The Journal: Personas vs. Pseudonyms

In today’s Journal

* Personas vs. Pseudonyms
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Personas vs. Pseudonyms

As I mentioned yesterday, I thought you might enjoy reading about a few of my pseudonyms. Actually, though, “pseudonyms” is a misnomor. A pseudonym is only a false name, a mask one can hastily put on to conceal one’s “true” identity for whatever reason. (Does anyone ever reveal their true identity? And which one? But that’s a matter for another post.) A pseudonym is a lie, and it doesn’t imbue the writer with any particular skills. It’s only words.

I’ve used a few pseudonyms—one was Raymond L. “Ray” Sevareid, and I forget the other two or three—but there’s nothing interesting to say about any of them. They were only different names, as I said. In the heirarchy of importance of names, pseudonyms exist somewhere far below even secondary and tertiary character names. They simply don’t matter.

What I used was a series of personas. They are all inactive now. (You know, probably.)

A persona is the skin, muscles and sinew I put on when I want to write in a certain tone or about a certain topic. It’s also a whole other personality, with strengths and weaknesses that lend themselves to writing a different story than I might have written as just plain old me.

For example, when I wrote a story as Eric Stringer, putting on his persona enabled me to write much more horrific stuff than Harvey Stanbrough could ever have written.

When I put on the persona of Nick Porter, I wrote as an ex-pat adventurer. I was able to drink, fight and experience outrageous adventures that I might never have experienced otherwise.

And when I put on the persona of Gervasio Arrancado, I was finally able to sense the magic that is draped lightly in the air just beyond the limits of hearing and eyesight all around an otherwise bland everyday life.

As an aside, I’ve often thought about allowing my major characters to write some of their own stories. After all, they’re as fully fleshed-out as any human I’ve ever known, real or fictional, and as any persona.

Wes Crowley could write some great stories under his own author name. Juan-Carlos Salazár, the Keeper of the Tales in the main cantina in Agua Perlado, is certain he could write dozens of stories and novels encompassing his tall tales. After all, he’s entertained the denizens of the main cantina in Agua Perlado for decades.

Almost any of the main characters in the Blackwell Ops series could write their own stories. And Nick Spalding has approached me on more than one occasion wanting to use my fingers as he tells more stories about Europe just before World War I. And it goes on and on. All my characters believe they could be writers. (grin)

Anyway, here are the sometimes tongue-in-cheek bios of four of my personas. I hope you will enjoy them. Remember not to make fun: characters have feelings too. And really, isn’t a persona/pseudonym just another character?

Nicolas Z. Porter (whose writing style I eventually made my own and put under my own name) is an expatriate, having moved in better times to a small place in the coastal hills above the fishing village of Agua Rocosa.

Nick is a rawboned adventurer who enjoys deep-sea fishing, trout fishing in the back country, engaging intimately in the revolutionary struggles of other lands, and any other endeavors that might serve to refill the well of experience from which he draws his stories. He unapologetically takes full responsibility for his own life, but he flatly refuses to accept responsibility for poor choices made by others. He stole his favorite saying from Ray Bradbury: “I love to write. It’s all I do.”

Eric Stringer (the borderline psychotic persona of Harvey Stanbrough) is a miserably failed newspaper reporter whose father was obsessed with one soft spot after another and whose mother didn’t love him enough to care that she didn’t love him enough. She swapped him to a camel jockey she met along the border in southern California for a hit off his crack pipe and a swing on his banana hammock.

Eric was born into poverty and clawed his way up to debauchery and tearing the wings off young maidens. After he served a term in an Illinois state prison for failing to vote multiple times in an election (he lived in Chicago at the time, and the law is the law) he began to write stories about all the strange and unusual things he saw. Some of them actually existed.

An additional note on Eric: When our friend Nick Porter was mysteriously killed in late June, 2015 (see “Death of a Persona” at Amazon), we all suspected Eric, but of course we couldn’t prove anything.

He grew more self-centered and snide as time went on, and one morning he simply didn’t come in to work. The last we heard, Eric had moved to a faraway land where he spends time trapping and pulling the wings off moths, butterflies and fairies and occasionally writes short stories under the pen name Harvey Stanbrough. Quite the jokester, our Eric.

Gervasio Arrancado (the magic-realism writing persona of Harvey Stanbrough) was born in the state of Guerrero in Mexico in a small adobe hovel with a dirt floor and a roof made of ocotillo branches. He was reared in the orphanage at Agua Idelfonso, several kilometers, give or take, from the fictional fishing village of Agua Perlado. He is fortunate to have made the acquaintance of Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call, 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.

Gervasio is a third cousin, twice removed, to the most interesting man in America. He visits regularly with his friend Nick Porter, whom he fondly calls Paco—nobody knows why, but we’re all certain he has his reasons—and with Juan-Carlos Salazár, whom he calls his colaboradór in all things literary. To this day he lives and writes at that place on the horizon where reality just folds into imagination.

Oh, and I almost forgot MJ François. MJ is a writer and poet who pens only erotica. She is fond of the sensual and passionate pleasures and appetites that are imbued in and can be derived from the physical human form.

She is especially in awe of the female form, the primary purpose of which, she says, is to “provide pleasure to all who approach and are found worthy.”

As for me writing as MJ François… well, that was an interesting if very short-lived experiment. I wasn’t at all comfortable in the persona, and after a few stories we decided to go our separate ways. I suspect she might have moved in with Eric.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “Protecting Fictional Characters Under U.S. Copyright Law” at

See “This Founder Created A Social Media Platform For Authors That Aims To Disrupt The Publishing Industry” at Posted in case you want to participate, but also see PG’s take.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1200 words

Writing of WCGN 5: Tentative Title (novel)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for October……… XXXX
Total fiction words for the year………… 623282
Total nonfiction words for October… 9900
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 175860
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 799142

Calendar Year 2021 Novels to Date…………………… 13
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 3
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

4 thoughts on “The Journal: Personas vs. Pseudonyms”

  1. Ha! I love this. The personas, and I assume the writing of them, we’re just plain fun.

    Thanks for the peek inside the Brain!

      • A most enjoyable article, Harvey. I used a pseudonym Vic Rondo a few times in the early years for a similar reason – a different persona.

        • Ron! Great to hear from you. Yes, writing under a persona really does enable a writer to stretch him/herself.

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