Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Poet Sleeps With Me

Writing under a different identity has always appealed to me. If I sit down to write as myself, I am too conscious of my own personal history. I write from the perspective of a pasty white Scot too young to know anything useful. If I create a fresh identity and author work with the history, experience and wisdom of this person, the game changes.

Say I am Laird Bothie Jamie McCullum. I am descended from James Boswell and work for Historic Scotland as curator, and write the most amazingly dull modern jazz songs on piano. Assuming this lineage, position and so on, will give me a better starting point for historical fiction than writing as a pasty white dude into Radiohead and striped tops.

The most famous example of writing under different names or identities is Fernando Pessoa. The Portuguese poet and academic is known to have created over seventy various ‘heteronyms’ to write his work. Each character comes with its own biography, philosophy and writing style. Bernardo Soares, an accountant in Lisbon, is one of his most famous identities – noted for his dapper dress sense and penchant for idle philosophising.

On a note of digression, Drugstore wrote a
gorgeous song in tribute to the poet. On another note of digression, Drugstore have also re-formed and are touring again. This is magnificent news for fans of Isabel Monteiro’s unique spine-tingling compositions. Anyhoo.

Brian O’Nolan wrote his columns as Myles na gCopaleen and his novels as Flann O’Brien. His works are filled with characters running riot across the pages, multiple voices fighting for control, authors back from the dead and sulking in Dublin pubs. Brilliant.

So I say: try out this approach. Dress up. Become another person, live their life, speak like them, the whole works. Then sit down and write something in the style of this dude or dudette. You might find it a new and interesting approach. Or you might find you hate them. Whatever works.


  1. Could I write as you? I'll have to lose a few pounds, but I do like the stripy clothes.

  2. I tried this for my last wip. It's brilliant. And amusing. And eye-opening.

    Also love stripy clothes and Radiohead. Hmmm...


  3. Keyeri: We can swap. I'll be super-knowledgable on health sciency matters and you can, erm, listen to Radiohead.

    B: Indeed. And "WiP" is a great phrase too. Just going to whip out my WiP. Crack my WiP. And so on.

    Looney: Lemony Snicket is ace. You should seek out "The Tragic Treasury" by The Gothic Archies. Funny goth-bubblegum pop from Stephin Merritt.

  4. YAY for digressions! Always love a religious blog.

    I definitely think you should put on a corset and fishnet and write something as a hooker named Lulabelle. I'm pretty darned sure I'd love it. And the job you did as that Norse King... (Thor in Tights?)--my kind of stuff... are you seeing a theme here. I like a little cross-dressed goodness now and again.

  5. Hahahahaha. Indeed. As you know I'm writing a diary-based novel called Linda Writes Dairy.

    Hi, I'm Linda Write, a mortally obese Southerner who's always got away with words.

    Now if I can just find the time to become Linda (I'm trying to eat more these days), we'll be on our way.

  6. Can't wait to read that mother. We can share projects! Like the old Yahoo novel group! Ah, fun times, friends.

  7. I haff no idea vhat you are talking abuot. I alvays vrite as myself. Fake indentitines vill not make my writing any less unikue. Haff you considred the posiblityty that your buetiful digressions might be lost to the naked eye iff you are not making yourself come through?

    I condone your usage of music.

  8. ^^ Fank choo. Ferry asstoot cumment. :)