Writing Under a Pen Name vs Real Name

Aly Hughes is not my real name.  There, I said it!  The illusion has been shattered!  But no, my first name is an English variation of a common French name, and my last name is Filipino in origin.  And if I’m to believe most of my teachers, substitute teachers, employers, coworkers, doctors, and mechanics…they’re both damn confusing to pronounce and spell, especially next to each other.  Which has always been news to me, since they’re actually not that complicated.  Then again I did grow up with them so my view is definitely skewed on that end.

But I digress.  I don’t use a pen name because I dislike my real name.  I don’t use it to hide my identity, heritage, or gender.  And I most certainly don’t use it to adhere to what genre I write in.  I use it for simplicity.

I use a pen name because it’s easy to spell, easy to remember.  Short, sweet, and actually not very far off from my real name.  Aly, being a shortened version of Alyse, and a seldom-used nickname of mine; and Hughes, being my mother’s maiden name.

Really though, how much of a difference does it make if I write under a pen name?  

To me?  Not much.  But then, I didn’t pick it for me, I chose it for my audience.

Yes my name is unique and guaranteed nobody shares it, but that doesn’t mean it will help people remember it.  I don’t want someone to become familiar with my writing then attempt to share it with a friend, only to find that they can’t pronounce OR spell my name.   Being known as “that one writer” or “that one girl” isn’t something I strive for.

So I chose a name to write under, one that isn’t complicated.  I didn’t go to the far corners of the internet to find unique names with hidden meanings.  I simply found one that is, essentially, still me.  It’s a name I’ve grown to love, one I can write under, and one I can answer to.

What about all of you?  Do you write under a pen name or real name?  If you do use a pen name, why?  How did you choose it?   If you don’t use a pen name, do you think that I am in some way “caving in” to society by picking a name other than my own, just so people can remember it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Paige and the Craigslist Ad

This is the second little short for my ongoing writings on Paige Macintosh.  You can read the first installment here.  I’m writing these out of chronological order, there will be gaps, but I hope you enjoy the mini-stories of Paige regardless.  I also hope you have as much fun reading this one as I did writing it!  As always, comments and insights are very welcome here.

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Paige’s phone vibrated on the pillow next to her. She looked up from her book, eyeing her phone with suspicion. A minute of silence followed before it vibrated again. Sighing, she grabbed her phone and checked her messages.

Lacey: Heyyy girl! You coming out or what?
Lacey: Imma take the silence as a no, slut. Your missin out!

“I told you I wasn’t going to go anyways,” Paige said to no one in particular.  She tossed her phone back on the bed without replying back.

It was the first Friday of the month, marking Lacey and her roommate’s monthly party. This month’s theme was CEO’s & Office Ho’s. Paige didn’t actually enjoy these parties, but she had considered attending this one just to get out of the apartment. However, after a close inspection of her closet she determined she didn’t own anything slutty or suity enough to wear.

So instead of being ground on by drunken suit-donning guys, she was at home in her pajamas, attempting to take her mind off of matters by reading. It was working well at first, but then Lacey texted her, and a heavy bass line kicked up in the apartment above. Of course there would be no peace for her on Friday.

Paige eventually gave up on reading and walked out into the living room.  A loud thud followed by yells filtered through the ceiling.  She glanced up, bemused.  Unable to decipher their words, she turned away and shook her head.

“Must be some party,” she said, walking over to her stack of DVD’s.  Paige sat down on the floor, trying to decide what she was in the mood to watch.  Moulin Rouge?  Too sad.  The Boondock Saints?  Too violent.  I Heart Huckabees?  Too existential.  She paused as she came across the last movie in the pile.  A smile spread across her face.  The Princess Bride?  Just right, as always.

Another wave of exclamations floated down to her from above.  “Ugh, I’m probably the only person not doing anything tonight. I need different friends,” she muttered as she turned on the PS3.  She put the DVD in, frowning as the console made a loud whirring noise in protest.  A steady round of clicking noises sounded.  “That’s definitely not good,” she said.  There was a final click before the PS3 shut itself off.  Paige blinked in disbelief.

“No, don’t do this to me!” Paige pleaded to the console.  She turned it back on, trying again.  Despite her efforts, the PS3 refused to cooperate.  “I just can’t win!” She cried.  Pouting, she put the DVD back and resigned herself to the couch.

She picked up her laptop and mindlessly started browsing the internet.  After an hour of Facebook and StumbleUpon Paige eventually found herself on Craigslist.  The cursor hovered over the usual ‘jobs’ category.  Before she clicked, something on the left caught her eye.  It was the first line under the Personals section.  Strictly Platonic.  Is that a fancy way of saying ‘looking for friends’?  

Paige shrugged and clicked the link anyways.  Her head tilted as she read the titles.

Just looking for some fun  m4w – 24
Hella bored, some1 hit me up!  m4mw  19
Looking for a gal pal to chill with!
new 2 town lets hang out, 420 friendly  21
Workout Buddy!  w4w –  26

She rolled her eyes.  “I can’t believe people actually respond to these!  Aren’t there any intelligent people who post here?”  She questioned.  Scanning the Ads, she finally found a decent title.

I’m just looking for someone nice to talk to.  m4w  – 23

“Hmm, he doesn’t seem so bad,” she remarked.  “Oh! There’s even a picture!  Maybe he’s cute,” Paige said excitedly.  She clicked the link and read the description.

Just looking for a girl to talk to and chill with, maybe watch some movies together or what not.  Hopefully it can lead to something more.  Hit me up if you like my pic.  Reply with your fav color so I know youre real.

She scrolled down, expecting a generic Facebook photo.  What she got, however, was a good dose of erect penis in her face.

Paige reeled back, her eyes wide.  He wasn’t even trying to hide anything, not that he needed to, she observed.  She quickly exited the browser, feeling dirty.  “Oh that was so not platonic!”  She exclaimed.  “It probably wasn’t even his!”

Slowly she started to smile, then laugh.  Paige sat there for several minutes, not even trying to suppress her giggles.

“I think I deserved that,” she said to herself, still cackling.

How Not to Play the Social Media Game

It has come to my attention that in the world of writing, it’s all the rage to hop on any and every social media bandwagon.  Every writer is constantly looking for an in.  A way to promote themselves and their writing, and hopefully to catch more than just a few straying eyes.

I understand that prospective editors/agents/publishers are looking for someone who already has a fan base.  Sure, your writing chops will always be looked at first, and given priority.  But it’s like brownie points all around if you can actively market yourself and your writing to the masses.

So we start a blog, we start an author’s page on Facebook, open a twitter account, throw in a dash of google+(even though we have no idea what we’re supposed to do with it), and start ritually gathering four leaf clovers and pennies.  The more, the better!

Except, well, not.

I’ve searched out other bloggers on WordPress that I enjoy, ones I can share comments with, talk with.  I’ve also been concentrating on blogging and producing(hopefully) interesting posts.  Oh, and there’s this little hobby of mine, called writing, that I’ve put a lot of effort into.  With all of this hubbub I’ve been neglecting the poor Twitter account I started along with this blog.

A few days ago after a particularly long period of neglect, I logged on to see that one of the bloggers I had connected with on WordPress had mentioned me in a Tweet.  I was so excited I immediately tweeted back, only to realize he had sent that five days before.  With how often some people are on Twitter, I had no idea if he’d even remember tweeting that, which left me thinking.

Is it bad form to wait so long?  Will it make people think that I’m lazy?  Or worse, that I don’t care enough to update them?  If I only post updates about my blog, and not about my life, will people think I’m just shamefully self-promoting?  Will they think I’m boring?  If people think I’m boring, will that affect how they read my writing? Am I expected to tweet and tag other people?  Will they think I’m just trying to con them in promoting me?  Am I shallow to think that that’s what I should be doing to get my name out there?

Don’t get me wrong, social media outlets are great…if you can use them.  But what if you’re terribly forgetfully, or just plain apathetic about them?  Is it worth it to have a Twitter or Facebook page if you only update it once a month?    I would say no, just because that’s one more loose string your name is attached to.  I think readers and the audience deserve something that is at least decently kept.  With how many connections we make online these days, I think that unless you’ve REALLY done well creating a platform, the more quiet you are, the less people will care to listen.

My advice?  Start slowly with one type of outlet until you’re comfortable with branching out to something else.

I’d like to hear what you guys think about it though.  Do you think it’s worth it to have an author Facebook page or a Twitter account even if you rarely use it?

Side note: Right after I wrote this, I realized a blog that I follow posted this: How to Effectively Use Twitter for Authors  Why didn’t this happen before my Twitter lapse?  In her post she has a link for 8 Twitter Tips for Authors, that she guest posted on another blog.  I’d recommend checking that article out for some great tips, if you’re struggling with it like me.  Also, feel free to post your own tips, as well as articles on this topic.  Any social medium tips are welcome, blogging, facebook, twitter, etc. 

Forcing vs. Flowing in Writing

In my experience there are two ways to write.

Example 1. You frantically scribble away on the nearest napkin as inspiration strikes you at a very inopportune moment, and you’re left with a smudged copy to store away for the next month before you’re inspired enough to revisit it.

Example 2. You sit down at your desk and stare at the computer screen until your fingers begrudgingly begin to type.  Before you know it you have a very, very, rocky draft that vaguely resembles the scenery you meant to describe, and is left as such until you force yourself to edit it.

Pretty obvious which one is ‘going with the flow’ writing as opposed to ‘forced’ writing.  What isn’t so obvious?  Which one produces better writing.

I have arguments for both styles.  Ultimately I think it’s up to the writer to decide a certain combination of the two that works for them personally.  But- here are my thoughts on the matter.

Flow.  Everyone has had that lightning bolt of inspiration hit them.  It doesn’t even have to involve writing!  There’s a moment, where all of a sudden, things become clear, and you know what you have to do and what you want to do.   So you go and just do it.  That’s what happened to me when I went and saw the movie Hugo.  It inspired this short story.  And I’m pretty happy with the result.   The words just seemed to flow from out of my fingers, and I barely had to think about what I was writing.  I believe it’s this natural, raw inspiration that produces the most fluid and honest writing.

But if you only write when you’ve caught the lightning bug, those spurts can be few and far between.  Even if it produces some of our best work, we can’t completely rely on it.  Sometimes we have to hunker down and treat writing as what it really is: hard work.

Forced.  This is where we struggle, as writers, to produce our stories.  Every decent writer needs to spend time on their writing.  It’s like clocking in hours at a job.  Even if you don’t want to, or don’t feel like it, you need do it.  Why?

Because you can’t edit and perfect what isn’t on the page. 

This is especially true when you’re in it for the long haul.  Short stories and Flash Fiction are wonderful for the strikes of inspiration.  But when you enter novella and novel territory, more often than not there will be days when you force yourself to write the story, even if it isn’t flowing out of your fingertips.  It might not come out exactly as you want, unlike some of the spur of the moment stories, but you can always go back and edit.

So, if you’re like me, and just starting to realize you want to be serious about writing, then find that balance.  Be ready to find inspiration in unlikely places.  And if that fails, don’t be afraid to sit down and write against the current.  Take your own writing seriously.  Don’t let if fall by the wayside just because the words are struggling with you.

Why Can’t I have Literary Guilty Pleasures?

Tonight my girlfriends and I went to eat sushi(a not-so-guilty pleasure), and watch the latest installment of Underworld(a very guilty pleasure).  The movie had a terrible plot, mediocre acting, over the top gore, and was incredibly cheesy.  I loved it so much.

Which got me thinking.  Why is it so easy for me to indulge in bad movies, but if I’m faced with a cheesy and cliche novel I just want to hurl it across the room?  Is it because I hold books to higher standards?  Or maybe, as a writer myself, I can’t stop thinking about how I would improve it, and what I would’ve done differently.  Or perhaps I just enjoy the visual stimuli of massive explosions and gore much more than I probably should.

Or, and this is the last ‘or’ I promise, maybe I just don’t admit that the books I love are guilty pleasures.  To some, Harry Potter could be considered a guilty pleasure.  Even Tamora Pierce’s novels might be on the same list.  They aren’t the best literature has to offer, by far.  But the way they transport me into their worlds keeps me coming back for more.  Just like the Underworld movies, and the Resident Evil movies.

So, I guess the difference is in how bad I think the movies and books really are. Resident Evil and Underworld? Guilty pleasure because I know they’re bad but I’m not ashamed to admit I like them.  Harry Potter and Tamora Pierce’s novels? Not a guilty pleasure because although people can argue that they’re bad, I’ll never admit it.

Oh, and before anyone asks, books such as Twilight fall under the “makes me want to hurl them across the room” category.  How dare vampires be sparkly?!  I’ll stick with re-reading Dracula, thank you very much.

 

So, what are some of your guilty pleasures?

Paige: An Introduction

This piece is quite different from what I usually write.  It’s one of many short writings that I plan on eventually accumulating into a novel of sorts.  The story of Paige is loosely based on myself, even her name coming from what my parents almost named me.  So, I write about Paige when something significant or striking happens, or almost happens, to me.  This has been left unedited intentionally because I wish to preserve the short stories as they are until I finally compile them and can edit them as one.

Also, I realize the majority of people, aka, everyone who has subscribed so far, who read my blog, are pretty much the opposite of my intended target audience for this.  But on the off chance you like it, feel free to let me know. 🙂

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There is a rumor that your life flashes before your eyes when faced with death. For Paige Macintosh, however, that time came sooner. Although she was in no real danger of dying, life as she knew it was indeed ending. Paige was sitting on a ratty brown couch picked up while dumpster diving. Her soon to be ex-boyfriend was currently pacing a hole in the carpet in front of the couch. His ranting words were lost on the girl who was preoccupied by her own life story.

Age 4: She watches enviously as her brother gets to hold the puppy on the ride home. Age 9: The room is filled with laughter as her cousins make fun of her. Paige would never care for them again. Age 15: She’s sitting on the curb with her mom, watching the tow truck pull the car out of a ditch. Results of her first driving lesson. Age 18: The dorm room is impossibly small to be sharing with the wild room mate she just met. Age 21: Looking at the letter of dismissal from the college. Enter depression. Age 22: Paige’s boyfriend gives her a big hug after they finish moving boxes into their new apartment.

Now: She’s getting dumped. Again.

“I don’t know what more I can do Paige. How am I supposed to keep looking after you when you won’t let me and refuse to do it yourself? I thought things would change but apparently I was wrong,” Alex said, finally standing still and looking at her. The movie reel of her life ended. Everything culminated to this very point in time and she wasn’t even paying attention. She didn’t need to. Paige knew full well what was about to happen, why her mind replayed every significant memory. Realizing this, she faced Alex for the first time since he started talking. “Well? Aren’t you going to say anything?”

“I’m not sure what to say,” her voice was quiet and timid. Alex looked at her incredulously. Paige averted her eyes. “What? What do you want to hear from me?”

“I don’t know…something! You sit there silently, as if this doesn’t even matter to you anymore.” He waited for her to reply. When she didn’t say anything he threw his arms up in defeat. “I give up. I’m done with this. Paige, you’ve become impossible to deal with. I’m leaving.” With that Alex grabbed his jacket and headed for the door.

“Wait! Alex…are you breaking up with me?” For the first time in three weeks she actually cared about what the outcome was.

“Yeah, I guess I am,” he said, before slamming the door behind him. Stunned silence followed.

All her hopes, dreams, and happy memories shattered like a wine glass in the wrong place on moving day. Paige could see her fragmented thoughts imbedding themselves into the carpet, where just minutes before her boyfriend had stood. Time didn’t stop, but Paige’s life was stuck on this singular frame. Minutes passed into hours as she sat unmoving. Her mind was numb, unwilling to process what just happened and what it meant for her. Instead, she sat there, going over all the now broken memories she shared with Alex. What were once beautiful scenes were reduced to shards, threatening to cut through her heart if she dared tried to put them back together. She didn’t dare.

Her life was sitting before her in ruins, and she didn’t have the will to put it back together. Was there even a point to try and fix things? She was estranged from her parents, didn’t have a job, and had dropped out of college. Not only that, but her boyfriend just walked out on her and the apartment they shared. How would she pay for it? If he came back and kicked her out then where would she live? Paige suddenly imagined herself selling all her possessions, moving to a big city and either becoming a crazy homeless person, or a prostitute.

The horror of her prospective future catapulted her mind back to the present. It was almost dark out, and had been at least an hour since Alex had stormed out of the apartment. He had to come back at some point, and when he did, Paige would be ready. She started rehearsing what she would say to win Alex back. Becoming a crack whore was not an option.

Book-based Movies vs Movie-based Books

Has anyone else noticed that there are a plethora of movies based on well written(or not) novels, while the number of well written books based on movies is disappointingly small?  Then again is there ANY new movie these days that isn’t based on a book or play, or heaven forbid, another movie?

I wouldn’t mind reading a book based on another form of media.  In fact, I’ve considered searching out the books based on the video game Assassin’s Creed, most people play that game for the story anyways.  What’s stopping me though, is that the very few books I’ve picked up that were based on movies, have either been mediocre or down right terrible.

I believe there are several main reasons that all contribute to these mediocre re-tellings.  And honestly, I think they could easily be overcome if a bit more hard work is applied.

First off, I don’t think companies spend enough time looking for an author. Perhaps they think any old writer will do, or they don’t want to shell out the money for an outstanding author, or maybe the writers they approach refuse the job because they aren’t inspired enough by the story.  You have to find someone who’s really passionate about the story.  It’s like the difference between Peter Jackson’s take on The Lord of the Rings, vs the terrible rendition of Eragon.  The same in writing, you need to feel the passion for the story from the author- something that goes way beyond hiring a decent writer.  A good writer doesn’t always make a good story.

Secondly, readers prefer novels because they have the ability to go more in depth into the story and the characters.  Movies have a lot of material to work with, and they don’t have to spend time describing the details of the world-because we see them visually.  That’s not at all the case in books though.  And somewhere along the line, lost in translation, is all that flavor and depth that books have.  Most books based on other media are flat and dull, the world/scenes just don’t jump off the page because they’re more focused on the plot than the world building.

Lastly, I think the book versions generally try to take the story too literally. (This excludes the series of Star Wars, Star Trek, and the like which expand on the original source.)  In movies dialogue is mostly re-written, plots are changed, and in some cases a character is left out/merged with another character.  What I notice about direct movie to book writing, is that they try to perfectly emulate the movie.  There’s hardly any deviation from the source material, and although that can be seen as dedication, it can really water down the representation of the source when switching mediums.  More time should be spent on figuring out how to create the story as a great novel, as opposed a screenplay without parentheses and brackets.

It takes a lot of work for a movie to come together to represent a book.  If only the same amount of time and work went into translating a movie into a book.   Although, thinking about it, maybe as writers it would be a great exercise to re-tell a story from a game/movie/tv series.   I think we could learn a lot about the craft and how we write by attempting to translate into writing a story we’ve visually taken in.

Why do you think there’s such a difference between translating the two mediums?  And what are some of the books you’ve read that are based on other media?  If any of them were good, please send me in their direction!

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