Personas vs. Pseudonyms

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Personas vs. Pseudonyms
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“When you bad mouth your own work, all I hear is ‘I am stupid, I am stupid….'” Dean Wesley Smith

“No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.” Albert Einstein Somehow this feels pertinent to writing fiction

Personas vs. Pseudonyms

I haven’t talked about this for awhile. I was reminded when I saw that a fairly new addition to the Journal family writes under a pseudonym.

I used to write under three main personas and several pseudonyms. As I wrote in my bio, I take a pill for that now and write under my own name, mostly.

In this new golden era of publishing, it’s a good idea to write everything under your own name, or under one primary persona or pseudonym, if you prefer). Of course, if you have a specific reason to have more than one pseudonym, that’s perfectly fine too.

For example, if you’re a pastor who writes stories about devil-worship, it might be a good idea to publish those under a pseudonym. If you’re a police officer who writes stories about your secret life as a serial killer, again, probably a good idea to publish those under a pseudonym. If your real name is Stephen (or even Steven) King or Lee Child or Jack Higgins (you get the idea) it might be a good idea to write under a pseudonym, though if that was me I’d definitely go with a full-blown persona instead.

But say you write mystery and SF and romance and YA. Simply writing in different genres is not necessarily a valid reason to use a pen name. (Well, if erotica is one of your genres, a pen name might be a good idea for that one.) But publishing under different pen names can be labor intensive.

I currently have my publisher website (, my author website (, my readers’ website ( and the Journal ( Even that few comprise a headache.

But at one time I also had a website for each of my major personas (Nick Porter, Eric Stringer, and Gervasio Arrancado) and my major characters and/or series (Wes Crowley, Charles Claymore Task, Blackwell Ops, and a few others).

Those websites were static, meaning they didn’t change much. Each held only a bio, a photo, and links to various books, sales venues and other websites. But they were still a minor PITA to maintain. And maintaining them was necessary.

Today, I don’t write under my personas’ names (mostly) though I still occasionally write under their influence. I also don’t “hide” my personas. I don’t hide the fact that they are me and I am they (Stephen King/Richard Bachman). It makes things much easier.

So what’s the difference between personas and pseudonyms?

A pseudonym or pen name is just that: a fake name, an alias. It’s still you, but with a different moniker. A name is only the sound people make when they want to get your attention, right? Well, a pen name is just an alternate sound.

But for me at least, a persona is very different. I never once wrote a story and then “assigned” it to one of my personas. Each persona had his own set of values, his own way of thinking about the world, and his own approach to fiction. In short, each persona has his own personality.

Most often, I wrote under a particular persona in order to get the right flavor for the kind of story I was writing. Eric Stringer, for example, wrote strainge fiction. And yes, “strainge” is spelled correctly. It’s Eric’s descriptor for a story that is so odd it will strain your senses.

Some of Eric’s stories are weird or just “off” to one degree or another. Some are eerie enough to make you look a little harder and wonder what’s really going on in the basement of that store that’s stood empty for years in your town. And some of them are flat-out frightening or nausea-inducing. Well, or both. But that’s just Eric.

Gervasio Arrancado is a different guy. He’s a proud but humble Mexican man whom some believe is wise. Gervasio writes magic realism in the tradition of Isabel Allende, Gabriél Garcia Márquez and Octavio Páz. Per his bio, Gervasio is “fortunate to have made the acquaintance of Augustus McCrae, Hub and Garth McCann, El Mariachi, Forest Gump, The Bride (Black Mamba), Agents J and K, a very old man with enormous wings, Juan-Carlos Salazár, Maldito, the chupacabra and several other notables.” He believes himself better for it.

I might occasionally still don Eric’s persona to enjoy a strainge story, and I might occasionally put on Gervasio’s personality to enter the realm of magic realism. Unfortunately, I can no longer do that with Nicolas Z Porter. He was killed several years ago. I personally immortalized him in “Death of Persona.”

Frankly, Gervasio and I believe Eric killed him, though we have no direct evidence and can prove nothing. And to be honest, we aren’t that keen to keep digging, given that both of us have been on the receiving end of Eric’s “calm” look. It is not calming. It is chilling. It’s Doctor Josef Mengele, a narrow smile gracing his face, saying, “Next?”

As you might imagine, writing under a particular persona can be rewarding and a ton of fun. Writing under a persona enables me to write with a personality and voice that is not my own, or at least one I don’t have to claim.

Developing and writing under two or more personas is the ultimate in writing into the dark because, of course, each persona has access to different characters. And then too, each persona treats each story differently.

That is, the personality of each persona comes through in the writing. So even if Eric Stringer and Gervasio Arrancado wrote a story about the same cast of characters, the stories would be very different, maybe even in different genres.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, professional writers (especially pulp writers) were too prolific for their magazine and book publishers. For that reason, many prolific professionals wrote and submitted manuscripts under several different pen names. So one writer might well have several stories in one edition of a magazine, but each story would be under a different pen name.

Today, if my novels were published through a single traditional publisher, I would have to write under at least five names other than my own. TradPubs don’t like publishing more than one or two novels per year by one author. Weirdly enough, some of them (and some agents) don’t want to see more than one or two *manuscripts* per year per author!

The BS myth persists even among those folks that those who “write fast” cannot produce quality fiction. And hand in hand with that nonsense, they manage to find a way to make storytelling “work” instead of the sheer joy it can be when it’s done naturally.

Consider, even as they continue to say they want “unique, original voices,” they also continue to encourage writers to revise and rewrite, thereby eradicating the unique, original, authentic voice the writers originally had. Maybe you who are still mired in the myths can figure out the logic in that one. It’s beyond me.

But back to personas and pen names. Even if you write under a name other than your own, if you want to get paid you have to come clean to at least the publisher or, if you indie publish, the platforms through which your work is distributed: D2D, Amazon, and the others. Why? Because your personas and pen names share your social security account number.

So unless you have a very good specific reason for publishing under a pen name, I suggest you publish everything under one name, whether it’s your own or a persona.

So that’s my current spiel on Personas vs. Pseudonyms. For a great deal more on this topic, please see my posts from 2014:

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Interview with Gervasio Arrancado” at This is an interview Smashwords did with my magic realism persona.

See “Interview with Nicolas Z Porter” at This is an interview Smashwords did with my mainstream persona.

See “Another Note on Copyright Valuation” at

See “The State of Social Media (As It Pertains To Writers In Particular)” at Expect “bad” language if you click through.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1420 words

Writing of Wes Crowley: Deputy US Marshal 2 (WCG9SF4)

Day 1…… 3231 words. Total words to date…… 3231
Day 2…… 2990 words. Total words to date…… 6221
Day 3…… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 8026
Day 4…… 2025 words. Total words to date…… 10051

Total fiction words for February……… XXXX
Total fiction words for 2023………… 46873
Total nonfiction words for February… 4420
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 24770
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 71643

Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 1
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 72
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer because of my zen-like non-process. If you want to learn it too, either hang around or download my Journal Archives at, read them, and try WITD for yourself.