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Author Branding Lesson 1: Know Thyself

Do you know who you are?

Last week we took Luke Skywalker as an example of the power of discovering who you are. But how did he start out? At the beginning of the original Star Wars saga, he is a young man on the cusp of manhood. An orphan raised by his aunt and uncle as a farmer on a barren wasteland of a planet. He dreams of being more, of leaving the dunes of the backwater and making a difference in the galaxy by joining the Rebel Alliance. It’s a big dream. It’s a noble dream.

But he’s clueless, isn’t he?

He doesn’t know that he is especially strong in the Force that empowers the Jedi to do miraculous feats. He doesn’t know that his father is the right-hand enforcer of the evil Emperor. He doesn’t know that the princess in distress is his twin sister. He doesn’t know that the random scoundrel he hires to escape Tatooine will become a loyal friend and save his life — and indeed, save the galaxy from the Death Star by protecting Luke long enough to destroy it. How would he feel if he knew that his wise, old mentor had critically maimed and left his father to die in the fires of a lava river on Mustafar?

Luke Skywalker confronting the truth

You are a writer. You are in love with story, and especially the one you are working on right now. You have poured — or are ready to pour — your life blood into this noble cause and hope to change the world. Or at least to transport your readers to a new world while they read, leaving them with new memories and perhaps a fresh perspective on their lives.

As you navigate your publishing journey, you’ll make discoveries along the way. That princess you kissed? Yeah, she’s your sister. That villain who chopped off your hand? Your father. As new facts come to light, learn to leverage them.

Maybe your post about your favorite Doctor Who coffee mug gets more shares than anything else. Use that. Maybe you surprise yourself with your eloquent passion as you comment on a meme about PTSD. It’s something you’ve experienced and worked through, and you realize you have a lot to share on that topic. No wonder your protagonists wrestle with it.

 

Self-analysis is critical to branding

If you’ve never been one to journal your thoughts and feelings, that’s okay. This isn’t that kind of analysis. This is business. This is (gasp!) marketing. We’re going to start with looking at our past, but it doesn’t stop there. The past is only one influence on our future. The choices we make now are far more powerful than anything that has come before. In the coming weeks we’ll face the mirror and make some honest, compassionate decisions about what we see.

Action Item

  1. Page one: Think back and jot down the major turning points in your creative life.
    • The moment you decided you wanted to write. The contest you won that spurred you on. Joining that critique group that improved your craft. Attending that conference where you met your agent. The encouraging comment from a mentor. Etc.
  2. Page two: List the stories you’ve finished (or if the list is too long, list the ones that seem significant or memorable to you).
  3. Third page. Make a list of the books, TV shows or movies that have stood the test of time for you. The ones that you’ll never forget, the ones that you still enjoy, the ones you recommend.

Over the next few weeks, come back to these pages and ponder them. What trends do you see? What themes seem to rise to the top? What attracts you, what inspires you, what do you emulate in your work? Do you like what you see, or would you adjust your course?

BONUS: Get a folder or binder and label it #SpecFicCollective. Put the pages in it. Keep it handy.

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2 Responses to Author Branding Lesson 1: Know Thyself

  1. Suzanne October 11, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

    I will be revisiting my lists every so often beyond just a few weeks and probably maybe even surprise myself at the ebb and flow of what appeals to me over a long period of time.

    • Teddi Deppner October 11, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

      Same here. Looking at my favorite things has brought to mind movies, books and TV shows I haven’t thought about for a long time. And yet, they are at the foundation of my enjoyment of stories. It’s been fun to look back and even to dig up some old favorites and check them out again.

      Now that I’m paying more attention, I wonder how things will go in the next 5-20 years! How will the movies and books I like today stand the test of time? Will I still be writing stories with similar themes, or will I have moved on? Time will tell…

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