill Bryson.