Sins of the writer: popular characters

If, as I discussed yesterday, writers can try to destroy your pleasure in reading by teaching you good writing technique, and thus get you to realize how rare it is, how can I not join in?

Here's a simple one.  You have a character who is a performer, an artist, or...a writer.  Since this is your protagonist, or a character you really like, or even, maybe, a thinly disguised version of you, this character is good at what they do (yep, singular "they".  The guys on Language Log say it's okay, and it's just too convenient).  Of course?  There are only two kinds of artists in fiction, failed and brilliant.  Sometimes both.  "Pretty good", "just okay", "occasionally interesting" are seldom used to describe the work of a character we want to be admirable.

Okay, so how do you show that this person's work is more than just pretty good?  That's right, you have them create something, and you have everyone else think it's great, and it becomes incredibly popular overnight.  Simple.

There might be reasons I take this personally, but this isn't the time.

With the possible exception of Emily Dickinson, we all hope to be recognized someday.  But be wary of the writer who takes the easy way out.  If a character's work has quality, it's up to the writer to convey that quality to you.  I tried to do that in Carve the Sky, by telling the story through the perception of a connoisseur.  It proves to be easier to convey the skill of a critic than that of an artist.  Go figure.