Should Authors be Characters?

DiscussãoHobnob with Authors

Aderi ao LibraryThing para poder publicar.

Should Authors be Characters?

1LShelby
Dez 8, 2021, 1:16 pm

I don't mean should authors put themselves into their books, I mean is it a good thing if outside of the book, the author presents themselves in a way that would make others describe them as "a real character"?

I was inspired to ask this question because I was reading a book that was talking about some business people in a hospitality field acting in a certain way to promote their business, and that reminded me that I had heard advice that authors should do likewise.

I can understand trying to put forward a certain image, but I'm not sure how useful it really is for authors. I have read many books because I know the authors, but I don't think I've ever read anything by someone I didn't know just because I thought the author sounded like a interesting person.

What about the rest of you? Have you ever read anything because of the perceived persona of the author?

2paradoxosalpha
Editado: Abr 5, 2022, 4:08 pm

Thomas Pynchon's near-legendary reclusiveness is sadly not an option for authors first emerging in the 21st century. I suppose that people under 30 with curated online personalities would be perplexed at this question.

My own personal presentation is sufficiently eccentric that some people who have been exposed to it only through my authorship think I'm feigning it for some reason, but then get corrected by people who know me: He really does dress and talk that way.

I generally find out about author personas after first having an interest in their works.

3gilroy
Dez 8, 2021, 2:03 pm

I think it will depend on the sales the person is looking for and the base personality of the author.
Honestly, for some people who are miserable curmudgeons, they have to put on a specific public face just to sell things. They can't present themselves as they are to the world. Modern times also requires you to hold a lot of opinions in reserve, if they want to get past certain members of the buying public. Because some opinions will kill sales just as much as help them.

Though I tend to grab a book to read before I start worrying about who the author is.

4reading_fox
Dez 9, 2021, 9:07 am

I like the question, the reverse of the more common one - should we avoid art if the creator holds opinions we disagree with

And it's just as Tricky!

As above - promotion is all about getting noticed, and if being a character gets you more attention then it will get you more reads. Whether it gets enough more to make up for the costs/energy involved is uncertain. There is a risk that your readers will turn away when they realise that's not who you normally are.

When looking for the next read/buy I certainly don't start by looking for an author's details/personality/profile. But if I'm online/about not reading and interesting sounding person comes across then I may well check out their books next time (if I remember) when I otherwise probably wouldn't have heard of them.

5LShelby
Dez 18, 2021, 4:30 pm

>2 paradoxosalpha:
"My own personal presentation is sufficiently eccentric that some people who have been exposed to it only through my authorship think I'm feigning it for some reason, but then get corrected by people who know me: He really does dress and talk that way."

I don't think I give off that sort of impression myself, but my oldest son does... he writes stuff, and people go "try to write more like you speak"... And his sisters pop up and say, "That IS how he speaks."

I am not under 30, but my children are, but from my observation they aren't making any effort whatsoever to "curate" their online personalities. On the other hand, most of my kids are pretty introverted.

Is there a cost effectiveness barrier there between extroverts who find interacting with the public energizing so it's more worth the extra effort of presenting oneself in a certain mode, and the introverts who find it tiring, and so any extra effort costs more than it's worth?

"I generally find out about author personas after first having an interest in their works."
You and gilroy and me too. I find the books first, and then later maybe I will learn about the author because I am familiar with the name, so I start paying attention. But I do enjoy feeling like I know something about their characters in that circumstance. But that's more of a bonus that a valid kind of promotion.

...but I'm not interest in celebrity style gossip about authors even if I already read them, which suddenly strikes me as an odd differentiation.

I'm trying to find an example...
I recently watched a show staring some Chinese pop star. I was sufficiently amused and curious to click on a video about him totally "bombing" how to be a good boyfriend type questions on a game show, but I don't care who he is dating, what music videos his boy's group is doing, what brand products he uses, or finding out how much money he makes.

Does anyone else feel like there's a difference there, and can help me pin down what exactly it is?

Anyway, I have been known to read books by people I meet here, but I'm not at all sure that is the same thing or no.

What I've been thinking has been "they seemed like a reasonable person and they write in a genre I enjoy, so I'm willing to extend them the benefit of the doubt and give their book a try." I'm not sure "they seemed like a reasonable person" and "they are an interesting character" are all that equivalent.

>3 gilroy:
"Honestly, for some people who are miserable curmudgeons, they have to put on a specific public face just to sell things."

There is one particular science fiction author who might not be a miserable curmudgeon, but he has looked unhappy whenever I 've seen him. There's another one who when I saw him for the first time, rather stunned me with how good looking he is. There's another one who I have heard very unpleasant things about, to the point where my brother in law refuses to buy any of his books, because he doesn't want to support that kind of a person.

In each of these cases, none of those things seems to change how I respond to their books. The miserable guy writes perfectly decent books, which I enjoy on occasion even if they aren't my favorites, the handsome guy I haven't read a single thing he's written ever since I got mad at him for introducing a romantic interest character for the sole purpose of killing him off in the next book. And the supposedly horrible person writes very funny books, and my husband and I own quite a few of them.

But maybe I'm an outlier here?
Obviously my brother-in-law doesn't feel the same way.

>4 reading_fox:
"But if I'm online/about not reading and interesting sounding person comes across then I may well check out their books next time (if I remember) when I otherwise probably wouldn't have heard of them."

This seems to be key somehow.

If it makes me remember them, then I have remembered them, and that might even be an advantage.

Although there was that guy who came to a science fiction convention claiming to be a marketing guru, and dragging along his booth babes ::eye roll::, and I never could remember his name or the title of his book, so I can't avoid it on purpose, which I otherwise would, so me not recognizing his name might be to his benefit.

(But on the plus side, I got the distinct impression that in spite of his extremely over-the-top promotion efforts, the book itself was remaining entirely unknown so I'm not likely to bump into it by accident.)

But mostly, I'm thinking after reading everyone's response, and thinking over what associations/memories they inspired in me, that good impression or bad impression might not be the whole consideration behind this kind of an approach.

More an "appropriate" impression?

If I liked reading the sorts of books that seemed likely to be written by the sort of guy who would haul booth babes to a convention in order to promote his small press book, then maybe I would have remembered his name. Just as how at the meet the editor session I was in with him, he had produced actual sales figures instead of vague, "It was selling really well", I might have remembered the title of the book.

In retrospect I think maybe the reason his book completely failed to make an impression, was because I didn't like the authorial character that he presented. If he had been presenting a character that would "fit" the kind of book I liked to read, I might have remembered him.

If his booth babes had been dressed for the masquerade in costumes that were more about wouldbuilding and culture than about being scantily-clad, for example, maybe bringing booth babes would have worked.

This is a different circumstance from the three authors I mentioned above, because in each of those cases, I read their books before I met them, so I already knew what I liked and what I didn't like about the books.

And it actually does tie into me choosing to read books by people that I meet here, because "they seemed like sensible people" may not be eye-catching, but it is "appropriate".

6LShelby
Dez 18, 2021, 4:33 pm

It occurs to me that my response was pretty long. ::rueful::

Should I be replying to each post separately?

7gilroy
Dez 19, 2021, 6:59 am

>5 LShelby: That's really not a valid response to my post since you cherry picked a single sentence out of the paragraph without addressing any of the supporting details.

8paradoxosalpha
Dez 19, 2021, 11:57 am

>7 gilroy: That's really not a valid response to my post

I thought this was a space more for friendly discussion than for rigorous debate. As far as I'm concerned, "a valid response" is whatever anyone is inspired to reply by the foregoing messages.

9gilroy
Dez 19, 2021, 1:14 pm

>8 paradoxosalpha: And yet for a friendly discussion, it doesn't work to respond to the first sentence and completely ignore the rest of the conversation.

10paradoxosalpha
Dez 19, 2021, 8:17 pm

But there was no expression of disagreement or hostility I could see. So I am puzzled by your expressed upset.

11gilroy
Dez 20, 2021, 5:38 am

>10 paradoxosalpha: You are reading upset where there was a statement of fact.

12LShelby
Abr 5, 2022, 3:16 pm

>7 gilroy: "That's not really a valid response to my post"

I'm sorry if it disappointed you.

I will try to do better...

"I think it will depend on the sales the person is looking for and the base personality of the author."

I think you are saying that some personalities sell better to the public than others. I totally agree with that statement, but at the same time, I'm not so certain that the difference is enough to make a significant impact for professionally published authors whose books sell because they are puffed off by their publishing companies and stocked on bookstore shelves.

I'm not saying it doesn't make a difference, I'm saying I'm not certain. I read extensively throughout my childhood -- mostly books borrowed from libraries or from my relatives, many of whom were avid collectors of secondhand books. At no point during the entirety of my childhood was I ever aware of what sort of "character" an author was. I knew them only through the books that they wrote.

Is this not the normal state of affairs?

"Honestly, for some people who are miserable curmudgeons, they have to put on a specific public face just to sell things. They can't present themselves as they are to the world. Modern times also requires you to hold a lot of opinions in reserve, if they want to get past certain members of the buying public. Because some opinions will kill sales just as much as help them."

I do see the point, though, that nowadays it is a LOT easier for readers to find out about the various opinions of the authors they read, (assuming that the authors have failed to follow your advice, and "hold" those opinions") so it does seem like it would be easier to offend one's readership than ever before. Definitely something aspiring authors should keep in mind.

Although... since there are generally two sides to every question, being offensive to one side, might actually be the ticket to getting noticed by the other side.

Although, frankly, as a method of getting attention this one makes my teeth itch a bit. I would FAR rather being a noted for being quirky or clever, or funny, or erudite or... well, anyway, there is a host of other things I would far rather be known for.

"Though I tend to grab a book to read before I start worrying about who the author is."

Me too!

I hope you found this response more satisfying. I apologize for the long delay.

13LShelby
Abr 5, 2022, 3:27 pm

>8 paradoxosalpha: "As far as I'm concerned, "a valid response" is whatever anyone is inspired to reply by the foregoing messages."

This would be my definition of a "valid response" also, but on the other hand, my goal in discussion is not just to air my own views, but also to encourage responses from other people.

A reply that does not succeed in making the the poster feel like their post was taken seriously may be valid, but it also doesn't really accomplish what I want to do. :(

And back to the topic at hand...

...Today I gave a copy of some of my books to my new "primary care physician" (the old one moved out of town, as did the one before that... the one before that just moved down the block, but that move involved a change in "medical provider networks". )

Anyway, I gave her some books, and she was so delighted, I confess I found myself startled.

I had met her exactly once before.

I can't help wondering: Did that one meeting give her such a strong impression of my "character" that she would be that excited to be exposed to the children of my imagination, or would she have been just as excited if any of her patients gave her books they had written?

I'm not sure how one goes about finding out the answer to this question. It's a bit emotionally fraught, so if one just asks, one will probably get a socially acceptable response ("You just seem like such an interesting person") which may or may not be the truth.

14MythButton
Fev 15, 2023, 2:43 pm

I have a pen name prepared for more arthouse-inspired works, and I was thinking of including that pen name as a character in another book I'm planning out.

15LShelby
Fev 15, 2023, 5:22 pm

>14 MythButton:

Wow, that is way more literal than I was thinking when I started this thread.

So... inquiring minds want to know, how closely to you intend to have this character resemble yourself?

I have a character I consider my "self-insertion character" in the series I am supposed to be finishing book fourof but instead I've been on an extended break so that I can be sick and also write a 260k word script that wasn't on my schedule. I did not use my own name, and I doubt anyone who isn't quite familiar with me would guess that I associate that particular character with myself.

...What I was actually thinking when I said "should the author be a charater?' was more along the lines of me buying a leather outback hat and some boots so I can better present the appearance of someone who writes adventure stories. (Except that I wore the boots out before I had a chance to present myself anywhere.)

16MythButton
Fev 15, 2023, 5:28 pm

>15 LShelby: I think in this specific context, the character would represent the imagery I want people to associate with the pen name itself. Think of it as Jekkyl and Hyde situation. He has the same interests as me, but his personality is very different.

17LShelby
Fev 18, 2023, 3:24 pm

>16 MythButton:
So sort of like Steven Brust's Phoenix Guards, which is a fantasy written in the voice of an authorial character, who is himself a character within the fantasy world who is writing the Phoenix Guards story as a work of historical fiction?

Only instead of having it all happen inside one book, you are doing the story in one book and putting the authorial character into a second book?

18MythButton
Fev 18, 2023, 3:27 pm

>17 LShelby: Yep. I'll release books with his pen name, but he'll be a character in another "Jed Overstreet" novel.

19LShelby
Fev 19, 2023, 2:25 pm

>18 MythButton:
I have this feeling that I've seen this done in reverse: first there was a writer character, and then books were written using that character's name as the pen name.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

20paradoxosalpha
Editado: Fev 20, 2023, 1:06 am

Nick Harkaway--actually Nicholas Cornwell--introduced a writer character named Diana Hunter in his novel Gnomon, and Harkaway later used the anagram Aidan Truhen as his pen name for the Jack Price books. (I hope he writes more of these.)

21Cecrow
Fev 20, 2023, 8:23 am

>1 LShelby:, a promotion question. Unfortunately you're not going to stand out from the crowd for personality alone. There's a lot of factors at play, not all of which you can control. A huge part of it presently is, how social media savvy are you, and how dedicated are you willing to be to becoming so? Attention-getting devices nearly all relate to this, unless you somehow are able to nab a big media interview (which generally requires controversial content, or already having become well known on social media.)

An author friend of mine has made some headway by rigorously pursuing opportunities to appear on panels and speaking events, judge contests, etc. Do enough of this and it starts becoming easier as your name becomes more familiar. Become more familiar and people begin to think of you as someone they need to get around to reading. Must be accompanied by frequent output.

Prepare to be judged. Does your personal background reflect and suit your content? Higher exposure means higher inspection.