“Character blogs are a type of blog written as though a fictional character, rather than an actual person, is making the blog post,” according to Character blogging at Wikipedia. Here, guest poster and character blogger Luana Spinetti talks about her experience as a character blogger.
As freelance writers we don’t use fictional characters only in fiction.
Your “target audience” — believe it or not — is a fictional character until your marketing plan takes effect. Any mock person we use at work to test and experiment with as a marketing target is actually a fictional character.
The truth is that fictional characters can help us build our writing career as much as working for a nonprofit or a college magazine might.
Especially when you role-play them. On blogs.
Here are two big reasons for using character blogging to enhance your writing career.
Role-Playing Can Help You Test Multiple Niches
Because role-playing through character blogging compels you to explore your characters’ lives in their depth, you’ll end up expanding your knowledge so that your characters can expand theirs. What a great excuse to explore new niches and test potential audiences! You’ve got nothing to lose, plenty to gain, and loads of fun to have in the doing. Plus, there’s the benefit of interactivity that blogging gives.
When I started writing in my characters’ shoes — ghostwriting? Yep! — soon I realized I needed to try out different types of writing in different niches:
- This fictional town can count on responsible, communicative leaders— they need an institutional site, with all the copywriting skills and the entrepreneurship notions it requires
- This particular character has great reporting skills— she’ll interview her leaders and churn out a big blog post, making use of all her business knowledge and interviewing tricks available
- One of the town leaders loves to help his beloved citizens live with the rules— he’ll write an e-book about the town lifestyle! What a better way to get started with nonprofit and e-book writing?
- These guys love to network and hold community events— they need a press release writer, a community magazine and a social network! Time to explore a gazillion new niches, from cooking to construction.
The experience taught me so much!
- I learned how to write a well-researched article based on web documents and case study reports
- I learned to plan and design a nonfiction e-book that’s useful to peers (fellow writers and bloggers, in my case)
- I began to practice with press releases, brochures and magazine writing
- I put my hands on niches and audiences I’d never thought I would before
- I had a hint of what it means to run a nonprofit or a community website
- I learned how to blog for a specific audience, not just for fun.
That’s plenty of new experience! It may not be worthy of your primary portfolio, but work done for people that do not even exist is not wasted work. This is your secondary portfolio for ‘Extra’ or ‘Personal Projects’ and, if it didn’t pay in cash, it still paid you in practice. And it’s fun.
Character Blogging Can Help Earn You Extra Money
I earn between $50 and $900 a month only from my characters’ blogs. There are several ways you can make extra money from writing in this unusual niche:
- Write sponsored posts
- Write book reviews
- Place text and banner ads behind monetary compensation
- Place guest posts (yes, some advertisers pay you to do that).
How does that work?
Simply start blogging in your character’s shoes. That’s like ghostwriting, isn’t it? The more you blog, the more your character’s story gets solid. Don’t forget to make the character interact with real Internet users and bloggers (of course, let them know that’s a fictional character talking to them!) so that you will slowly build ranks and backlinks. These two factors are important if you want to be able to attract advertisers.
Once your character’s blog is well placed on search engines and has a good amount of backlinks, signup for sponsored blogging networks like PayPerPost, SocialSpark and SponsoredReviews. You should start getting offers within a few weeks. Another good idea is to signup for Backlinks to sell blogroll links, or just make it clear that your character’s blog accepts text and banner ads for a monthly or yearly fee.
But doesn’t that ruin the fun of character blogging?
Oh, no! It will NOT, and I’ll tell you more: with every paid opportunity you get, your character will grow and evolve into a more credible person. Imagine the following situation: an advertiser contacts you to write a sponsored post on vacation resorts, but your character has just come out of a sad love story and feels lost. How could you handle the whole thing? One idea is having your character tell the story of how she went to a friend’s on visit and how her friend got worried about her to the extent that she bought her a ticket to go on vacation at a wonderful resort, and… guess what? An old friend of your character’s works there! The meeting would spark your readers’ interest in future stories and your character’s ability to face different situations.
Do you call that ‘ruining the fun’? I do not!
What if I use existing characters for blogging?
That’s called fanfiction. There’s nothing wrong with fanfiction blogs, as long as you’re NOT:
a. Selling them as authorized derivative work
b. Using the characters against the author’s will (see Anne Rice and George R.R. Martin)
c. Earning directly from the author’s fictional character
d. Earning directly from the author’s fictional world.
One example I can show you is my role-play fanfiction blog ToyHeart.com: the blog is run by an alternative universe Buzz Lightyear (you know, the co-protagonist of Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story saga) I created just for my imaginary world, a Buzz that is only similar to the animation character, but has quite a different personality and whose background is based off my Buzz Lightyear toy.
If you scoop through my Buzz’s blog, you’ll notice a few things:
- There’s a copyright disclaimer at the bottom of the homepage and another disclaimer in a standalone page that recognize all rights for the character to Disney/Pixar and highlights the fanfiction/entertainment purpose of the site
- The disclaimers also make it clear that all earnings from blog don’t come directly from the Pixar’s character or world, but from sponsored links inserted in the posts, from blogroll ads and products fictionally used in my stories, within the unique environment I created. That means: if you were to replace Buzz Lightyear with another non-copyrighted character, the stories would still work without any loss in consistency. That’s because they stories are tied to *my* imaginary world, not to Buzz or Pixar’s world.
Making things clear is important, because in no way I would be allowed to sell advertisers Buzz Lightyear’s (or any other character’s) image.
If your character and their life settings are completely original and only vaguely inspired by a certain movie or TV series, you’re free to do whatever you want.
If you created characters and environments that are only connected to an author’s world in your heart, but objectively differ from them, they’re still your original work and you can do what you please.
If yours is a hybrid case, like my Robocity World (born as an Alternative Universe of the Transformers, then expanded and made more unique with my own characters), balance your advertising strategy according to the characters you’re using for that specific post: if you’re using your original characters, do as you please; if copyrighted characters are making their appearance, use a disclaimer and keep in mind that you should be able to replace them with another character without disrupting the story.
In any case you’re in doubt whether a sponsored content is fair use, limit advertising to text link and banner ads, which don’t involve content creation.
A Last Word
I have several ongoing projects that I would not have even started without this unique experience: an e-book for bloggers, writing gigs on top sites like FreelanceSwitch.com and WebHostingSecretsRevealed.com, several magazine pitches in my schedule and more markets to explore.
I continue writing for my characters, too. That was — and IS — my #1 hobby, my best writing gym and a boundless source of good extra money.
Let your characters help you hone your skills and boost your earning! They’ll be your best colleagues, I promise.
(LEGAL NOTICE (or DISCLAIMER): The legal side of character blogging concerning fanfiction was checked and approved by a US lawyer. All advice in this article is legit.)
What’s your take on character blogging?
Luana Spinetti is an Italy-based freelance writer with a burning passion for illustration and blogging. She wrote a fun, short How-To guide to get started on Character Blogging that she plans to turn into meaty e-book by June 2013.
Image credit: Anna Fischer