Personas vs. Pen Names

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Personas vs. Pen Names
* A New Story
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quotes of the Day

“If I can’t muster up the enthusiasm to care about my topic, I can bet you won’t.” Matt Perryman

“The ideas, philosophies, methods, techniques, tips, tactics, and perspectives I’m digging up will be of interest and value to anyone who writes, creates, or has any need to focus the mind on sustained creative work.” Matt Perryman

I’m personally very much looking forward to the new direction Matt is taking Meaningful Particulars. I urge you to visit https://mattpmn.substack[dot]com/ and look around for a subscribe button.

Personas vs. Pen Names

It’s been awhile since I talked about this, and I’ve had a new thought on it anyway, so here goes:

A pen name (pseudonym) is simply a fake name, a name you use to hide your identity, or at least to put an extra layer or two between the real you and the reader. Mark Twain was a pen name.

Such is the psyche of the reading public that Samuel Clemens was seldom or never harrassed or given much grief for some of the sweeping societal changes he advocated and/or illustrated in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Most of the resulting fallout was directed to Mark Twain.

So that’s one good reason to have a pen name: relative anonymity. I say “relative” anonymity because thanks to the internet and now AI, no level of anonymity is complete these days.

Back in the golden age of pulp fiction, many prominent pulp writers wrote under as many as a dozen or more pen names. That was primarily because they wrote “too fast” (um, that means they put time in the chair because they had an actual work ethic, duh) and turned out far too much work far too quickly for any magazine publisher to take them on.

But those writers had a good grounding in grammar, punctuation and syntax (public schools were not simply money sumps and socialism training grounds), and they trusted themselves and what they knew. They also wrote for money, not because they thought writing fiction was some hoity-toity elevated calling.

Ego and name recognition didn’t enter into it. So to keep from saturating a particular market with sheer volume from one name, they invented other names, and readers were none the wiser. As it should be.

Many writers used a different pen name for each genre they wrote in. So they might have one name for science fiction, another for mystery, another for psychological suspense (today’s ticking-bomb “thriller”), and so on.

Things have changed.

Today, in favor of discoverability, modern pulp writers—and again, by that I mean fiction writers who have an actual work ethic—are advised by professionals like Dean Wesley Smith to publish everything under their own name.

Owing largely to that advice, I myself have published western, SF, thriller, action-adventure, mystery, crime and magic realism short stories and novels and series under my own name.

But at one time, I wrote under my own name as well as one of four personas and I also used those as pen names. Here’s the difference:

The persona is the originator of the actual story itself. Writing as a particular persona enabled me to write in a way that I could never write as myself. It enabled me to put on a different authorial voice.

When I wrote as a persona, I came to the keyboard with different strengths and weaknesses, a different history, level of education and experience, and different benefits and baggage.

By comparison, the pen name is nothing more than the name on the cover.

The persona is an actual personality. Each of my personas has a promo photo and a brief bio, both of which both spring from and inform his or her (yes, I had one female persona) personality. If you read the stories associated with my personas, you will “hear” a different tone, a different voice.

By way of intermission, I thought I would invite you to explore my personas. To so so, click a name below. The link will take you to a photo, a bio, and a short story written by that persona:

Gervasio Arrancado—Gervasio is the only persona whose name I still also use as a pseudonym. A little more on that later.

Eric Stringer—Eric is just Eric. Read about him. You won’t regret it. Probably. Oh, Eric also wrote the somewhat biographical novel Confessions of a Professional Psychopath, although later I changed the cover and slapped my name on it. (Sorry, Eric.)

Nicolas Z Porter—Nick Porter is deceased, as recorded in the short story “Death of a Persona.” We all believe Eric did him in.

MJ François—Because MJ’s stories are mildly erotic (by today’s standards), I didn’t post a story on her bio page. I also almost didn’t mention her, but she’s part of this story, so….

Back when I was writing under those personas all the time, I was also publishing under their names. You can still find stories online individually and in collections by Eric Stringer, Gervasio Arrancado, Nicolas Z Porter, and MJ François.

Gervasio also co-authored South to Mexico, the sixth volume (chronologically) in the original Wes Crowley saga. And to be honest, he wrote 90%+ of Keeper of the Promise though his name doesn’t appear on the cover. That’s about the time I was worrying about putting all “my” stuff (and theirs) under my own name.

As you might have guessed from the tone of this post, that is no longer the case.

Now, if you only turn out a novel every few years or even every six months or if you’re writing in only one genre and/or one series, sure, it’s probably a really good idea to publish everything under your own name for discoverability. In fact, I’ll join Dean in recommending that you do just that.

Note: If I had turned out only two novels per year since I started writing the first one, I would have written 16 novels now instead of 73. But if you’re turning out six or more novels per year or one or more short stories every week and especially if you’re writing in more than one genre, then I say do what feels right.

Despite my current personal situation, I fully expect to get back (soon) to writing well over 100,000 words of publishable fiction per month. I fully expect to turn out at least one novel per month. If at all possible, I’ll get back to writing two per month.

And in light of the fact that my whole routine is undergoing a major overhaul anyway, I’ve decided to bring my personas out of retirement. Maybe not Nick Porter—he was basically me from day one anyway, and besides, he’s dead—but definitely Gervasio and Eric. Those two are pretty much polar opposites. Not allowing them to explore future possibilities would be a serious mistake. I suspect they will help me get back on pace.

Gervasio is the only persona/pen name I’ve never officially shut down. He will write any future magic realism stories (of any length) that we access through my creative subconscious.

I did sort of shut down Eric Stringer. I took over writing the stuff he came up with and that he would have originally written. But as odd as this might sound, I didn’t do as good a job at it as Eric did, and neither did I write as much as Eric did in his heyday and would have if I’d kept him around.

I won’t hide behind my personas. My own name will appear in the front or back matter of every book even if it isn’t on the cover, just as my name appears in my personas’ bios. I won’t have a problem with Gervasio—he doesn’t really care either way—but Eric can be a stickler for such things. And of course I’ll still write under my own name too.

So really, I just wanted to let you know that doing things like this—writing under a pen name or assuming a completely different personality to give yourself “permission” to write what you might not have written otherwise or to write it in a way than you would not have otherwise written it—is perfectly legitimate.

And just to spread a little butter and jelly on your toast, I’m gonna do it first. Again. (grin) I hope some of you will try this. It really is incredible to write under a completely different personality than the one you most often allow others to see. Try it. You’ll like it.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, MJ won’t be back. She didn’t want to write stories anymore when she can better spend her time living her life. She moved to a small island in the Carribean where she occasionally hangs out with Jimmy Buffet and other like-minded souls. Bless her heart.

A New Story

Oh, and another of Eric Stringer’s stories, “The Reverse Lizard Move,” came out yesterday. You can see it (and subscribe, free) at https://stanbroughwrites.substack[dot]com/p/the-reverse-lizard-move. I always thought TRLM was among Eric’s better stories. Enjoy.

Oh, and if you’re in the Bradbury Challenge or want to be, remember to get your story title, word count and genre in to me before the Journal goes live on Monday.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Two Mentor Spots Open” at Probably a good opportunity for some.

See “The Wrath of Goodreads” at It shouldn’t be this way, but that’s just how petty and controlling some people are.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1610

Writing of “Pretend Writer”

Day 1…… 2322 words. Total words to date…… 2322

Writing of “Untitled Stern Talbot Mystery”

Day 1…… 190 words. Total words to date…… 190

Writing of “Marvin McTavish Decides”

Day 1…… 326 words. Total words to date…… 326
Day 2…… 346 words. Total words to date…… 672

Writing of “A Midnight Sketch”

Day 1…… 1341 words. Total words to date…… 1341

Writing of Rose Padilla (WCG10SF5)

Day 1…… 4283 words. Total words to date…… 4283
Day 2…… 3963 words. Total words to date…… 8246
Day 3…… 1463 words. Total words to date…… 9709
Day 4…… 2445 words. Total words to date……12154

Total fiction words for July……… 4525
Total fiction words for 2023………… 143100
Total nonfiction words for July… 16720
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 148270
Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 262817

Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 221
Short story collections…………………………………………. 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.