creative writing

Pen Name VS. Real Name: The Great Writer Debate

Hello writer bees!

So, lately, I’ve noticed a heated debate within the writing community. When you finally publish a story, should you use your real name or a pen name? For aspiring authors, it’s a tough question. Have no fear, I’m here to help!

Today, I’m taking a look at the pros and cons of both sides of the argument, to help you decide what name will be printed on your book cover.

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Pros of a Pen Name

  • The power on anonymity: Some people find freedom in using a new moniker. And If you are sharing a personal life story, you can keep it private. Your boss and your church friends won’t have any idea.
  • Choose a more ‘writerly’ name: Create a memorable, eye catching name that suits the genre you are writing in. Pen names give you a chance to give yourself the name you’ve always wanted.
  • Dip your toe in multiple genres. Be fluid and experiment in various genres with multiple personas. And if you fail to sell enough books, simply reinvent yourself.

Cons of a Pen Name

  • Difficult Marketing: It’s harder to spread the word on your book under a nom de plume. Keeping your true identity a secret may hurt your book promoting process.
  • Struggle with building an author-reader connection. And it takes some time for the name to gain recognition.
  • Establishing a brand new persona. With a pen name, you may have to balance a double life. That might mean managing multiple social media accounts and writer websites etc.

Authors That Used Pen Names

  • J.K. Rowling (Joanne Rowling)
  • Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • Lewis Carrol (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
  • Dr. Seuss (Theodore Seuss Geisel)
  • Stan Lee ( Stanley Martin Lieber)

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Pros of Using Your Real Name

  • Pride: That’s your name on the cover of the book. Sweet success belongs to you. Some writers dream about seeing their name in a bookstore. It’s a major accomplishment.
  • Easier to promote your work with your real name. Friends, family members, neighbors etc. will know it’s you. And you can do more local promos as well.
  • One name, one identity. No need to manage multiple social media accounts or author websites. Also, forget the hassle or confusion of a fake moniker. Readers and business associates know how to address you.

Cons of Using Your Real Name

  • Your name may sound similar to another famous name. That might cause confusion to readers.
  • You may have a forgettable or fairly common name. (Shout out to the John Smiths of the world.)
  • You are writing within a genre where books written by the opposite gender sell better. Unfortunately, sexism against authors is real.

Would you use a pen name or your real name when you publish a book? And what’s your take on nom de plumes? Talk to me in the comments!

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

3 Tips on Writing the Love Interest

Happy Valentine’s Day, Writer Bees and Bugs!

Love is in the air, even in fiction. No matter the genre, a love interest can add complexity and conflict to any story. If your MC is feeling the love, then check out these helpful tips on creating a character’s sweetheart.

Experiment with Chemistry

Love at first sight doesn’t make for an interesting story. Maybe attraction at first sight, sure. For the most part, feelings must develop gradually, not instantly. No matter what stage in the relationship, take the time to build up and explore that chemistry. A great lover could become an even greater foil for another character.

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Also, keep in mind the kind of relationships your characters would pursue. What’s their sexual preference? Are they interested in one night stands and flings? Or are they looking for a serious relationship? OR are they even looking for love in the first place? These factors will dictate how their romantic relationship lives and breathes over the course of the story.

Flaws, Glorious Flaws

Look, how many hot billionaires with six packs are there in the world? Seriously? Don’t create a character that is the ideal partner. Give them flaws. Real flaws. Consider physical and/or personality quirks. Are they short and stubborn? Are they pessimistic with a crooked nose? Be creative but be careful making a completely unlikeable character. Find that balance.

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A romantic interest shouldn’t just be a cookie cutter person. They must be able to stand on their own, as a complete character. Their entire world cannot revolve around another person. Whether the love interest is a main character or a side character, at the end of the day, readers want complex, relatable characters.

The Big Bad Conflict

No romance is perfect. Every couple has their struggles. With an internal or external battle, conflict is needed so things aren’t so lovey-dovey. Maybe one is afraid of commitment? Or are outside forces (society, race, war etc.) are straining their bond? Give the couple obstacles that they can (or cannot) overcome together.

Try tying the their conflict to the overall plot line, that way, the relationship won’t seem forced or out of place. Set the stakes high to ensure the problem is meaningful enough to the characters. Like a problem bigger than leaving the toilet seat up.

Bottom line, love isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, and that’s a good thing. Embrace those imperfections and write a real romance.


How do you guys write love interests? Any tips? Talk to me in the comments. And Happy Valentine’s day everybody!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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3 Tips on Creating Likeable Antagonists

Mayday! Mayday!

You’re writing a story, minding your own business, when suddenly, a character you’re creating is taking a nose dive right into unlikable jerk territory. Let’s try to save your character from being total terror.

Whether they be hot tempered, or rude, or just have a nasty attitude,  you have created a character who is nothing but bad qualities. An unpleasant fellow in every regard. Yes, there are antagonists and villains and personified rain clouds, however, is that all they are? Just… the bad guy?

Here are some tips for creating a character we love to hate (and not hate to hate).

Changing Point of View

If your story involves multiple narratives, consider having your jerk character try on the narrator hat for a bit. How do they see the world? Are they really as nasty as they seem? What are their home lives like? Is there a reason for their misbehavior? Take a walk in their shoes. By doing this, it can give the reader insight to that character’s backstory and perspective.

Create Obstacles

Let there a be a struggle that shows another side of their character. The reader will gain a level of empathy for this character if they see them face some kind of hardship. Maybe the character learns from their past mistakes? Or feels guilt about something? Or has to face a real, serious conflict, either internal or external. Give the character a hill to climb over.

Give Them a Redeemable Trait

Anything. There has to be something good. No matter how horrible and cruel someone is, there must be some redeemable quality. Are they charming? Quick witted? Hard working? Show some level of respect or affection towards another? Like animals? (Who doesn’t like puppies?) You catch my drift. Any sort of positive trait to balance out the not so positive traits.


Don’t just have a character who is only recognized by the reader as being a terrible person. Real characters, like real people, need a balance in order to be complex.

Hope this helps some writer out there. In the comments, let me know who your favorite bad guy character you love to hate.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky.

Crash Course in Ernest Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory

Hello Writer Bees!

Currently, I’m cleaning out my space and getting rid of all my worldly, and worthless, possessions. So, in the spirit of removing unncesary things, let’s talk about the king of minimalism himself: Ernest Hemingway.

Breaking News!

For all the history buffs, this one’s for you. Before he became a famous author, Ernest Hemingway was a journalist for the Toronto Star. In the start of his career as a writer, he wrote reports on current events that featured little interpretation and context. This way of writing transferred into his fiction writing and shaped his signature style we know today.

What is the Iceburg Theory?

In short, the Iceberg Theory is a writing technique coined by Ernest Hemingway. In the words of Hemmingway “declarative sentences and direct representations of the visible world”. It’s about burying themes and meanings underneath the surface of a story. Let the readers uncover those treasures for themselves.

Tips on Minimalist Writing

  • Edit smart. Remove excess fat of exposition.
  • Let dialogue and physical cues speak for themselves.
  • Cover up symbols and themes under short, distant sentences.

Hope you guys learned more about Hemingway and his unique writing style. Perhaps the Iceberg theory will creep into your own writing, just a little bit.

Sorry for my absence last week, writer bugs. A lot is happening on my end. Cross your fingers and toes that things works out well. A hint of good luck would be welcomed. To make up for no post last Friday, you guys might get a second post this weekend. Two for one!

Enjoy the rest of the week everyone!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

The Secrets Behind Creating a Memorable Detective Character

Hello Writer Bees!

At the center of any great murder mystery is a great detective. Whether they are an amateur sleuth, a private inspector or a member of law enforcement, this is the character, or team, that is the heart of any whodunit. Let’s talk about the behind the scenes secrets to creating a detective character.

Be Inspired By Classic Detectives

Buster Keaton in Sherlock Junior (1924)

Before you dive right into character creation, consider the fictional detectives from classic murder mysteries. Right off the bat, we think of notable inspectors like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. Of course, there are many more sleuths in detective fiction, explore and read as much as you can. Diversity is crucial in this research. Once you’ve read a bunch of different mysteries, focus in on a few characters. What stands out with them? What about them catches your attention as a reader? Really think about makes those characters memorable. Be inspired by the characters and artists that came before you. Then, put your own twist on the conventional detective and be original.

What’s in a Name?

You gotta admit, some detectives out have some pretty unique names. The kind of names that turn heads, and draw people in. No, this does not mean you must frivolously choose the most ridiculous name you can think of. Be mindful about the character’s name. Feel free to play around with uncommon names. Ever heard of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson? There’s a reason those names stick in our minds.

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If you are a loyal follower of the Lady Jabberwocky blog, you’ll know that I am currently deliberating over names for my detective. I’m considering where he is from and what sounds easy on the ears. Since he will be the main character, his name must resonate the reader in some way.

Method to the Madness

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Next, let’s talk about method, how the detective works. Do they use brute force and bust heads to gather information? Or do they inspect for clues with a magnifying class? Or is there a special ability at work? Whatever the case, there must be a rhyme and reason to every action during their investigation. However, it’s more than just method. It’s how they navigate the world and how they interact with other people. What’s their relationship with their sidekick? How do they interrogate suspects? Really take a walk in their shoes.

The Need to Investigate

Not only should you consider how they investigate, but why they investigate. Why are they inspectors? Why does the detective solve cases? Behind every sleuth lies their motivation, the drive that compels them to unravel mysteries. Are whodunits just big puzzles for them? Or do they have a high moral values? Or are they personally connected to the crime in some way? Explore the reason why your character is in this business, or at least in a position to investigate and find the culprit.

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Plus, this would be a good time to think about a catchphrase. A bit cheesy but some characters do well with a tagline. For my main character, he lives by the idea that “Life should end in a period, not a question mark.” A personal philosophy like this one can highlight one’s motive and goal, and help the reader understand the character better.

Quirks and Odd Habits

It’s those little idiosyncrasies that make a character realistic. Detectives should be eccentric, odd balls. They should have quirks and peculiar traits, like something is a little off about them. Yes, Poirot is a genius, but what makes him memorable is his need for order and precision. Does your inspector have any odd habits when in thought? If you think about it, we all have our strange quirks. For this character, dial those traits up a notch, to be extra weird and interesting. Frankly, they should be borderline alien.

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Wrapping Up May Of Mystery

When creating a sleuth, every decision must be a conscious, specific one. Be mindful of their name, how they work, and what odd traits define them. Think of a detective as another breed of fictional character. Trust me, the world does not need more carbon copies of Holmes.

The case is officially closed. With this post, May of Mystery comes to an end. It really was a fun month, writer bees. Hope you all learned something about detective fiction. What genre themed month should I do next? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your ideas.

Also, I just want to take a minute to proclaim my undying appreciation for my first patron, Mister Michael from NY. I love you to the moon and back. Check out my Patreon and help support me and this blog. Every little bit helps. Thanks everyone!

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

The 3 Types of Evidence and Mistakes to Avoid When Dropping Clues

Hello writer bugs!

Get your magnifying glasses ready, cause we are hitting the pavement and looking at clues for your next murder mystery. What’s a whodunit without some hard hitting evidence? First, let’s talk about the three types of clues that are involved in a typical mystery.

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Physical Evidence

Probably the most likely of evidence, these are the tangible clues. Something left behind at the scene of a crime? Or a blood stained murder weapon? Or even a piece of DNA, like hair or fingerprints? These are the clues the detective can touch, hold and smell. The kind of evidence they can physically interact with.

Thematic Evidence

As writers, we often throw readers a bone in the form of hints. While a bit cliché, tense situation tend to happen during stormy nights. Villains often wear dark colors. As the audience progresses through the story, they sense those little nuances you establish. Like the story itself is holding up signs in the background.

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Verbal Evidence

Not only is who said what important, but what is not being said. Body language and social cues come into play. What is the tone of a suspect’s voice? What is said in an argument or a secret whisper? How do they react during a murder investigation. Sometimes, mysteries become a game of questions and answers.

Mistakes to Avoid

So planting clues can be tricky. You don’t want them to be obvious with a big neon sign, nor do you want then to be completely hidden. Finding the right balance is critical. Here are some pitfalls to steer away from.

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The Overused to DeathThe hackneyed clues that are so overdone, they’re never taken seriously. Accidently revealing secrets, victims writing their last message in a pool of blood.
The Overcomplicated Clues written in some bizarre code never fly too well. Evidence that requires something to be deciphered take up a lot of time. Also, their highly unrealistic. A murder mystery isn’t exactly an escape room. What criminal takes the time to leave his plans in Morse code?
The Obscure Trivial Pursuit Consider what is common knowledge for the average reader. Obscure trivia can be a hindrance. Be sure to give the proper information behind the evidence.
The Obvious LiesA detective cannot lie to it’s audience. In the midst on an investigation, an object can not be one thing, then mistaken for something else. Detective’s must be forthcoming.

Hope this helps you guys in your mystery writing pursuits. Be sure to check out this week’s prompt as well as the post on Ronald Knox’s Rules of Detective Fiction. Have a lovely weekend, amateur sleuths!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

Do Ronald Knox’s 1929 Rules on Detective Fiction Still Hold Up in 2019?

Hello my amateur sleuths!

Today, we are breaking down the fundamentals of mystery writing. Did you know that an author actually wrote rules for writing detective stories in the 1920’s?

Ronald Knox was a prominent figure in the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. As a mystery loving priest, he published the Ten Commandments on Detective Fiction. Are the rules still relevant or outdated? Let’s investigate, shall we?

1.The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.

True enough. If the author introduces the real killer towards the end, readers will feel cheated. How can they suspect a character that came out of nowhere? The criminal needs to be introduced within the first couple chapters of the story. Also, the audience, usually, isn’t allowed to enter the thoughts of the murderer. Their inner workings should remain unknown to the audience, until the very end.

2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.

Now, I disagree with this one, just a smidge. If done right, multiple genres can be featured in a single story. Maybe a sprinkle of supernatural could work in a murder mystery. It’s all about balance. As long as the integrity of the whodunit remains solid, other genres can join in. A little fantasy and magic never killed nobody.

3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.

I mean, he has a point. A second secret passage won’t garner as much surprise as the first secret passage. One hidden room is enough. Don’t push your luck.

4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.

Fair enough, Mr. Knox. Basically, this rule applies to all made up devices. Hard to acquire poisons from foreign lands or complex inventions are far too unlikely and far too easy. Using an unusual method cheats the readers from unraveling the mystery themselves. Remember, detective fiction is meant to challenge the reader mentally, like a puzzle.

5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.

No, we’re not talking about those of Chinese descent. The term ‘Chinamen’ refers to evil mastermind character, maniacal laugh included. Antagonists need real motives. Their reason for committing a crime must be plausible. No sinister villains are welcome in a detective story. This is a battle wits we are talking about.

6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.

Frankly, this rule reminds me of those classic Scooby Doo cartoon, where clues fall into their laps. As tempting as it sounds, coincidences, chance happenings and bizarre hunches are just too easy. Every clue must be discovered on purpose, with purpose. Don’t just hand over clues on a silver platter. Make your detective, and the reader, work for every scrap of information.

7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.

Where’s the fun in that? Listen to Knox, it’d be a disaster to have the detective be the culprit. Plus, you’re killing any chance for a sequel. No pun intended.

8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.

For fairness, the detective and the reader must have equal opportunity to solve the case. However, the sleuth can keep some less obvious clues to himself. Just collecting the insignificant clues in his/her pocket until the big reveal, the parlor room scene. The reader knows every hint, but just isn’t sure how important each piece of information is.

9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.

I object to this one. Although he wasn’t smarter than Holmes, I wouldn’t consider Watson an idiot. Seriously, Watson could pull his own weight. The sidekick can have brains too. Heck, they may even become as asset for a detective during an investigation. Instead of being slightly below the reader’s intelligence, why can’t a sidekick’s intelligence be slightly below the detective’s brainpower?

10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

See, I feel like nowadays, audiences are thrilled by surprise doubles. Not all doubles or twin need a heads up in advance. (Side note: Have you guys been watching Cloak and Dagger? Talk about shocking doubles.)


Yes, all of these “commandments” have been broken in detective fiction before. However, some of these rules are still relevant by today’s standards. Murder mysteries are complicated games, whether you choose to take note of the rules or break them is up to you. You’re the writer.

What do you guys think of Knox’s rules from 1929? Do you think they still hold up to today’s whodunits? Let me know in the comments.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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