Why– and How– Using a “Pen” Name….

In some small way I want to apologize for my absence. To get back to writing again I have resorted to using a “pen” name. A pen name is a pseudo-name that authors will take on when (for any of a number of reasons) an author does not want to be associated with his writings. As a couple of examples– political or religious opinions that would not be well-received by the author’s relatives or writing about plots/ideas that may be dangerous to the author (no, I’m not trying to expose the mob, as an example).

As a caution, before writing under a pen name one must assume that if it goes onto the Internet, it can never be taken back. Also assume that sooner or later, someone will find it. Remember that well. While said relatives may find the paper and pen version of your writings under the pen name, on the Internet a stranger will find it– and then next your writing will be either in the Tabloids or on YouTube….maybe both. Pen and paper is always better. Enough said there.

Why? Why else does an author want to write under a pen name? I’m not “penciled in” to a particular genre of writing but if I was, I might want to enlist a pseudo-name to avoid putting off my fan base. (BARF!) If I’ve been writing cheesy love stories and after investing the time and effort to read my next story, suddenly my fans are “forced” to wade through a foul-mouthed action thriller, they wouldn’t want to look for my name on the subsequent book…. Another reason I might want to use a fake name is to appear to be a “new” author– say my previous books had fizzled and sputtered out (To have fizzled and sputtered, my books must have gotten started. They have not).

At the moment, I’m using the “privacy” to practice my craft– writing with emotion, with feeling. My existing yarns are not getting me there in terms of truly relating to the characters on a deeper, more personal level. Thoughts and actions may drive a plot, but feelings make a story personal to a reader. Even if the reader doesn’t actually relate to or even agree with the focal character of the story, the fact that the focal character is actually affected by the events around him or her gives the plot meaning. Who wants to read a story where a character is stagnant?

Done correctly, a pen name can be a useful tool to avoid backlash of the writing that the author is doing, to appear to be a different (new) author, to switch genres, or even to switch techniques without fear of “being seen” in one’s true self.

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