I’m something of an expert on procrastination. I recognize the vice in all of its forms. Consider this: a writer dallies on Brainy Quote, or binge-listens to Blue Öyster Cult. The technical term is goofing off on the job. To assuage the accompanying guilt, they insert the fruits of their time-wasting into the work-in-progress. The technical term for this is epigraph.
Two great assumptions have been made. First, that the reader has similar time to waste. Second, that the reader will not have to hire a Navajo code talker to decipher the connection between the quote and the actual story they showed up for.
Call me a lowbrow. You wouldn’t be the first but, come on, Career of Evil isn’t exactly high literature.* Not that I didn’t enjoy the Cormoran Strike novels. Not that I won’t soon Netflix the series. (Considering the success of JKR’s previous body of work, you’d figure Blue Öyster Cult backstage passes would be easier to score.)
Imagine if epigraphs became an industry requirement. Suddenly, publishing’s gatekeepers couldn’t spare a glance for any manuscript naked of chapter preambles. This would force many of us to comb through our procrastination cache for material. Just as a mental exercise, I examined my YouTube history: Dr. Phil. Bad Dachsund. Australians Tasting American Sweets. Lucky for me, we’ve already established that epigraphs don’t have to make sense. At least mine will be entertaining. (Those Australians!)
Why do you take me seriously? I’m the Fool! I don’t mind epigraphs. They are tiny thoughtful gifts from the writer to their reader. A bonus. A long pour. The cherry on top.
To those writers who took the extra time, I thank you.
For those writers in more of a hurry, I’ve located a tool. Here’s the ad for it. A prescription might be required:
*High literature: the lowbrow term for any fiction that isn’t fun.**