Something around four to five years ago, I created a persona named Nicolas Z Porter. Nick and I and three other personas (Gervasio Arrancado, Ray Sevareid, and Eric Stringer) enjoyed a wild ride.
Overall, Porter was the persona under which I wrote stories that felt Hemingway-esque to me. They were more brusque, more on-point, stark shades of grey on a white background with the occasional splash of vivid color. Often the color was red-drying-to-black.
Of the other personas, Arrancado wrote Latin American magic realism, Sevareid wrote science fantasy, and Stringer wrote weird, psychological-suspense stuff. Though Eric’s personality was such than when he wanted to dip his pen in other genres, he did so and none of the others said a word. (grin)
In the name of discovery, I’ve reverted most of the short stories (in collections) and all but one of the novels back to my name. The notable exception is Confessions of a Professional Psychopath, for which I still allow Eric Stringer to take full credit. If you read it, you’ll understand why.
The opening paragraph is “Of the three wingback chairs in my library, only one is upholstered in human skin. There’s a reason for that.”
Anyway, sometime later, in a short story titled, appropriately, “Death of a Persona,” one or more of the other personas killed off Nicolas Z Porter. I’m still not certain who did it, but I have my suspicions.
But that freed up the name and the spirit that was Nick Porter.
And now I’ve decided to change the name of the main protagonist in my current series (Nick Spalding) to Nick Porter. Not sure why, except that I like it. Maybe this is the Great Cosmic Reason I haven’t published the first two novels yet.
And now I’m in no great rush, so I believe I’ll test the “common” wisdom that prepublishing creates bigger sales. Whatever.
I plan to release Nick 1 (Nightfall) on November 1. I’ll release Nick 2 (A New Dawn) on December 1 (subject to change, of course), and then Nick 3, my WIP, which is as yet unnamed, shortly thereafter.
Which leads me to…
Topic: Pseudonyms (Pen Names) and Personas
These, to me at least, are very different things.
A pseudonym (literally, “false name”) is simply a label, a name the writer has chosen to conceal his true identity for whatever reason.
Back in the day, prolific writers wrote under several pen names so they could publish more than one story in a given magazine in a given month. Or so they could publish more than one book with one or more publishers in a given year.
Some still do, although they also usually own up to their pen names today, whereas they didn’t in the past.
Some writers use pen names to conceal how fast they turn out work, bending to the typical (and wrong) notion that work produced “fast” is work produced poorly. (See “On Being a Hack Writer” at http://harveystanbrough.com/pro-writers/on-being-a-hack-writer/.)
Others have more realistic reasons. Maybe the choir director at church makes good money writing erotica. Maybe a local police officer writes novels about a rogue crook who’s the protagonist of his own tales. Or maybe a professional writer writes different genres under different pen names.
I used to use a pen name now and then (and still do occasionally) when I didn’t want to lay claim openly to a particular piece of writing. Sometimes it’s simply better to test the waters.
But when I choose to write under a name other than my own, a rare occurrence, I much prefer to write as a particular persona.
The persona, like the well-rounded character, has a personality all his or her own. When I write under a persona, I write with that persona’s personality in play. The authorial voice is different.
For me, there are two distinct stages to using a persona: deciding which persona to use and the actual writing.
Decide which persona to use — Choosing a particular persona fills me with that persona’s personality. Hence the “mood” of the “author” is rooted in the story, which then grows as an extension of that mood.
Maybe the persona is quieter and more timid than I am, or maybe he’s louder and more brash. Maybe he’s bolder, or more reserved. Maybe his language is simpler, more straightforward and blunt. Maybe it’s stretched out, more flowery and poetic.
Maybe the persona has a military mindset and believes Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori (It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country) is not a theorum to be argued but a valid philosophy.
Or maybe, like World War I poet and soldier Wilfred Owen, he has seen that philosophy tested personally and has decided that, for him, it is “the old lie.”
Maybe, even, the persona’s parents were 1960s San Francisco hippies and he finds absolute adherence to abstract ideals preferable to the strain of original thought and-or accepting responsibility for his own actions.
Writing in the persona — Note that the moods and beliefs of the persona also strongly influences the POV character of the story or novel, thereby establishing Point A on the ensuing character arc. (This is true whether you’re writing the story in first- or third-person.)
Having taken on the persona, I’m in the right frame of mind to write a given type of story or novel. The POV character speaks and acts in a different way than he or she would if I were writing the story as myself.
For example, you can’t write a story like Nightfall unless you’re in a pensive, descriptive, well-framed and well-focused state of mind.
You can’t write a story like Confessions of a Professional Psychopath unless you’re in a wild, internally uncontrolled (but externally controlled) frame of mind and willing to let it all hang out.
And you can’t write a story like Keeper of the Promise unless you believe-in and can recognize that point on the horizon where dreams fold into reality and they quietly blend together.
But as I think I wrote earlier, I use personas rarely now, if ever.
So why do I no longer use personas?
The short answer is because I no longer need them. But I’m glad I chose to lean on them for awhile, and I strongly recommend it.
The longer answer is because I finally, finally, learned to slip into the POV character’s mind, to clothe myself with his body and his mindset, and allow him the grace to tell his own story in his own way.
This doesn’t happen overnight. For me, it took two and a half to three years of writing a few thousand words of fiction almost every day. (Some say it takes about a million words of published fiction.)
In the brief biography of the persona Nicolas Z Porter, he is described as
“an adventurer [who] enjoys deep-sea fishing, trout fishing in the back country, and engaging intimately in the revolutionary struggles of other lands.
“He also throws himself wholeheartedly into any other endeavors that might serve to refill the well of experience from which his stories evolve.”
You can read the full bio at http://stonethreadpublishing.com/nicolas-z-porter/.
Now, in Nightfall, A New Dawn, and my as-yet unnamed WIP (and having been deceased for the past couple of years), Nick assumes his own persona as a younger version of himself. And trust me, he has a great deal of fun. (grin)
So give it a shot. If you can’t find a way to put yourself into the right frame of mind to write a particular story or type of story, consider donning a persona.
And have fun!
No fiction writing today. I had hoped to write most of today, but that isn’t gonna happen. No big deal, but another life roll came swooping in yesterday, much of which I hope will be resolved by another doc visit tomorrow.
Talk with you again soon.
See “Total Miss” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/total-miss/.
See John Gilstrap’s “Pesky Deadlines” at https://killzoneblog.com/2018/09/pesky-deadlines.html.
See “Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing” at https://blog.reedsy.com/self-publishing-vs-traditional-publishing-one-right/. (Note: Read this with a shaker of salt nearby. For just one example, he says if you want to get your books into physical bookstores, traditional publishing is better, insinuating that self-published books are not listed in the Ingram catalog and available for bookstore buyers. That isn’t true.)
Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1290 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1290
Writing of Nick 3 (novel, tentative title)
Day 1…… 3422 words. Total words to date…… 3422
Day 2…… 2664 words. Total words to date…… 6086
Day 3…… 3190 words. Total words to date…… 9276
Day 4…… 1090 words. Total words to date…… 10366
Day 5…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX
Total fiction words for the month……… 10666
Total fiction words for the year………… 325397
Total nonfiction words for the month… 8370
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 126186
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 451333
Calendar Year 2018 Novels to Date………………………… 7
Calenday Year 2018 Novellas to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2018 Short Stories to Date……… 11
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 33
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 6
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………………… 193