Pondering pseudonyms and alter egos

Would it surprise you to read I have never listened to a Beyoncé song? I mean, on purpose. Her music is played here and there and everywhere, so she’s kind of hard to miss. 😉

Typically I’m a classic rock kinda gal, with some 80s and 90s soft rock or even a bit of pop thrown in.

I mention Beyoncé because a friend of mine brought her up the other day. Actually, she referred to her as Sasha Fierce. I had to google this name. I didn’t know what she was talking about.

Sasha Fierce is Beyoncé’s alter ego. (It is also the name of her third solo album, titled I Am…Sasha Fierce, released in 2008.) Which leads me down a whole new rabbit hole… 🐰

Let’s talk about alter egos.

First, a definition, and expansion on the above tidbit:

An alter ego is a person’s secondary or alternative personality. It can also be defined as another version of oneself.

Beyoncé said in an interview that Sasha Fierce owns her when she is on stage and that Beyoncé is dead.

I find this interesting.

What I find even more interesting is how an alter ego might be applied to writers.

Think about it: when you write fiction, you create characters. These characters may, in some cases, become highly developed and you end up cultivating strong feelings for them.

Some people may do this under their own, real name, but others may want to conceal behind a pseudonym. A nom de plume.

There are many reasons why people write under a different name than their own. We can debate this another time. My interest here is the alter ego, specifically, my alter ego.

Do I have a hidden alter ego?

I ponder these things with more questions. 😀

Like these:

  • Is my female protagonist in a steamy love story I created last year my alter ego?
  • As she travels through her romance with her new man, do her actions and emotions reflect mine? 😳

It’s an interesting theory, but far from simple.

As I read Stephen King’s On Writing, he mentioned on more than one occasion that some of his most famous characters were created while he was consuming alcohol excessively. He struggled with a deep addiction but did much of his most celebrated writing while drunk or hungover.

Makes me wonder…was the effect of alcoholism responsible for creating what may appear to some as his alter ego(s) via his characters?

(Annie Wilkes comes to mind, played famously by Kathy Bates in the film/book title Misery. I have not read the book but everyone has seen at least part of Kathy Bates’ exemplary theatrics in that film…)

A couple of years ago I created a pseudonym for myself. Very few people know about it. I trust those few with my whole being – they will not betray my trust. They understand that I feel much freer to write under this unknown pseudonym than I do under my own name. (Yes I understand about accidental discovery. I’m asking for your discretion should that happen. Thank you.)

I wrote things; I published some, sometimes I delete them. Mostly I just write and store without worry that it’s too out there, or weird, or inappropriate, or crazy. I just go with it.

The more I do that, the more comfortable I get with my writing style(s).

As I type and think up more stories, I notice certain repetitive similarities emerge in my characters. Certain behaviours, thoughts, actions that I seem to have explored before appear on my screen. I welcome them; they feel familiar, like an old friend.

Feels like my alter ego talking…(either that or I have a multiple personality disorder of some sort.) 🙂

One day I may release or publish some of this stuff, but that day is not here yet. (Or is it?)

But back to the alter ego.

Are the characters we fiction writers conceive under our pseudonyms our alter egos?

Someone, my Muse, mentioned this possibility to me a while back. It stuck with me over time, but it wasn’t until my other friend mentioned Sasha Fierce that I started to dig a little deeper. (And hurl all these words into the social internet, once again…😀)

Sorry not sorry. 😛

Anyway, I will leave you with a couple more questions to ponder yourself (because I’m currently on a questions kick):

a) If you write under a pseudonym, do you consider that your alter ego?

b) Could you call your protagonist and/or characters your alter ego(s)?

If you’ve dabbled in fiction writing, I’d be interested in your comment.

If you have, or are contemplating a pseudonym, and have thoughts about alter egos, please share them. If you prefer to bypass the comments below, feel free to email me at writerofwords@gmail.com

Your privacy is assured; I won’t share what you share with me.

42 thoughts on “Pondering pseudonyms and alter egos

  1. I am also very interested in what you have written here about alter ego, as I have created a character (Imogene), that has taken on a life of her own. She is her own person and has her own personality. Is she my alter ego? Possibly. She is bold and sexual and experimental, and I do feel it all inside myself first before she carries it out.
    I love your writing so very much and appreciate the diversity and you get my mind working and wondering. I did not know about Beyonce and her alter ego. I always assumed that performers have to assume a character when on stage, because their off stage persona is quite different.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel this too, this alter ego personality that comes through when I create certain characters.

      You know I write under a pseudonym; I have to tell you I cannot writer there unless I feel it, feel her (whoever the character is). Without the emotional connection the words come out forced. It’s difficult to explain, but I know you know what I mean. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. a) Yes and no; while I do feel freer, I also know that truly I am just using my pseudonym as another creative outlet to differentiate between my “professional standard” writing under my legal name. The pseudonym allows me to be as crass and open as I like. 😈

    b) Some, but not all. I do feel like all of my characters incorporate pieces of me or someone close to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I first started blogging on Open Diary, I wrote under a pseudonym. That’s a different sort of community (much like Live Journal) and everybody did/does. Switching to my real name when I joined WordPress felt very odd, yet also liberating.

    My alter ego on OD was mostly me…maybe just an exaggerated version. In my fiction, one protagonist in particular was a dead ringer for me, right down to his job, interests, and desires. I really laid myself bare on the page when writing that story. I think it’s a natural thing that many writers do to some extent.


  4. I’ve never played one of her tracks or albums by choice either – but then I tend to live in an electro-pop, or 80s and 90s bubble if left to my own devices 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When someone chooses a pseudonym, it probably has to do with somewhere in the personality.
    I use a pseudonym on the social network, although very few of my contacts know me personally. But once someone, outside my circle of friends, who shouldn’t have that information, called me by the pseudonym when I walked through the door of their workplace.
    I thought: – Oh! What happened here?…
    Conclusion: it is difficult to keep the name and pseudonym dissocied, at some point they meet.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Anyone who reads me must know that Gemma is not my actual name. I invented the name initially to protect my identity. Non-monogamy is not mainstream and many people have moral issues with it. I am not ashamed of my lifestyle but I don’t want other people’s insecurities and judgement affecting my children or my professional life so Gemma it is. Over the years Gemma has become much much more than a Pen Name. She is the Dr Jekyll to my Mr Hyde. I use the name sometimes in the real world if the situation is appropriate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read you and understand completely.

      Thanks for the feedback Gemma. It’s tricky for people who don’t follow the mainstream but at the same time want to share their creative side and be transparent.


  7. I have no room in my head for an alter ego. It simply will not fit. As far as pseudonyms, I’ve been living under a bastardized moniker my entire life, so I’m afraid I have no reference point for a true name. My characters are all me. From the whores to the pimps to the choir boys … Who else could they possibly be but their creator’s?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are, unsurprisingly, quite a lot of people who feel this way. They take portions of themselves and build their characters around it. When I read some of your published fiction on your blog, I see it. I see what you mean. Claire’s boyfriend Jack (was that his name?), who ran off before she came back into the bedroom…I can totally see you in him to degrees. (Sorry not sorry?) 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jack was probably the most autobiographically similar character I’ve ever written … you’re quite right … and, I’m nothing like Claire, of course, but I know women who are. As for Leo Sugarman, the greasy fat bastard / impresario of smut … he’s all me. Thanks for noticing not noticing 😳

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Twice, very very briefly, I created 2 other blogs under pseudonyms. One was supposed to be poetry based. Why I ever thought that would succeed is beyond me and it vanished as quickly as it came. I also did another to write about and keep some things from my kids (who at the time read my blog) prior to really coming to grips with my divorce decision. Once they were all fully aware, and once I had tossed the ex under the bus and bashed him verbally I didn’t need that blog anymore either!

    Any other writing has always been linked back in some way to my real self.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I came across a variety of “cougar” blogs, moms who are divorced and dating. Some of them write under their own names but many write under a pseudonym. All of them give their male dates these interesting (funny, hilarious) “fake” names…And yes, in some cases, some of them bash the dates or exes…So I get it. A pseudonym is a place for you to get support from others in a similar situation that gives you the privacy to be free and transparent. Many people however are afraid to be found out regardless…

      And it does happen.

      But that freedom to be uninhibited…it is very attractive to some people. Even if it’s temporary – it feels like self-care or a mental health exercise.

      Thanks Deb for sharing your experience!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I think you might want to explore an alter ego if you haven’t made room in your life (for whatever reason) to express parts of who you are. If that helps, by all means, do it. I don’t think our characters are necessarily our alter egos. Our characters are composites. They meet different needs–to move plot forward, to give insight into how events empact different character types, to make us feel–from the perspective of the character. Our characters may reflect in part who we are, or not. People often ask me “Which character are you?” in a particular book. How do I answer? I am all of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a lot of truth in this last statement. Many writers and authors say that their characters are either a combination of what they are, what they strive to be, and what they were in previous times. Maybe someone struggled and overcame addiction and is now developing a character that draws on that experience…that sort of thing. Or someone who was a city dweller developed a character that was a small town farming community person…something the author may have wished to be all along but never got occasion to realize in life.

      The sky’s the limit with writing and character development. 🙂

      For me, one character in particular feels like a bigger part of me than some of the others. Maybe in her case, she is my alter ego…

      Thank you for commenting. Always nice to hear from you.


  10. That is so funny. I just mentioned and was dreaming last night of using pen names. I don’t’ have much to hide and some of my fiction is based on my work and past life working overseas and people I met…but I figured it would be a cop out to not use my real name. If I wrote a hot novel and not sure that would be my style and did it for the monies, I might use a pen name or an alter ego. I don’t see that happening but….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I kind of felt that way two-ish years ago as well. I always thought, why can’t I just be open and transparent?

      Then I dabbled with the pen name thing just to play around with it. It’s so easy to delete the persona if it didn’t do anything for me.

      As I explored, I found that I could write completely uninhibited there. No one knew me, so it felt much freer. It’s hard to explain.

      In the meantime, it’s two years later and I’m still happy to play with the pen names.

      Kind of funny…

      Thank you for your perspective, as always! You have some stories to tell from all your travels. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve considered publishing under a pseudonym simply because I’m so vocal on social media about matters of race and injustice that I fear I’ll alienate my target audience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s relatively easy to do with a pseudo gmail address and a blog on pretty much any platform (not only on WP). But I get it. I have a similar view, although not so much about politics and social in/justice (because it attracts too many idiots and I get all riled up). But there are topics that I want to explore at times that don’t fit with the whole mom-persona…so I do that elsewhere.

      Feel free to email me anytime if you want to discuss further.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I started writing with pen names to protect my identity, but then it (queenie) snowballed into an actual part of me. I would consider it to be my alter ego, I think it’s easier to write without having ties to real people/things, and I can sort of create myself to be someone without social anxieties, and I can put myself into stories! ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never read any of his books. This one, On Writing, is almost like a memoir. I kept wondering in the early chapters if he was going to actually write about writing. But the preambles are an important glimpse into his writing inception. Load it on a library app if you have one. That’s what I did. I’m not finished yet, but I’m enjoying his insights.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. On an author persona, I guess I’d call ‘Jyvur Entropy’ an alter ego of sorts. I don’t have the pen name for me, but because my husband works in a very liberal field and my books are very tied up in my politics (which are centrist but lean conservative on gender issues). We live in a world where a person with conservative views could be fired or even see their spouse fired.
    So I have to use the fake name to be honest.
    I’d say Jyvur Entropy is my most honest self. I’d be okay with backlash, but actions being taken against others in my life (who don’t share my views) keeps me using a pen name and operating under some level of anonymity.

    As far as characters being my alter ago….I’d have to say no. My current WIP has an incel as the main character. I relate to his depression and having no sense of direction, but I don’t relate to his issues tied up in inceldom. For me, the best part of being a writer is stepping into the heads of people who are very different than me. I like using fiction as a tool for understanding people who are nothing like me. Anytime I come across a group of people I don’t understand or relate to at all, I end up wanting to write about them, find that common thread of humanity.
    That’s why so many of my female characters are feminist leaning SJW. I don’t like self-insert characters and I try to avoid them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On the politics side, I agree. I find the extremes on both sides tend to be very judgemental to alternative/opposite views, or, god forbid, toward a mishmash of both. I’m not extremist in either direction but lean one way or the other in some of the social issues. Frankly, I just don’t want to put up with some anal-retentive, judgemental, rude person who insists we all think their way, especially not on this blog. So I hear you loud and clear, and completely understand the clandestine method of writing truth and transparency in your case.

      The other point, about exploring people in your characters who are nothing like you, that is very, very interesting. When I think of some of my characters who may do certain things I would not have the courage to do myself, I wonder why I dabble in that topic. Is it because I want to be that way? Or is it because I’m comfortable not being that way but having some fun with embellishment?

      The beauty of writing creatively never ceases to amaze me! Thank you very much for your contribution. I will dabble in your blog next time I have some uninterrupted time and do some reading.


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