1. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    Fake Biography for your Pen Name?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Porcupine, Mar 1, 2011.

    I'm wondering about what to do about the biography for my pen name. Are these generally completely made up? Or do they match the biography of the real person more or less? Is a biography even needed?

    I chose a pen name to obscure my identity a little, and my biography is rather unique so if I just went with that, it would be rather pointless. What do you suggest I do?
     
  2. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Biographies, even with a pen name, are about you. The details included, however, are vague enough that the reader will gather an idea about your life, but won't be able to track or pinpoint you with it.

    A good example is to look at R.A. Salvatore's biography at the back of his books. He does just this.
     
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  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!
     
  4. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    Exactly. You don't have to lie, just don't share more than you are comfortable with.

    I think it would be unusual to actually lie in your biography.
     
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  5. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I think the first thing to ask yourself is why you want to write under a pen name at all. I'm not saying that there may not be good reasons, Stephen King used Richard Bachman to see if people were reading his books for his name or whether they were actually good in their own right, but generally speaking I think they are unnecessary. Piers Anthony, one of my faves, used his first two names as his pen name, but then went on to write large screeds about himself, including his full name, and how he came up with things like the death watch, as extra chapters in some of his books, and quite frankly they were some of the best writing I've read.

    As for the bio, you don't have to say anything that can identify you if you don't want to. The only thing I would say, is that if you do decide to do a fake bio, make it completely over the top, obviously fake and utterly unbelievable, the thirteenth man to walk on the moon - that sort of thing. One of the things that I think people overlook is that there is a connection between the author and the reader, and the reader doesn't want to feel lied to. A fake name is one thing, but a false bio, that's starting to move into the lying to your reader area.

    Cheers.
     
  6. Porcupine
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    Porcupine Contributing Member

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    Thanks for your responses, they've been very helpful.

    Yes. Now imagine a bishop writing erotica. ;)

    I don't mind my friends and family knowing what I write, but it's better for me personally if not everybody knows about everything that I do.
     
  7. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    Is this fake biography meant for the publisher or the public?
    If the publisher, keep it real. If the public, then you can do a fake one if that enhances your story.
    ie, if you were writing as a Donald Duck, you could have a fake biography on the jacket cover such as:

    Mr Duck grew up in the swamps of Louisiana, where he was much admired for the wide webbing of his feet. He suffered a gunshot injury during hunting seasons to his left wing, and was thus prevented from partaking in his species annual migratory flight. He spent that winter in hiding, passing the time writing this memoir.
     
  8. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    Actually, pen names are very useful. I'm going to have a pen name.

    First of all, I want to have the privacy of being able to tell people I write certain novels or not depending on whether or not I want them to know that information. My real name will get out, but that's not the point. A casual person (and non-fan) won't be able to tell who I am without some digging.

    And second, and most importantly, I have a very strange name. Authors with strange first and/or last names pretty much never go by their real names. It actually harms your sales to go by your real name if you have a strange last name. Because, anyone who likes Stephanie Meyer, will be able to readily recall her name and pronounce it. While, if your name is something like Elizabeth Dsdfubge, no one is going to remember it, unless they spend a lot of time memorizing it or writing it down. Most people will go to the store, forget the name, and no longer bother trying to get the book. I've actually, personally, done this on several occasions myself. And my last name is about as hard to pronounce as that imaginary name I just wrote, so I'm not going to use it.

    You'll notice that famous authors names are almost always easy to pronounce:

    Stephen King
    Stephanie Meyer
    R.L. Stein
    Douglas Adams
    Louisa May Alcott
    Jane Austen
    C.S. Lewis
     
  9. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    You'll notice that famous authors names are almost always easy to pronounce

    maybe Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky would have done better using a pen name?
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dostoyevsky isn't that hard to pronounce neither is Fyodor, should imagine if I was Russian would be even easier - Have never ever heard in my thirty years heard a person call him anything but Dostoyevsky unless they are presenting culture show lol

    I am using my pen name because my married name is as common as dirt and my maiden name thanks to Edgar Allan Poe has literary connotation's all it's own. Although it may make advertise my tendancy for mad plots nicely lol. There have been way too many Charlotte's as authors. Also writing a mix of genres and ages I maybe required to use more than one name if I ever get published.

    I picked mine from an ancestor and shortened Anastasia to Anya when I realised a large number of YA aged writers on the NaNo boards were naming characters Anya its obviously a name they go for.
     
  11. ojduffelworth
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    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

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    So which authors have used a pen name because their real names are hard to pronounce? What did they change their names to, and from what? It’s just that I am curious to know? Thanks...
     
  12. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not so sure. There are plenty of writers with 'unusual' names, especially these days when there is less pressure of changing them.

    If I wouldn't give up my name for marriage, I certainly wouldn't for something like publishing a book...
     
  13. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    My pen name(SeverinR) does actually have a biography of its own, but when I use it as my Pen name, it is me. The biography only applies to the middle ages persona, not the modern writer.

    (My pen name is my SCA name abbreviated.)

    If you become published, you want your credentials to represent you, not the fabricated persona you create.
     
  14. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    Elga, Charlotte Pimpernel might be a good pen name for ya. ;-)

    Porcupine, I see your point. I have a similar problem, especially because my fiction books are controversial and not so fantasy ..... However, I think you can make a flat biography, without really lying. Just leave out the remarkable stuff that will give away yr identity.
     
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  15. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe if I ever write the hot gay porn my best friend reckons I have a particular ability for lol
     
  16. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    You lost me... I thought that charlotte is phonetically close to scarlet. But I am a foreigner, so forget about it. The Charlotte Pimpernel, however, would surf on the wave of something known. That's too flowery, huh?
     
  17. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    lol I got the joke - I just thought it worked quite well as an erotic writer name. After a couple of scenes I did for fun with my last book my best friend would like to see more :)

    Anya Kimlin works for me. Think it works for my fantasy stories and my easy going paranormal stories (although are proving to have en edge I wasn't expecting). Just not sure Sherlock Foam should be under the same name :)
     
  18. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    I have a huge non-fiction book written (1000 pages) where I needed examples of research people names. So I invented names such as Dr. Reese Urcher, Prof. Alison Wonderland. Anya Kimlin sounds intriguing -- I put my scanners out to see whether it's some kind of anagram, and came up with "I am any link", but I figure that's just coincidence?
     
  19. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Porcupine,

    Yes, I don't disagree that there are reasons why someone might want to use a pen name. My personal view however is that in most cases its not necessary, and it may be counter productive. Readers often want to know a little something about the authors of the books they like, certainly I do, and using a pen name I feel comes between them. There are other ways to protect your privacy and avoid conflicts. For myself I might have conflicts between my professional work and my writing since I'm a civil servant, but I take steps to make sure they don't arise. So anything I have written with the intention of publishing has absolutely no content in it that might go against that which is expected of me as a civil servant.

    Your bishop writing erotica (that image has left me aghast), has a clear conflict, and whether he uses a pen name or not he's going against his vows and what's expected of him. The pen name wouldn't save him since sooner or later if his works sold someone would find him out and then the brown smelly stuff would hit the fan. Then using a pen name would just make him look more guilty. If he has to write such stuff then he should not publish, and if something in him says that he has to publish then maybe he should reconsider his choice of career.

    As for privacy, due to the nature of my work and the fact that people if they knew my name would often call me at home out of hours, I have long had an unlisted phone number which I do not give out.

    But this is off track. The OP was about adding a fake bio to a fake name, and my view is that this would further erode the trust / contract between author and reader.

    Cheers.
     

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