A friend of mine recently blogged about a trend in fiction: using real authors as characters in books. Mostly mysteries.
They’re always long dead authors, like Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, E. L. James.
It’s a cool idea, but a shame the real-life authors are dead.
Perhaps it’s a way to avoid liability?
But I think this is a missed opportunity, especially for the indie writers out there.
Imagine yourself, for a moment, as an indie author. Eschewed by the established publishing industry, you find yourself responsible for a lot more than just writing your novel.
The book cover.
Personally dealing with the piles of glowing fan mail that comes in.
OK, maybe not that last one so much. Not that you’d mind that particular chore.
The point is, you’re pretty much on your own and it is a lot of work.
Especially if you have a day job.
And young kids.
And a spouse who, insanely, expects you to connect with her and actually participate in the marriage.
This is where using living, breathing indie authors as characters in novels comes in.
Sure, you could write yourself into your own novel. But that comes off as really arrogant, so you’d better be a damned fine writer, and I better read and love that book before I find out you made yourself the main character.
I’m talking to you, Mary Sue.
Instead, you should invite other indie authors to use you as one of their main characters.
It’s the ultimate form of marketing! You’re the star of an awesome indie book, and readers will go, “Ian M. Dudley is this amazing character, AND HE’S REAL? I MUST BUY HIS BOOK! Here is my credit card number, charge me as much as you want!”
But this brilliant plan doesn’t just benefit
me the indie author. Because here’s the rub:
It doesn’t work if the indie author who uses you as a main character is a crap writer. They are out there. You know the ones. They upload their NaNo novels to Kindle Direct Publishing at 12:01am on December 1st, in all its typographically inept, unedited glory.
It also doesn’t work if you aren’t familiar with the genre that author writes in. If you want to establish your reputation for hard sci-fi by being a fictional character, you probably don’t want that novel written by someone who specializes in Brony snuff stories.
Because either you end up a bright pink pony with wings and a short life span, or said author stretches to write something more firm and sci-fiish, only to overextend themselves and injure your rep.
So in order to ensure you’re painted as the knight in shimmering armor that you wish to be portrayed as (literally or figuratively), you need to start buying and reading indie books to find that rare gem of an author who has the gravitas and the flare for words that can do your ego justice.
It’s a win-win for the indie community.
Unless you have a huge ego, like mine. Then you have a very long, potentially very expensive search ahead of you.
This is the burden of the huge ego. Alienates people and it’s surprisingly heavy.
There is, of course, a potential drawback to this approach to establishing a fan base.
I speak, of course, of publishing success.
Not your success. If you were successful, you wouldn’t be attempting this harebrained scheme.
I speak of your doppelgänger’s author’s success.
The fictional version of you might appear in an amazingly crafted novel.
A book full of prose and plot twists that make your own writing look like the scribbles of a monkey in the throes of a bad acid trip dipping its finger in its own feces to write.
In this scenario, the book starring your fictional alter-ego takes off, becomes a series, spawns several successful spinoffs starring your alter-ego’s friends, enemies, and pets, and eventually wins the Nobel prize for Literature and Peace.
Two years in a row.
This leads to fame and the showering of untold riches upon your chosen author, while your literary accomplishments languish in relative obscurity, a mere footnote in the Wikipedia entry trumpeting your alter-ego’s creator.
But wait, it gets worse.
Movie deals. A TV series. A gone-to-seed, overweight Charlie Sheen is pulled out of retirement-exile and cast as you, his portrayal making everyone in the television-viewing world think you are an insufferable ass.
But wait, it gets worser.
Despite your character being universally hated, the other characters in the series are popular, and with the inevitable stream of fanfic slash stories that follow, humiliations galore are dumped upon your once good, but now forever sullied name.
If you aren’t into some freaky weird stuff already, you might as well get into it, because once the slashers are done with you, everyone will think you’re a sick bastard with a kink for being tied up and violated with Mentos and Diet Coke.
But wait, it gets worstener.
Someone writes a fanfic story based on the characters in the book about the fictional you, and then changes all the names (but not by much, Ivan M. Dugley), gets a publishing deal, and despite the sheer, mind-numbing craptitude of the writing, it’s a best seller.
On second thought, never mind. Doing this on my own doesn’t seem so bad after all.
—And now, a word from our sponsor: me! My books are available!
Marlowe and the Spacewoman: