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What is ghostwriting?

Activity of the ghostwriter (literally ghost writer; in Italian ‘writer-shadow’ or even ‘negro’): it is the preparation of discursive texts – actual speeches, but also presentations or illustrations to an audience, orally or in writing – for a character in sight who is supposed to be relieved of the burden – of time, of cultural preparation and above all of anxiety – of an elaboration on his own of the intervention. The G. it justifies or draws its motivation from the mechanism of customization, which has always existed, but reached the exasperation with the mass society and the correlative need to identify a representative subject, easily recognizable, stable over time and ‘powerful’ so as to impose itself in the incessant and standardized flow of social communication.

The ghostwriter does not prepare a memo or a simple documentation, but a real text to read, albeit with the warning to the speaker-reader to occasionally raise his eyes from the sheet to turn his eyes to the audience. The speaker who uses the ghostwriter can thus deal with topics of different specialization on the basis of the social convention that he endorses what has been prepared for him and that, in any case, he would have been composed according to his directives. In reality this can happen for the minor characters, while the prominent ones, on which the “personalization” mainly points, do not have time, desire and technical preparation to control the work of g. often not even on the subjects of its competence.

In the case of speakers of great social importance, the g. it is carried out by real teams that include specialists in writing and specialists in different themes and documentation, as well as anecdotes and jokes (humorous stories in line with the theme of the speech). These are sometimes purchased by specialized agencies that also prepare anecdotes related to the local reality on the basis of a documentation of the last moment taken from the news.

It is difficult to reconcile the g. with the power to call.

On the other hand, for characters that are highly representative, of high responsibility and engaged at all times in organizational and management work, it would be impossible to do without the g. He is required to attend, endorse and sponsor the most diverse events.

There is a case, however, in which the g. it is perfectly justified. It is that of a top figure, or representative of a group or organization, who speaks in the name of the community of which he is the head or one of the leaders. In this situation he is rather a spokesman and it is understandable that he expresses a thought or exposes a collective position. But this is also the case in which the speaker has an effective participation in the elaboration of the text. It is, however, appointments that are not circumstantial, but provided for in the statutes, of a solemn nature and on matters not currently connected. This is the case in the Report to the Shareholders’ Meeting of the president of a joint stock company.

There are also fields in which the ghostwriter performs a worthy work.

It is that of famous people and at the same time holders of a relevant life experience, if not unique, who want to be part of an audience with an editorial initiative, but who do not have the necessary writing skills. This work of packaging the literary product of an author in possession of valid contents is similar to g. but it can also fall into the editing category. In some publishers the editing activity is regularly scheduled to improve and make more acceptable to the reader works whose content of thought or information is in itself valid and interesting.

Finally, the case of Alessandro Dumas who used “Negroes” to refine his works, for which he was committed with stringent deadlines with publishers, is recalled in the anecdotes.