My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Mailbox: Persona

If you write through a persona, why not use a pseudonym?  You could reach more people without your persona. 

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer them each Friday.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments may end up in the mailbox.  I'm getting a LOT of comments and questions lately.]   

Mark asks:

If you write through a persona, why don't you use a pseudonym?  I mean not that I mind the whole Glen Quagmire/Hank Moody thing you've got going on, but don't people kind of assume you are a pervert?

My reply: 

Yeah, I sure wouldn't want people to assume that.  There might be some cute, sex positive reader out there (who maybe thinks I'm attractive or really likes esoteric speculative fiction jokes) and is way into threesomes.  Then they might seek me out at a convention or a party and ask to get to know me better and then...oh I can't even go on; it's just too horrible to contemplate.

Let me tell you a story about a happy go lucky young director named J.J.  In 2009, J.J. was a plucky movie mogul chiefly known for the way people who had watched Armageddon or Lost through to the end pressed their lips together and shook their head when they saw him. J.J. took under his wings the title of a huge fandom's beloved franchise, and he created something that did very, very well in theaters.

This movie was called Star Trek; you may have heard of it.

Star Trek was an exciting, thrill-a-minute action movie with eye popping special effects and more lens flares than anyone even knew could fit in a 2 hour movie.  It had giant ravenous animals, explosions every two minutes, and phasers that looked and sounded like Star Wars blasters.  Other than some convoluted time travel logic, the plot was your basic "They blew up our shit.  Let's blow up their shit right back."

In short...it was nothing like Star Trek.

Except for the names of the characters and the relative shape of the ship, it was almost, but not quite, entirely UNLIKE Star Trek.  There was no exploration.  No moral ambiguity.  No intellectual wrestling with a complex idea.  No, violence as a last resort.  No diplomacy.  No exploration of the human condition.  No prime directive.  No alien culture that is scary because it's unknown, but maybe we're more alike than we realize.  No thinly veiled allegory to modern social issues.  And no moralizing speech. You couldn't even rightly say there was a clever out-thinking of the antagonists--their basic strategy ended up being: "SHOOT MOAR!!"  Even the photon torpedoes didn't look like torpedoes--they just look like blue phaser bolts.  In fact, they changed so many things that it was necessary for the plot to involve a rationale for why they tossed out the old canon.

"Oh it's okay that we took the old continuity and twisted it beyond recognition.  You see, it's a parallel timeline!  Yeah.  That's it.  Yeah so it totally makes sense that it shifted genres from thoughtful science fiction to a pulse pounding action movie that happens to take place in space.'"
Our uniforms are almost the same color.
It's like the exact same movie!
What more do you vultures want?

Yes, it's true. Star Trek (the remake) was an action movie. Fun. Exciting. Totally worth $10. I had a blast. But not very Star Trekish.

What Abrams and his possie gambled on (and won.....and have funded at LEAST two more sequels with) was that brand recognition would bring the fans no matter how far the movie strayed from the thematic and idealistic core of Star Trek, and as long as he didn't do a Transformers 3 caliber fuck up of the franchise, most people would be happy enough that they wouldn't notice that what they were watching wasn't exactly like the show of the same name.

They were going to see the words "Star Trek" and proceed to wet themselves.

And they did.

Of the two dozen or so mainstream movies currently in theaters, eight are sequels (Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, The Hangover Part 3, Grown Ups 2, etc) , four are some caliber of remake (Gatsby, Oz, Man of Steel, Much Ado About Nothing), one is a oft-performed play (Much Ado) three are [actually] based on books (Gatsby is one), and one--World War Z--is a movie which may be a decent zombie flick, but which bears absolutely no semblance to the book other than the fact that they knew using a familiar title would sell more tickets than using a title no one had heard of.  The movies coming out that there is buzz about (Kick Ass 2, Wolverine, Planes, Perry Jackson) are pretty much universally either sequels or are remakes or are books.

Branding works.

Branding sells.

People like the familiar.  They will give something a chance if has a name they recognize.  And as long as something with an established franchise doesn't suck, or (as season 7 of Voyager demonstrates) even if it does but there's still a established Acceptable to Suck ratio, they will keep giving it another chance.

So I could write my fiction under one name and my blog under another name, and even introduce myself in person under a third name, but that would be at cross purposes to my eventual hope of not having to work three jobs to be a writer.  If I use the same name everywhere, it will spread faster.  People who like my blog will give my fiction a chance, people who like my fiction may check out my blog, and "brand recognition" has a better chance of working for me than against me.

At least that is my hope.

As for those who meet me in person, I'll let them draw their own conclusions. While it's fairly safe to assume any writer or artist is probably going to have a rich imaginative life, I'm also a consent zealot, and fairly shy.  But mostly I'm just okay with being avoided by the kinds people who would judge me exclusively because of my work and not bother getting to know me.

Samantha says: 

You know, you could probably reach more people if you didn't make your blog rated R.  I've seen you "drop the act" before--that's what more people want (don't you think?).  I think you would be more popular if there weren't so many sex jokes and swearing.   

My reply:  

You're absolutely right.

FX Network
This is FIGURATIVELY the best show you will ever watch.
Literally, not so much.
But it is totally ninja.
I'm pretty sure Archer would also get higher ratings if it were a Disney show that came on Fox's after-school cartoon line up.  Babou could talk in a voice not entirely unlike Shnarf from the Thundercats and tell Archer poignant life lessons about prejudice, honesty, friendship, and not randomly befriending wild animals like ocelots. Cheryl would be addicted to really big hugs and would love everyone but would easily have her feelings hurt and might even be tempted to go to the evil castle of and help the Polynesian pirates in a tearful episode titled "Cheryl Just Loves Too Hard." And when Pam says "Sploosh" she would really be talking about....uh....well, we might just have to get rid of "Sploosh" completely.

But that's not really what Archer is. That's not really what Archer could ever be. And if Archer tried to be that, it would only be funny for that brief, exquisitely painful second between when you said "What the honest to goodness fucking fuck is this?" and when you changed the channel to something edgier. Archer struggles on with it's cult-like fans within it's highly irreverent niche and stays edgy by making a lot of jokes that might make most folks glad they're not watching it with their mother, but which only really offend the sorts of people who would rather have guns in capitol buildings than tampons or who want to make oral sex illegal.

The same could be said of South Park, Drawn Together, Boondocks, even King of the Hill, Aqua Teen Hunger Force's (we have not forgotten the linoleum knife....oh no) or any number of shows that push the envelope of what is appropriate (some while being socially aware and some while being problematic as fuck).  But nothing that dirty is ever going to be shown on a popular after-school.....uh......um.....

Well, Animaniacs aside, I trust you get the gist of what I'm thrusting at here.  (~snerk snerk~)

Honestly, some of the worst art and entertainment ever put out in the world suffers is so bad simply because it tried to be something it wasn't. Writing About Writing may not be everyone's cup of tea, but as long as a few people enjoy it, and it's still finding new folks who enjoy, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing.

There are a lot of ways I could sell out to get more traffic--from General-Audience-izing my humor to be palatable to more people to incendiary politics to porn. And don't even get me started on incendiary politics IN porn.

("Mr. Perkins, it's time for your fiscally responsible Obamacare sponge bath.  Oh my! I know the second amendment includes the right to bear arms, but it sure seems like some comprehensive and reasonable reform might be in order if you're going to go around packing a concealed weapon like this! Oh you're a conservative? Well I hope I can sway you with my ORAL arguments." ~Bow chicka bow wow~)

But most of these changes would move towards writing I don't want to do. I like blogging, but I already miss some of the energy it pulls from my fiction. Shifting it even further away to some sort of sterilized generic advice just to pull in a few more views would be dishonest.

You've got to be honest and do what you love in art. If you don't love what you're doing, there's just no point. Fame and fortune are far too mercurial to consider the ends for which writing is just a means. The writing has to be its own reward, and that means you have to write what you love to write. Almost without fail, audience chasers end up tired and jaded and, more often than not, turned upon (not to be confused with turned on) by the very people they worked so hard, and for so long, to placate. It's the artists who just do what they love doing, and let the audience come to them who end up happy--and almost always the only ones whose work is ever really appreciated.

I like being funny. I like being snarky. I like a think layer of "Hur hur" coating everything W.A.W. touches. (Ew.) This is what makes $2/day worth it in the end. So while I might do something tactical like include bacon in a post or use the same name even though I'm writing through a persona, I'm not going to fundamentally change my work.

I've got it!
The show can take place at a water park instead of above a dry cleaners!

1 comment:

  1. Branding works, but on the other hand, branding by use of pseudonyms seems immensely popular these days. For example, If you write under as psuedonym, you can, for example, write a crime novel and not have people freak out that it's not appropriate for children when you have previously been known as a children's writer. Or vice versa, you can write for children and not worry that your previous work was inappropriate. Or see the distinct difference between the work of Ian Banks and Ian M. Banks. Some publishers even produce series that are the work of multiple writers, all sold under the same pseudonym. Basically, a pseudonym can, itself, be branding. It's all a matter of what works for you.