The official blog of Susan Landis-Steward, writer of whatever she likes, and co-founder of Puddletown Publishing Group

Posts tagged ‘names’

A is for Audience

As writers, one thing we need to be aware of is our audience. My primary audience is lesbians, but mystery buffs might like my books as well. One of my protagonists is blind, so I need to make sure that I don’t just make stuff up about blindness that may not be true.

I’ve seen some interesting things lately about audiences. I recently edited a great book that my publishing house, Puddletown Publishing Group, is going to publish. It’s for middle grade kids, and features a Chinese-American family. Named Wang. Now, if you’ve spent much time around middle grade kids, and as a former teacher I have, you see the problem. Every teacher on earth will curse you if they have to make a fifth grade boy read aloud about the Wangs.  The author got it immediately when I pointed it out. Name change is in the works.

Place is also important to the audience. I live in Portland, and I write about Portland. When I read books set in Portland, I build mental maps based on my lifetime of experiences in Portland. I have no problem with made-up neighborhoods set in Portland, or made-up locations set in real neighborhoods. But if you put something in Portland that is illogical—for example, say you put a huge park in the middle of the downtown area, or a giant mall where I know for a fact none could ever exist—I, as the reader, am not going to trust you. If you have a character ride the light rail to someplace the light rail doesn’t go, I’ll know. And all my “willing suspension of disbelief” will fly right out the window. So, think about your audience when you write about real places. Some of them will live there, or will know the area well. Give them what they expect for the most part, and you can mess with the little details without messing with their heads.

I’m sort of surprised by how many straight folks are interested in reading my book. Now, some tell me it’s enough to turn them gay (hello, toaster oven!) but most of them don’t care. They just like good stories. I made an assumption that limited me in my marketing options. Yes, the women in my books are lesbian, and some of the men are gay, but why am I ghettoizing myself? I read “straight” books all the time and, unless it depicts really explicit sex, I don’t even think about the sexual orientation of the characters. Unless they are homophobic. That I’m going to notice. Or racist. Or classist. Or misogynist.

Anyway, this blogpost brought to you by the letter A and the words aubergine, antithesis, angst, and angel.

Weird News

Time magazine arrived today. I prefer Newsweek but for some reason we get Time. Today it was worth it.  First, there was the article early in the magazine about how shrink-types have discovered that 50% of college students have psychiatric problems. This led to a discussion, at our local Scottish pub over steak and mushroom pie, about college students we have known and their various psychiatric problems. I was a college student with psychiatric problems, not the least of which was a roommate who was a psychology major and once diagnosed me, while taking an abnormal psych class, with “manic-depressive manic-depression.” Whatever that is. I was, to quote a psychiatrist friend of mine, JPN. (That’s Just Plain Nuts for you non-shrink types, and she swears she puts it in the charts of folks she can’t otherwise diagnose. Sort of like FLK – pediatrician talk for Funny Looking Kid. One of my kids was an FLK as an infant, but she turned out okay.)

Anyway, later on in Time magazine, and still at the Scottish pub although before the whiskey-laced cheesecake, was an article on a recent high school graduate who has changed her name to Cutout Yes, you read that right. is her last name. Now,  I thought it was a burden having a hyphenated last name. I once had this conversation with someone who needed my last name:

Me: It’s Landis-Steward [I actually said Landis hyphen Steward]

Idiot: How do you spell hyphen?

Me: No, it’s a hyphenated last name, like, you know, a dash.

Idiot: Dash? I thought you said it was hyphen.

You get the idea. But .com as part of your name? This young woman is writing college essays about why she changed her name to something insane. All I can say is Time missed a great layout opportunity!

But, here are the truly important thoughts on this:

No one should be allowed to:

a) change their name to something stupid

b) get a tattoo in any place that shows

c) pierce anything except ears and belly buttons

Until they a) turn 40 or b) prove they can become gainfully employed and stay that way.  Nuff said.

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