Monday, December 16, 2013

Invisible Baristas and Invisible Writers

by Bert Carson
An hour ago I pulled into the drive thru lane of one of Starbucks 5,500 coffee houses, just as I do three to five times a week.  As always, I crossed my fingers and inched toward the cold, coffee-brown speaker waiting to take my order.

Before I could bring my vehicle to a full stop a wonderful voice boomed out of the box, "Good morning Good Looking..."

I smiled and uncrossed my fingers - it had worked yet again.  "How do you do that?" I asked.

She laughed.  "I'm not magic.  You're on camera, Sweetie."

Her explanation didn't take away a thing from our conversation.  Of the 151,000 Starbucks employees, Rachel is the only one I know by name, the only one who calls me good looking, the only one who doesn't start our morning talks with, "What can I get started for you?"

That brings me to the point.  Rachel isn't invisible.  She has made a point of not being invisible.  If she weren't at Starbucks I'd still drive through and get my whole milk latte, but because she is, the trip is special.  A hot word being kicked around by writers today, is invisibility.  Most agree that it is a good thing.  I do not think it is a good thing nor do I believe those who maintain that it is have thought about it a lot.

Books are far too personal to be written by invisible entities.  All baristas would be boring if I didn't know Rachel, and, thanks to her, believe that there are others like her waiting behind those faceless drive thru sentinels to speak to me.

What we do not need are authors who come across like a scripted barista, "Hi, welcome to Starbucks.  What can I get started for you?"  I call them writing-by-the-numbers authors.  We need more authors who begin their books like Rachel begins her conversations with me.  Authors like John D. MacDonald, who began Darker Than Amber, with this line - "We were about to give up and call it a night when somebody threw the girl off the bridge."  (see Caleb Pirtle's magnificent blog -  I Never Left John D. MacDonald For Long).

Author's have never been invisible.  In fact, author's are just the opposite.  Authors, if they are worth the price of their book, are the elephant in the room that everyone talks about.  An author is each and every character in the story - he or she is every scene and every moment of the book.  A writer, by the very nature of writing, cannot be invisible.  What a writer must be is REAL, TRUE, and CONSISTENT.

That doesn't mean it always happens that way - in fact, with the ease of publication today, more often than not, writers are anything but real, true and consistent.  But, the fact remains, when a writer who is real, true, and consistent, tells a story, people are drawn to their fire, where they sit in rapt attention as they absorb the tale...

"Thanks, Rachel.  Once again you've made my day..."