How To Pick Your Pseudonym

Pictured: a pseudonym

JK! It’s Rowling.

One of my projects this summer was to self-publish three old novels I have lying around. They’re the sort that I consider good enough to enjoy, but not good enough that my hopefully ever-improving writing style should be associated with them. On top of that, they’re all more or less in the high fantasy genre, one that I hope to avoid in the future. The solution, naturally, is to put them up as ebooks under a pseudonym. However, that choice involves the difficult task of picking a fake name for myself.

Here’s a list of the considerations that I took into account when deciding on my very own pseudonym. Continue reading


Style Imitations


One of my  advanced composition homework problems from the past involved imitating the style of other authors, even to the sentence level. It was an eye-opening experience, because I was able to think about every single choice that the author had made in order to construct a single sentence. My task was to recreate the same tone, mood, construction, and all that good stuff, while still giving different information. Here’s what I tried.


Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.


Soon there was found a meal of well-seasoned steak, and it through its seasoning redeemed the company picnic; but no one at the event cared about the steak.


Having been charged with the “Americanization” of the newcomers, they naturally had to take on the task of defining what “an American” was and was not.


Having agreed to reorganize the sock closet, he patiently began by starting the challenge of learning what “a sock” was and was not.

Anyone think they know the sources for the model sentences?

Facts about the Phantom Tollbooth


The Phantom Tollbooth, a children’s novel written by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, is a spiritual predecessor of Alice in Wonderland that exchanges the world of animals, children’s toys, and crazy logic for a world of words, numbers, and about the same amount of crazy logic. Milo is a young, bored boy who travels to another land via the titular tollbooth to embark on an adventure to rescue the princesses of Rhyme and Reason from banishment while learning lessons about how interesting the world can really be. It also comes with a level of stealth puns and wordplay that makes it just as rereadable as Alice in Wonderland. Witty, wordplay-packed kid’s novels are one of my favorite genres, and so I’ve been reading about Juster and the Tollbooth. Here are a few fun facts I found out.

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New phrases I’ve recently learned

He's a doctor, but he can't heal that leg. And he hates the people he saves. Double whammy.

He’s a doctor, but he can’t heal that leg. And he hates the people he saves. Double whammy.

Vocational Irony Narrative

Def. A story in which a character’s problems are those typically solved by his/her entire profession. E.g. a doctor has a disease.

Where it’s from:

I’m referring to the story of the travel writer who hates to leave home or the relationship guru who can’t have a relationship herself or the podiatrist who suffers from horrible bunions.

It’s a genre that writers adore because there’s a set formula that can be reproduced in any of a hundred professions, almost in your sleep. There’s the lawyer who suddenly finds himself charged with a crime! There’s the doctor who gets ill and gets sucked into the morass of the American health care system. There’s the fake medium who suddenly starts seeing real ghosts.

The Vocational Irony Narrative works well for television, because it’s a set-up for a character-driven workplace series. The Vocational Irony Narrative also works well for indie filmmakers because it makes your premise really easy to pitch to financiers, actors and distributors.

~Daniel Fienberg, of Hitfix

Where I saw it: The AV Club’s review of episode one of Ray Donovan.


Cute Aggression

Def. The strange urge to give something cute a giant squeeze. Ex.”I could eat you up.”

Where I saw it:

New research by two Yale University psychologists details how the sight of something cute brings out our aggressive side. Rebecca Dyer and Oriana Aragon investigated “cute aggression” by showing study participants slide shows of either cute, funny or normal animal photographs. As they watched, the participants held bubble wrap. The researchers, attempting to mimic the common desire to squeeze cute things, told subjects to pop as many or as few bubbles as they wished. People watching the cute slide show popped significantly more bubbles than those viewing the funny or control pictures, according to results presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual meeting in New Orleans. “Some things are so cute that we just can’t stand it,” Dyer concludes.

Cute aggression’s prevalence does not mean that people actually want to harm cuddly critters, Aragon explains. Rather the response could be protective, or it could be the brain’s way of tamping down or venting extreme feelings of giddiness and happiness. The scientists are currently conducting additional studies to determine what drives the need to squeeze.

~Carrie Arnold, of the Scientific American.

via Wikimedia.

via Wikimedia.


This is more of a usage than a definition, but it’s been brought to my attention that the term is used in cook books as a figure of speech designed to make that act of cooking a meal seem more action-packed.

Where I saw it:

“In [Eliza Acton’s] recipe for whitebait I noticed that odd usage still favored by cookery writers: throw the fish into a cloth, and then throw it into deep fat. I cannot be the only cook with remarkably poor aim. Why do we have to keep throwing things about?”

~Liza Picard, in the physical book Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840–1870That’s right, I read dead tree books sometimes.

Short Fiction: “Dead Stop”

Cold dark road.

On the road to work, I hit a deer. It was bad: too fast; head on; hard.

I came to a dead stop. So did the deer.

I stared. Great. Now I would be late. What a day. First I made my bed. (A dumb job with no point, I say) Now my boss would pin my rear to the wall. I threw the dead little guy to the road’s side. The bent car front gleamed at me. Could the car start? I had my doubts: the steam was a bit thick. If only the deer were still alive. At least then I could ride it to work.

I stretched my eyes over the street. Parched grass and cold sky. What looked like a dead duck. Lovely. I had to catch a ride. A truck drove up, so I stuck out my thumb. Truck folks are often cool. With luck, this one would be. He wasn’t. He had a hook hand, dead eye, and peg leg. He was a vibrant thug.

“Is that yours?” he barked. His stretched arm was vague. Hook hands will do that to you. “You gone eat that?”

“What, the deer? Uh. No.” I was lost: to flee or not to flee? But there was just one move. Play to your strengths, I always say. “I’ll swap it for a ride.” He grinned; I cinched the deal. “Free duck, if you pledge not to kill me.”


I wrote this for an assignment with specific parameters: No sentences over ten words long, and no words over one syllable long. I played around with the paragraph size, making it longer than you might normally expect, and used a motif of death. Ultimately, it’s a narrative-based story.


The Sarcasm Code

Ever tried being sarcastic, only to have everyone fail to understand your sarcasm? Could there be some unwritten rule decreeing the limits of sarcasm, a clause of causticness, a law of lampoonery, a statute of satire, wisecrack writ, a… okay, okay, I’ll stop before I get a synonym subpoena.

That joke was sooooo original.

The Sarcasm Code. It’s beat up because it’s sooooo well-loved.

My point: effective sarcasm is a sliding scale. At one end, the obvious, schmaltzy schlock represented by a quote from the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy – “Oh, a sarcasm detector. That’s a really useful invention” – and at the other end, a head-scratchingly placid statement that is barely distinguishable as an opinion, let alone sarcasm – the phrase “You certainly have a vibrant personality” spoken to a yelling madman, for instance. In this essay, I hope to explain a host of different points along this scale, and how to identify them.

“But wait,” you might well say. “Isn’t it impossible to convey an accurate definition of differing types of sarcasm through the written word? After all, vocal intonation is a huge factor in sarcasm.”

To this I reply, “Why, yes it is, reader with a strangely detailed and relevant observation!” Sadly, this element of the art will be lost to our discussion today, but in compensation, I’ll take the next paragraph to detail the vocal element of sarcasm.

Sarcasm, as it is typically understood, involves emphasis on certain words that are clearly out of place (“Well, that’s a normal approach,” for instance). This emphasis is often a higher pitch, and often the highest at the center of the word. Much of the subtler sarcasm, however, is spoken with no emphasis, designed to sound much more reasonable and, thereby, subtle. That’s all you need to know. It’s sooooooooo much information.

Here’s the scale:

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