Writing Smarter Radio, a Podcast About Writing for Creative Writers
Transcript: Deeper Dive into Character Flaws and Pen Names
Hi, this is Deb S with Writing Smarter Radio. Today we’re going to look at a deeper dive into flaws. And we’re also going to talk about pen names. I’m really glad you’ve joined me. Are you ready to get started?
We were talking about flaws in the last episode, but we were on a very superficial level, the top surface there, and we were talking about how somebody could see something as a gift or a blessing where somebody else could say it’s a flaw. But I don’t want you to think that in itself is the flaw.
Basically, when it comes down to what a character and their flaws are, it’s sort of like a lie they believe about themselves. And it creates a way that they react and respond to things in general. So, say in a romance story, that somebody believes they are unlovable, they’re completely unlovable because they gotten a, you know, had a bad relationship. So, now they believe that they’re not worthy. Now, this is a lie that they believe about themselves. And the only way that they’re going to truly find love is to overcome this flaw, or this lie that they believe is true about themselves.
The journey of the story is going to be how they react through things. As challenges come about or a situation comes up, they’re going to see the world through this wound that’s deep within their heart, or in their brain, where they believe they are not worthy of love.
Something has happened in their past that’s created this life that they live in, that it’s not necessarily a true statement, but they believe it wholeheartedly. I’m not lovable. I’ve been told that or I’m not lovable, I can’t keep a relationship together, all my relationships fall apart, or I went through a divorce, so I must not be lovable. I failed.
You can use this in many different aspects. It could be a sense where you feel like a failure, because you lost a very important competition. So you believe that no matter what you try, now you’re going to fail because you’re not good enough at doing what it is you thought you might be able to do. It doesn’t really matter what genre you’re writing in, there’s a basis of something that you believe or, you know, your main character believes, and they need to overcome this. So that flaw is actually something they believe about themselves.
In the last episode, we were just talking about suburb, city, rural and I just kind of throwing it out there. But say somebody who grew up in the country, in a very rural small town area, is now going to live in a city. They may believe that they have a problem and can’t do something because they were not taught the right way to do it within the city. Whereas the same thing, if somebody was growing up in a city and moves to a small town, well, I’m not going to be able to function there, because I only know how to do things one way…
You know, that was just kind of a real superficial one, but you need to go deeper, deep down into the heart of matters. Because the reason we do things is a reaction based on who we are. It’s like when I gained a lot of weight and I felt like my vulnerability expanded. Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling very worthy. Somebody told me because of my weight, that I wasn’t valuable anymore. And it left an impact on how I reacted to things, what I did, how I dressed, how I reacted to others when they wanted to reach out to me… I thought, no, I’m not worthy of that.
So, it’s things that go deep, deep down and create this vulnerability within you that makes you transform or makes you act in a certain way… You may have a job interview, which is something completely unrelated to a relationship but you take with you those vulnerabilities that are trapped inside of you. So you may dress a certain way because you’re afraid that they’re going to look at you and think you’re unworthy because you’re living in that lie within yourself.
“Oh, even though I know what to do with this job and I know how to do it and I’m qualified, they’re not going to want me because I’m not worthy.” Well in your story, it’s going to relate into everything people do…how they live, how they work, how they play, how they react to friends, how they react in relationships. It doesn’t really have any specific one thing that it will do. What it will do instead is create reactions because you’re creating a new story within that character of who they are and why they do things.
Your flaw is that very deep, primal level, where it’s so ingrained in your character that they don’t know how to be anything besides that or respond otherwise to that. So maybe a child who felt unloved growing up is going to still grow up and have issues, you know, imposter syndrome or self confidence issues. Everything they do when they meet somebody, they may not look them in the eye, they might not have a good competent handshake, each moment of their life is going to be reflected in that.
That’s really important to put into the character that you’re writing, because that’s what’s going to make your character original. That’s what’s going to make your character relatable. That’s what’s going to make your story different. 100 people could write the same thing, a man and a woman falling in love. But those stories are all going to be unique based on the characters, they’re going to be fresh perspective, because the character reacts and lives and believes and breathes different ways based on the lie they’ve told about themselves or their flaw.
Before I go into the next thing, which we’re going to talk about pen names, is I just wanted to remind you that you can go to WritingSmarter.com and get a free download. Put your name and get on my newsletter, and there’s some free downloads you can grab, whether it’s a word count tracker, there’s a quick little planner to get you started that asks you a couple questions.
When we’re talking about pen names, it’s a question that comes up often with a lot of new writers when you’re on writing groups and stuff and people are curious, you know, you’ll get should I use a pen name? Or why did you choose to use a pen name? Why wouldn’t you just choose your own name?
Pen names are a choice, they give you a sense of anonymity. And they also allow you to stretch out and write in multiple pen names for different marketing purposes, which is why I use pen names. They also give you a chance to have a little privacy in your life if say you don’t want your in laws to know you’re writing a book or you’re a teacher, and maybe you’re writing scenes that are a little more risque, and you don’t want that attached to your teaching name because people may judge you based on that…
It really doesn’t matter what the cause is, it’s just simply a choice. Now, what are some of the pros and cons of using a pen name? Well, first thing, if you’re going to get a pen name or you’re thinking about it, you’re going to want to make sure that all of the websites are available such as the domain name you want, the main one .com, because that’s the one people are looking for. Are the social media handles available? Is somebody already currently using that name? Finding a name that’s unique to you is a bigger prospect than just picking a name out of a hat. At this point, you need to make sure that all your marketing potential is there with your domains, and social names and handles and such things like Facebook and Instagram.
Another thing you’re going to want to consider if you’re using a pen name is the mark of marketability. Some people get funny about if a man or a woman is writing, say a romance or if you’re writing a hard boiled detective novel or a military adventure, they may only want to read it from a male author or only from a female author. And that’s their issue or their perspective. But it’s something that’s out there. And that’s why a lot of times people will use initials because they don’t want to necessarily say I am a woman writing a military space opera, or I am a man writing a sappy romance and it can work both ways. It doesn’t really matter. But it’s an issue that comes up and you see it a lot if you’re in writing groups for newer people.
Another thing that comes up with pen names has to do with marketing. One thing you’ll want to consider if you plan on writing multiple books in multiple genres, it can be difficult to get that cross pollination of audiences. And if you are writing say clean romance, people will go and look at your catalogue of books. Oh, what else did they write? Well, if they’re a Christian reader reading a clean romance and they have issues with a cult horror books, you don’t want those also showing up on your pen name. In that case it’s marketing. It doesn’t make sense to have them together because your marketing is going to become confusing.
So in today’s age, marketing unfortunately plays a big part in it because if you self publish, you’re doing a lot of marketing yourself. Another thing to consider with pen names is that if you choose to use a pen name, it can be confusing also, when you’re opening accounts everywhere. You know, are you going to do it as an LLC as a sole proprietor? Are you going to have a separate bank account? There’s a lot of little details that go into it. And you shouldn’t really be too concerned at that level while you’re still writing your book. But they’re things to start considering and looking into. If you’re looking at publishing not as a hobby, but rather as a business. one more aspect to consider is how difficult is your name to say or spell? How easy is it going to be to find you online, if you’re creating a pen name, or if you have a last name that is very difficult to spell in your friends get it wrong all the time. And misplace a Y and an I, or it sounds difficult to spell, you may want to consider a pen name, because it becomes about visibility and searchability online. Another thing is it easy to spell like we were saying, people are going to search for your website, and you want to make sure you have it so that you are easy to locate visibility is going to be your biggest challenge when you’re new out of the gate. So consider something easy to say something that’s easy to spell, but not a name, that’s going to confuse you with somebody else who has a very similar name.
Another thing to consider is if you have a name, and you want to use your real name, and that’s totally fine. That is similar to somebody else who’s an author, consider putting an initial in there, maybe your middle initial, so there’s not confusion among readers by having the same exact name of somebody on Amazon. So say they are EB White. And that’s what you were hoping to use. Well, obviously, there’s a famous author who uses EB White. So maybe you could be Eleanor B White, or you could be E White, or B White, or EB Whitehall, or whatever you just play with a little bit and expand it. That’s not to say you can’t use that directly. But consider the confusion that might come along with you having the same name as somebody else. And if it’s somebody big and famous, you don’t want to go that way. Because then it becomes awkward.
One more thing I want to bring up is when you have pen names. So a lot of accounts to keep in mind. I have email for each pen name, I have a mailing list for each pen name had I kept everything under one name, whether it was my personal name, or one pen name, it would have been easier. So you need to balance how far are you taking your writing? Is this going to be a career you hoped that takes off? And you want to follow under one name? Do you want that name to have separate identity and separate account from your personal life so that you separate your personal and professional life? Or is it easier to put it all together on one basket and handle all the details that way, I think that having one pen name would have been ideal for me. My problem is that I kept expanding, expanding.
Now taking in mind, I’ve been doing this for a long time now, but I’ve multiple pen names. If I was starting out again, the advice I would give you is if you’re going to use a pen name, stick with one, it makes life easier. There’s less confusion because now I’m checking multiple emails, I’m trying to keep up with multiple email lists. I’m trying to keep up series and multiple names. It got to be a lot. That’s why after COVID it really emphasized to me how important it is for me to streamline at this point, I was too spread out. So if I’m talking to somebody who’s new and just starting out, I would recommend streamlining your thoughts. If you’re thinking I’m going to write this and then I’m going to write a book over here. But then I want to write a book about that. Start out with your first book, see how that goes, and then stay in your lane. It really is the best business advice I can give you.
If it’s a hobby, go at it go all over the place, right in any genre you want. Jump around, but if it’s a business, the narrower your path, the better your audience, you’re not as stretched out, visibility becomes deeper, it becomes easier to connect with people. With that in mind. I hope you enjoyed this episode. And I hope you come back to join me next week. I’m going to be covering tropes and we’re going to start the process if you’re planning get out pen and paper get out your Word document or your google doc or Scrivener or whatever you like to use because we’re going to start your book. With that in mind. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving a review and subscribe. Thank you again. This is Writing Smarter Radio. Bye bye.
Transcribed by otter.ai