Friday, April 6, 2007

Alternate Identities

In writing workshops I’ve often heard people say if they knew their family and friends never read their writing, it would be easier to write. Part of it comes from the fear of disappointment. Another reason is the fear of inadvertently hurting someone. Or they want to write things they normally wouldn’t write. Experiment with different genres. Or separate their “real life” identities from their writing identities.

French author Romain Gary had written over thirty books and had won numerous literary prizes when he began writing under the pseudonym Emile Ajar. As Emile Ajar he published four best selling novels. In his posthumously published memoir, he stated that the motive for using a pseudonym was he wanted “to be someone else.” Journalist Samuel Clemens wrote fiction as Mark Twain. The Bronte sisters originally published their novels under male pseudonyms. Dean Koontz published five gothic novels as Deanna Dwyer. Literary author Joyce Carol Oates writes mysteries as Rosamond Smith. Ray Bradbury used over ten pseudonyms. I knew a first grade teacher who wrote erotica under a pseudonym.

Suppose you wrote under a different identity. How would your writing change, if at all? Would you write the things you really want to say? Freewrite using the prompt, “What I really want to write about…”

Create a pseudonym. Or several. Use a baby names book, phone book, or whatever sources you need to generate a name. If you could change your name to anything at all, what would it be? Visualize your new name on a book cover, as a byline. For one week, write everything as your new identity. If you want, create a profile or history. You can be anything you want. For instance, if in “real life” you live in a cramped city apartment, your writing persona can live in a spacious farmhouse. You can raise afghan hounds or be an expert gazpacho maker. Be as silly or imaginative as you like. After a week, look back on your writing. How does it compare to your other writing? Has writing under a new identity freed you from censoring? Has your writing voice changed?

It’s up to you whether or not you keep your new writing persona. But if it helps, why not? I'd like to hear how this experience affected you. How did you decide on the name you used for your pseudonym?

Starting next week the articles and exercises will be geared toward mining writing ideas from your personal history.


VelVerb said...

No doubt about it, I would write differently, and diversely. I have thought about this often. Much of the writing I need to do would involve hurting people I love. Or disappointing people I respect. Yet, it all needs to come out.

Shawn Powers said...

I've actually been thinking a lot about a pseudonym. Mostly because I want to let out some parts of my psyche that I don't really want those I know and love to see firsthand. Maybe that makes me a chicken, but so be it. :)

Rita Marie Keller said...

Velverb, thanks for stopping by! Why do you think your writing will hurt the ones you love? Think about it as you're writing. And keep writing, and write through the hurts, the triumphs.

Rita Marie Keller said...

Hi Shawn, thanks for stopping by! Have you chosen a pseudonym? I don't think that makes you a chicken. If using a pseudonym is what enables you to write about your truths, then so be it! Keep writing!

legbamel said...

I do write under my pseudonym, but since everything I've published has been on-line it doesn't matter that it's not really a name. I am still considering how to publish in the "real" world. I've got a novel underway and that just has to go under my name. It's too much work to let someone else take the credit. LOL