Friday, September 3, 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name…

Over the last few weeks, I’ve blogged at New Kids on the Writer’s Block as Kaelee Morgan on the topic of writer’s voice. Mostly, because I wanted to understand what it is, if I had one, and how to develop it. I’ve learned that #1, we all have a voice, and #2, we have to learn what it is before we can develop and refine it. Like a songster’s voice, a writer’s voice begins with the raw basics and is refined through practice. How refined that voice becomes depends on the practice. Only perfect practice produces a perfect result.

As writers, we MUST learn the craft of writing in order for our practice to be spot on. Our writer’s voice becomes more defined once we’ve mastered how to use writing tools and we begin to shape and use those instruments according to our natural style.

Writer’s voice is as individualistic as we are. A familiar reader should be able to pick up anything we’ve written and identify it with us. Voice is that distinctive.

Don’t believe me? Pick up a book written round robin with several authors. When reading the book, you get a clear sense of when the author has switched. The sentence structure is slightly different, the word choice, even the tone. There is distinction in voice.

I began pondering this uniqueness, the individuality, and imminent recognizability. Not only in voice, but who I am as an author.

When I decided to pursue a professional writing career, I made the choice to use a pen name, Kaelee Morgan. It wasn’t a hard decision. Looking back, it was easier than it should’ve been. Almost without thought, really.

I told family members and friends that I was using a pseudonym, they all asked why. I glibly answered, because I have a day job in the public arena with a large and politically “hot” agency. Self-protection, self-preservation I deemed it.

I hit the bulls-eye with the self-protection, self-preservation bit. But not because of the crap about the day job.

Looking back at my much younger years, I remember writing, writing, writing, and signing my work as Anonymous. Not because I was embarrassed by what I wrote, but because I was embarrassed to be complimented. I wrote a short story in school that my teacher raved about, to everyone. Before long, my story was the talk of the school. In a good way, but the attention was a tad overwhelming. Overwhelming because there’s a vulnerability in writing out your heart and everyone scrutinizing it.

A pen name provides a layer of protection. Some authors choose pen names out of reasonable necessity. Or perhaps because they write in different genres or for different publishers.

I chose a pen name out of fear. Not fear of rejection, but fear of recognition. Kinda backward thinking, I know. Especially considering that I’m not a shy person, nor do I have a problem with self-confidence. I do, however, like privacy.

While studying voice, I dug through the Hope chest to rediscover short stories, creative writing assignments, poems, and research papers from my past. And there I found my voice. Raw and in need of refinement, but definitely my voice.

Somehow, over time, I lost some of what makes me, me, in writing. Maybe this had something to do with me opting for a pen name, maybe not. Most likely not. But, the lesson learned in studying voice is that I just gotta be me.

Shakespeare wrote “a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” I suppose that’s true, but would that flower be as endearing to the masses if called a bloody thorn stalk? Somehow, I don’t think so. The essence of the flower is constant, but our perception of it changes.

After meditating on this for quite some time, I decided that come what may, I want to be known as me. I don’t need an alter identity to shield from the public eye of my day job or from family or friends. In reality, I was only hiding from me. So, I’m foregoing the pen name, Kaelee Morgan.

I’ve changed everything over to the real me, Kristal Lee. No layer of protection now. No cushion to hide behind. Nothing but the simple, direct, often quirky, me.

I’d love to hear from those who’ve chosen to use a pen name, or two. Why did you decide to use a pseudonym? If you use more than one name, do you notice a change in your voice, or does it remain consistent?
~Kristal Lee

**Reposted from NKotWB

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Pippa Jay said...

I created a pen name when I wrote my first book at age 18. At the time, I had a hideous surname - I hated it so much that I'm not about to tell you it now - but there was NO WAY I was having it on my book. So I became Pippa Jay, taken from my first and middle name. Now married with the hideous surname long erased, I've still stuck with it because it's the name of the writer in me, not the person who does the school run or the housework or spends too long playing games on Facebook! She's always been writing so her name will go on the cover if I ever get published.

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