Musings of a Mad Writer
“Books have led some to learning and others to madness”–Petrarch
By Douglas Wells
Enhancing Your “Writer’s Persona”
Last week I submitted a blog to Southern Writer’s Magazine on a “How To” topic. The magazine’s blog accepted it (hold your applause, please), so it’s logical to assume I’m a bona fide expert on giving writing advice. Or at least I think I am.
As a result, now I’m on a tear about giving “How To” advice.
We all want to bring our books to readers (i.e. sell them to them), and we’ve all utilized as many promotion schemes as we can. Here is a, perhaps novel (no pun intended), method. Enhance your “persona.” I suggest the personas below because there is something curious about them. Readers want to know why you’re like you are, so they’ll look for answers in your books.
Note: These personas are recommended for male writers since we are more inclined to inflate our image, while women writers seem much more forthright. Sorry guys.
- Become the dreamy, soulful, sensitive, romantic persona. When around others, such as at signings, conferences, and the like, adopt a quixotic aura like that of the character Alan Squier (played by Leslie Howard) in the classic film The Petrified Forest–you know, the wandering vagabond poet. Occasionally stare off into the distance as if seeing your visions. It’s helpful to look thin and little underfed. Sigh a lot. Offer a wistful smile to those who buy your book to suggest that you disdain the crass commercial business of writing. Make ironic, insightful observations about people and life in general like, “Most of us do not realize how tenuous our grip on sanity is; a slight wind of misfortune, a mild wave of loss, or an unexpected flutter of disappointment can push us to the precipice of lunacy.” It also helps to buttress your persona by quoting romantic poetry. Shelley is always useful. “I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!”
- Become the self-destructive, heavy drinking, angry persona. Again, portray the persona when around others; always appear to be drinking without being totally inebriated. Always appear disheveled as if you slept in your clothes. Place a half empty bottle of hard liquor and a shot glass on the signing table because it evokes alcoholic writers of the past like Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner, Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote, and Ernest Hemingway. Your signature should be a squiggly slash mark across the page. Make sure you take a drink every now and then and sort of shove the book in disgust at the signee. If you don’t really want alcohol, substitute water for clear booze and tea for dark. Just don’t offer any to others. Dismiss famous or popular authors. “I tell you James Patterson couldn’t write his way out of a wet paper bag.” Talk about writing as if it was a miserable, unrewarding chore that you only pursue because you’re addicted to it just like drinking. “Writing? Ha! It’s for fools and masochists.”
- Become the self-important, arrogant, pontificating persona. This one might seem to be the persona to avoid, but readers will buy your books just to confirm that you are the asshole you appear to be. At signings, conferences, etc., wear an expensive suit as if you’re heading to a dinner party after this mundane event. Sniff a lot. Pretend to be a dual citizen of the UK and America and adopt a voice somewhere between Winston Churchill and Cary Grant. Roll your eyes when a person asks you to sign your book. Drop the names and pithily analyze the works of Thucydides, Homer, Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, Freud, Joyce, Chomsky, and Hawking. Be sure also to tell everyone the names of Nobel Laureates you have had a drink with. However, resolutely declare that you wouldn’t walk across the street to shake Bob Dylan’s hand. Affect a dry wit even if it isn’t funny then you can act as if people just don’t get it. Above all, quote from your own work. “When the Dean informed him that he was no longer welcome at Oxford, the quill of certainty inscribed in Angus’ brain that, after all, he had not a pence of value, despite the years since his birth of Mummy lavishing her somewhat Oedipal praise on Angus’ acumen and Adonis-like beauty.”
I can’t guarantee it, but these just might sell more of your books.