Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Characters, Pseudonyms, and Metafiction

     When I started my Creative Writing class this summer, I set two goals for myself: to write more, and to experiment with different styles. I began the course primarily as a poet, but I am enjoying the freedom fiction allows me. For my second major assignment in the class, I decided to toy around with metafiction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metafiction). The piece I ended up with was a far cry from my usual writing; it employed stream of consciousness, postmodernism, and metafiction. It also contained language I wouldn't be comfortable using in front of my family or many of my teachers. I've been struggling with where to place the piece, or if I could submit it for publication at all. I could hardly brag about the publication while simultaneously keeping it secret from my ultra conservative family. My Creative Writing teacher suggested a pseudonym, and that idea has been growing on me for several reasons.

     The anonymity of the internet has made it easy for people to assume alternate identities and develop relationships that wouldn't progress in a real time situation. But writers have been creating characters to tell their stories for them long before the technological revolution. Samuel Clemens is a classic example: he crafted Mark Twain to be a character, who then created the likes of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Similarly, Robert Frost cultivated a very specific image of himself. Taking metafiction, then, which is fiction discussing the art of fiction, and adding another layer by creating a character to become the author, seems to lead to a stronger metafictional piece and almost another literary device altogether. The author becomes a character, and behind that character is me, the "man behind the curtain" or more appropriately, the woman typing on the keyboard. While I could just use a pseudonym, and publish my work under a different name, I am considering turning that pseudonym into a fully blown character a la King's Richard Bachman or Clemens' Mark Twain. The definition of "being a writer" has changed considerably with technology and developing literary techniques. As media and entertainment become more interactive, I imagine that an imaginary author, with publications under her imaginary belt, could well blog about her imaginary life and her imaginary experiences, creating more art in the process.

     This is hardly a new idea. Artists from several different genres are toying about with interactive entertainment: check out Nine Inch Nail's Year Zero album, for instance, or the interactive sites NBC put up for Lost. As technology changes, and as consumers become jaded by their many options, writers have mainly kept to the same traditions they've used for thousands of years. The average fiction reader wants to be immersed in the art they're experiencing: but it's important to let the reader control the level of immersion. One of the major reasons for the success of NIN's Year Zero album is that it catered to all levels of interest. Fans can choose just to access the music, or to explore the ARG (Alternate Reality Game) to its fullest extent. I feel that, as writers in a technological age, authors need to be more flexible to new formats and new types of writing while striving to keep that writing accessible to readers seeking varying degrees of experience.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jumping on the Bandwagon...

I sometimes feel like a bumbling giant around my friends. They are fluent in all the latest trends in writing, know all the best magazines, and can give you detailed information on how to submit writing. They give themselves deadlines and word limits for daily writing, create blogs to "get their name out there" and network like literary socialites. I submit things here and there, get a nice balance of acceptances vs. rejections, and consider myself content. This is not, apparently, acceptable for SOME friends, and I know I have family and friends who would like to follow my "budding literary career" somewhere more professional than Facebook. So here I am, and hopefully I won't bore the world with my prattling. Enjoy!