Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Discussion: Pen Name?

There is an interesting thread that started in my writing group just over a week ago. I've been thinking about it since it was posted, and just took the opportunity to reply. One member brought up the topic of using a pen-name - to use one or to not; and when or why.

Here is my reply to the thread. I'd love to get your opinions on using pseudonyms. What are your pros and cons? When would you use one or not? Post a comment and let me know. note: this is not a question for writers only; artists, photographers, actors, dancers ... let me know. To be You or not to be You, that is the question.

My post from the discussion thread in my online writing community:

I've thought about a pen name off and on since I've been writing. As a teenager I did pick out a pen name - I don't think I ever submitted anything under it ... and I still remember it, although now it seems pretty lame - it was a 70s name after all *grin*.  
I, too, considered at one time going with pseudonyms for different genres. But I figure now, with the easy access information age, what's the point? Pseudonyms are pretty simple to discover - although I'm sure there are authors hiding that we don't know about yet :-) .  
I like the concept of a "brand" and can see that - and isn't that what the 'platform' age of writing is about (ooops, is my bias showing?!!). I could see doing that if I was doing a couple of really disparate genres that might not mix well. Or not.
And when I first started venturing into memoir - oh, the shock! No, I can't do that. I have to change the names and change my name... But the reality is - and I just saw an article yesterday that said a similar thing - that people believe my fiction more than they believe my memoir; some of the feedback I've gotten on some parts of the memoir are things like "but she would never do/say/feel/react that way..." - but I did. And in the fiction, there are comments like "it's so real".
And I read some other famous author who said that memoir is that one person's perspective and others in the same situation may have experienced it differently. And I have only to look at my mother and her twin sister - they have pretty different perspectives on some things from their childhood and they are identical twins and were raised together. So, if someone hollers about things in the memoir - well, it's MY story.
So I decided that I would probably just be me - even though "Dot Hearn" doesn't roll off the tongue, is awkward, harsh, not memorable ... But it's me writing. Sometimes I just sign things Dot.
Sometimes I want to get rid of the last name - change it; I don't want to carry around my family name. But haven't found anything that sticks with me. Maybe if I ever come up with a line of greeting cards I'll brand them with something else. Or start writing erotic noir stories. Maybe.
And maybe I like being complex. Or maybe I'm just being rebellious against the notion that I have to make myself into a character in order to succeed as a writer and need to build a platform around an image. Can't I just be me and write the stories - letting them speak for themselves? Do I have to be slotted into a mold?
I am trying to build my writing business name, that's how I'm "branding" - but I think I'll keep with my name as the author, as the writer. At least for now.

drawing from "Words With No Names" on wordpress