As an author, especially one just starting out, you’re often told about the importance of your “brand.” You’re lectured that how you act on social media, what you talk about in interviews, and what you write should all be in keeping with whatever “brand” you choose.
But that can seem artificial or inauthentic. You’re a person, after all. You’re not a corporation. You’re not a product.
But you are, in a way, a character.
Think about it. The fictional characters we write are supposed to seem as real as people, yet we can’t possibly portray them with all the complexity and breadth as people. You may know what hospital your protagonist was born in and the color of the walls of her second-grade bedroom and the bitter tears she cried when her brother threw her favorite CD out the window of a moving car, never to be seen again, on the road between Casper and Cheyenne – but you’re not going to share these details with your readers, unless they’re relevant to the story. You don’t write a character with no interests or history whatsoever, of course, but sentences laden with exposition bring your fiction grinding to a halt.
And the same is true of us, as authors. Even if you do want to tell your readers alllllll about your life, they’re not likely to be interested. You’re going to be selecting details regardless. So it’s not too much of a stretch to give some thought to those details, and what you’re going to emphasize, and what’s going to fall by the wayside.
This has really hit home with me lately, as I prepare to launch my second debut — a new novel, this time under a pseudonym. And as I build out the social media presence of my new identity, and give interviews under that name, it has come clear to me that my process for deciding on my author identity is the same process I’d use for deciding what to say and not say about a character.
Because here’s the thing. Everything I say about myself under this new identity, this pseudonym, is just as true of me as the things I say about myself as Jael McHenry. But if you read my bio side-by-side with my pseudonym’s bio, you’d perceive that these two people were very different. It all depends on what we reveal and what we leave unsaid.
So don’t think of your online presence, or your authorial identity, as a brand. Think of yourself as a character. And when you’re developing characters, do it the same way: by thinking about what you share and what you hold back, because even in real life, there are very few people we know absolutely everything about. Everyone else we know in part.
The people we meet and the people we read? All characters.