I’ve been noticing lately that acknowledgments are popping up in novels. Huh? Aren’t novels fiction? What’s the deal?
Acknowledgments in non-fiction, sure. All the time. Downright required because of all the research that goes into a non-fiction book. Simply can’t pull up a Wikipedia page, ya know; gotta visit dozens of Podunk libraries and repositories and museums and sift through relevant papers and letters with the assistance of Podunk archivists, which is a lot of work, a lot more than sitting in a dark attic in front of a laptop making crap up. An extensive Acknowledgments section is definitely in order, at the very least thanking the Podunkians and, more importantly, listing the many places where critical documents and information are located, should some future reader contend with the non-fiction book’s conclusions and wish to refute. Or do further research. Or avoid re-doing research already completed. Serves quite an important purpose, these acknowledgments. Lends an air of credibility, too.
But in fiction?
It’s puzzling. Fiction writing indulges a conceit, not adds to the body of knowledge like, oh say, providing a minute-by-minute account of the Normandy invasion or explaining the succession of English kings. Even if your novel concerns a sergeant minute-by-minute at Normandy or some lowly peasant musing about the succession of English kings, it’s still fiction, it’s still you, just you, writing a story. A story. Not a report. And, yes, many novels require Podunkian research to get the settings and slang and milieu (NOTE: one of my goals this week is to use ‘milieu’ in a sentence) correct, BUT…understand, it’s still self-referent. A note or two listing source materials or explaining how much you’ve deviated from true history might be in order. In “Notes.” Or an appendix. Not Acknowledgements. We readers know its fiction. You made it up, cupcake, no matter how accurately you’ve rendered the setting.
Yes, yes, all of us authors believe that every word that drips from the end of our pens heightens world peace and brings humanity that much closer to Utopia. It does take an abnormally inflated ego to believe one can sling words together in a pleasing enough manner that other people might enjoy it. Most of us know that (at least, I hope most of us do) and try to maintain at least a facade of humbleness…hold on while I admire myself for my humbleness…and try not to take ourselves more seriously than I ought. Try.
But these ever-lengthening fiction acknowledgement sections are evidence to the contrary. Much gushing, there is, about how great it was that I, Mr. Author, experienced this wondrous thing called Writing a Novel, and I wish to mention the Liddle Peepul who rendered me a service, like my agent and my editor and my publisher and the typesetter, all of whom performed acts of agenting and editing and typesetting unlike ever done in previous instances of novel publication and who are the most brilliant and effective and wonderful people in the entire world and let’s not forget my wife and children who provided So Much Support…TRANSLATION: these people are lucky I bestowed the wonder that is me upon them, allowing them an opportunity to bask in my brilliance. You peasants.
Dudes, knock it off. Write a short, mysterious dedication like you’re supposed to. And shut up.
NOTE: (Hey, see how that works?) While I was writing this screed, I idly wondered if anyone else was irritated by this trend and, wouldn’t you know?