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Real Name or Pen Name

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Vanya, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. Chime85

    Chime85 Sage

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    Im a little torn with this. Although I have no personal, professional or political reason to choose a pen name, I cannot help but consider my name to be a little dull; Katherine Smith. Even if I initial it, it will be K.Smith (I have no middle name). As you can see, still just as dull.

    I did consider using the last initial of my parter as a middle initial, so it could be Katherine S. Smith or K.S.Smith. I did once thumble with the idea of Miss Katherine Smith, but then i considered that i would sound too much like a teacher, making people see my writing as childrens fiction (which is fine, if i was writing childrens fiction lol)

    x
     
  2. Weaver

    Weaver Sage

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    I've been told over and over that readers don't care who the author is, that they only care about the story, but I keep running into situations where that is clearly not the case.

    I've had readers tell me that I, as a man, cannot (meaning both not able and, sometimes not allowed) write anything with a female protagonist. So I did an experiment wherein I deliberately led readers to believe that I was a woman... and they loved that protagonist, said she was very realistically written, and even said they wished there were more female characters in fantasy fiction like her. I've considered writing as T. Weaver instead of Thomas Weaver for this reason, but that would be giving in to someone else's prejudices, and I don't like that.

    In my profile on one writing site, I start out with "Judge the writing by the writing. Author's age, location, species... These thing are irrelevant." I mean it, too.

    I did another experiement once, years ago, wherein I posted the same story fragment, at different times, under different pen names. When the story was supposedly by a woman named Kellie (from Maine), the female readers liked it okay, but the male readers said it was trite and boring and the author clearly had no idea how things are supposed to work in a fantasy story. When the same piece of writing was supposedly by a man named Geoffrey (from Ohio), everyone liked it. Although when it was revealed that Geoffrey was actually from Kentucky, suddenly about half of the readers started saying that he shouldn't be writing fantasy because of where he lived - apparently persons living in Kentucky are only supposed to write about Kentucky things. So apparently the author's name isn't the only thing readers use to judge the writing itself. :(

    (For the record, both Kellie and Geoffrey are characters in some of my fiction. Makes it easy to impersonate them. *grin*)
     
  3. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Love the experiment. There's no doubt in my mind that people's preconceived notions colors their ideas of the work.

    Reminds me of a great Jack Nicholson line in "As Good as it Gets". His character, Melvin Udall (a writer) is asked by a woman how he writes women characters so accurately. His reply: "I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability."
     
    Weaver likes this.
  4. icebladeaskante

    icebladeaskante Dreamer

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    I have had people tell me flat out that women should not write fantasy. Apparently women are more likely to turn it into a romance novel or go off on a 'boring' emotional angle rather than write about magic, sword fighting, blood and guts. Apparently women read fantasy written by women and men read fantasy written by men, because the gender affects what you want from a story and how you write it.

    Personally I would prefer to be published under a pen name as I am uncomfortable being in a spot light of any sort. But I don't think I would take the route of initials, though that because I would become J.K. Quinn, and I'd rather not people think of Rowling when they pick up my book, and because I am female, and I don't want to hide that fact just so a few other more people will read my book.
     
  5. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I've heard that there are gender preferences for authors in the genre. I've seen a few articles on the topic. For my taste though, I could care less what the gender of the author is or any other characteristic for that matter. Only the story counts. Maybe, as writer's ourselves, we are in the minority with this type of thinking.

    There are plenty of great women fantasy writers. Admittedly, that number is dwarfed by the myriad of male authors in the genre.
     
  6. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Drop the K? J. Quinn looks cool.

    Anyway, the gender issue is... tricky. Putting this in bullet form because phrasing what I want to say in a paragraph is difficult.

    • I think there are differences between the way males and females write.
    • These difference are more likely to be immediately obvious in beginner or young writers.
    • In general, girls tend towards emotion and drama while guys tend toward action-adventure.
    • Tendencies are not limitations, however.
    • It's difficult to say whether these tendencies are innate or a result of social conditioning, but they do exist.

    I once read this article by a creative writing professor about an exercise she did with her students. It's that old writing game where you write part of a story, then pass it on to the next person to write more, and so on. The professor (a woman I think) noticed a stark difference in style and content between the male and female students. The male students wanted to write about a daring space captain preparing to drive his starfighter into battle, while the female students wanted to write about the space captain's lonely love interest who was stuck behind at home. The two student factions kept up a literary tug-of-war, with the guys completely ignoring or outright insulting the sections written by the girls (e.g. "the space captain wasted no thoughts on the stupid girl he had left behind, but rather turned his focus to the mission at hand.") and vice versa. It got to the point where the girls were so determined to write a more "sensitive" story that they outright killed the space captain in order to force the focus to stay on the lonely girl at home. (Checkmate?)

    I am even now scouring the internet for that article so I can link to it.
     
  7. Weaver

    Weaver Sage

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    On the website SheWrites (my friend Grace was signed up there briefly, which is how I heard about this), there were apparently a lot of women saying that women can write fantasy, but that they cannot write science fiction at all. Something along the lines of 'Women don't write sci-fi because women don't read sci-fi because it's unfriendly toward women - all that math and science and stuff we can't understand.' (Grace, whose mother is a microbiologist, and who herself has a great fondness for 'all that math and science stuff,' was VERY offended.)

    As for the idea that men and women have different preferences when it comes to fiction... Maybe. I've been told so, but my own tastes in fiction have nothing to do with the gender of the author, nor even the gender of the main character, so I don't understand why it would matter to others.

    Y'know what's funny? A lot of readers will now assume that the author is female if he/she uses initials instead of a full first name, even if the author is a man. What's even funnier, in my opinion: There are more men writing romances than most people would ever guess, but they all have to use female pen names because readers of romances don't trust male authors to get it right.
     
  8. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    When I was a teenager and VERY into scifi, my favourite author by far was Andre Norton. It took me years to realise Andre was a chick.

    Damn excellent writer.
     
    Weaver likes this.
  9. LisaChitty

    LisaChitty Acolyte

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    Whether or not to use a pen name was a serious consideration for me given my surname and the potential for taunting and it to be misheard. However, I decided that I wanted to be known as me not an alter ego, so have gone with my real name.
     
  10. Flemming Hansen

    Flemming Hansen Minstrel

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    Katherine Smith is a catchy "authoristic" name in my humble opinion :)
     
    Chime85 likes this.
  11. CTStanley

    CTStanley Scribe

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    I've started with a pen name, though it doesn't vary greatly from my actual name. Even though I'm female I'm often shocked by decent fantasy from women authors (even though I really shouldn't be!) so thought I'd de-sexualise my name a little. Besides no one can pronounce my real last name anyway...
     
  12. Aravelle

    Aravelle Sage

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    I believe it can be somewhat influential. My legal name would sound wonderful if I was writing a manual, or a book on law, economics, or medicine. However, I don't think it has much flair for a fiction writer, hence me going by the name Emma Raether. It suits me very well, to the point where being Miss Raether is practically an alias, an alternate identity [although, I do remain true to myself].
     
  13. Micha Fire

    Micha Fire Acolyte

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    since I'm German but write in English ................

    and my real name is not well pronounced by English speakers,
    I chose a pen name

    gets mispronounced by Germans *lol* but that's the smaller evil

    and I often get thought to be male 'cause of my pen name --
    which seems to be better for being a wanting to publish author
     
  14. J. S. Elliot

    J. S. Elliot Inkling

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    My name is insanely common, so I'm thinking of going by a pen name. I just haven't decided on what. I may just do a more elaborate spin on my given name to give it a unique flair, though. An option, at least.
     
  15. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Try anagramming your name. I tried that with mine, but it invariably creates names that are either stuffy and boring or utterly ridiculous.
     
  16. MystiqueRain

    MystiqueRain Troubadour

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    So far I've been using my real name, but since my novel series is written by several people, I was considering just combining everyone into one pen name. Something we can all agree on, of course.
     
  17. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    I use a pen name for a couple of reasons. For starters, I'm one half of a two person writing team, and while her name is very common and easy to spell and pronounce, my name is unusual in the U.S. and is often mispronounced and misspelled. Secondly, from both our careers in the retail bookselling industry, we have noticed that books written by two people generally do not sell as well, and that books written by writers whose names fall at the far end of the alphabet (as my last name does) also do not tend to sell as well, because readers often do not make it that far down the stack. So we have chosen the pen name A. E. Lowan, which covers the gender issue with readers, and the name placement issue - our name falls right between McCaffery and Lackey, and generally hits right at eye level to waist level in most stores we have observed.

    Always keep an eye to marketing when choosing your pen name. ;)
     
  18. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    Just to let you know,
    Lackey and MacCaffrey were my inspiration to actually start writing.
    I think women writing fantasy is different then men writing fantasy, but by any other means of categorizing each person style will be different then another. (race, religion, history, height, skin color, etc)
     
  19. Weaver

    Weaver Sage

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    Why?

    I don't understand where the idea comes from that women always write one way and men always write another. Is there an explanation that makes sense? (I may get banned from the site for asking, in which case it's been nice knowing all of you).

    See my post (#62) on the previous page of this thread for some of why I don't understand 'author's gender determines writing style/subject matter.'
     
  20. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    It's hard for me to put my finger on it, but there is a difference. Having been used to Lewis and Tolkien, LeGuin's style threw me for a loop at first. All the events were... smaller, more "personal", not the epic, grand-scale stuff I was used to. And one might say that's just LeGuin's style and not a function of gender. BUT, it seems to be true of all the female writers I've read, and nearly all the female prospective writers I've met. I know it's not PC to say it, but from what I've seen stories by women writers tend to be... more low-key. (That's not quite the right word.) In my creative writing class, even the guys and girls who wrote in the same genre (the majority of the class was aiming in the vague direction of "literary". Me and one other were leaning in a more fantastical direction) had differences. The guys tended to be more... theatrical, whereas the girls tended to be more personal. Why does this happen? Who knows. But I see it happen.
     
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