My Blog is a Fake

66 Comments 17 February 2011

used novels

All the 'blog to novels' out there...

I confess I have been writing this blog as a way of creating a novel about an American girl who moves to Britain and stays; and about all the ups and downs the long term expat life brings her. Michelloui is just a character. Minky, Raffy and My Cat Paddy are friends’ cats.

Does that bother you?

Would you have rather known all along that I was writing a novel and that this is all made up?

I know some of you would be really, really irritated with me… if it were true.

Okay so a few of the people who read this blog knew I was saying a porky right from the beginning–you’ve either met me at Cybermummy 2010 or elsewhere, or went to uni with me, or used to tell me off for slamming doors when I was a teenager so those of you who do know me will now have to vouch for me in case I’ve sown the seeds of doubts in new readers’ minds.

Firstly, I’m not organised enough to create a novel/blog thingy.

Secondly, I would probably have lost interest long ago.

But I know people do it and I know some readers really feel angry about it. There was a blog that started last spring and ended last summer because the blogger was getting so much grief about ‘making it all up.’ I read the blog for a while but didn’t get the chance to get too into it before it stopped. Another blogger told me she had seen a lot of twitter/blogging hoohaw about it and the controversial blogger was so exhausted by it all she stopped. I asked my friend if the hoohaw was based on fact. She had no idea. But ever since then I’ve been thinking about it.

When I write posts I change my neighbours’ names, I elaborate a few stories here and there (but not so much that someone who knows me in real life would say to me ‘what the hell were you on about?!’), I sometimes try out different topics to see what people respond to (or not). Does any of that bother you as a reader? I’m guessing not.

I believe in integrity in blogging not because I’m all high and mighty about blog writing but because blogs survive on the relationships they create with the readers and integrity helps create that relationship. If the blogger has no intention of building relationships with readers then none of that matters of course.

But if a novelist decides to create a novel in the form of a blog first then neatly tucked into a memory stick for the publisher later, without telling the readers, is that lacking in integrity? I’m not sure. It’s still entertainment. And if the blogger has been interacting with the readers (even if under a false persona) then there is still a relationship of sorts, isn’t there?

If I found out that one of my favourite blogs was a complete fake would I be bothered? No.

What about you?

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be. Kurt Vonnegut


Your Comments

66 Comments so far

  1. Rebecca says:

    It would depend on the content and the situation, I think. If the blogger had been responding to me and I felt we had a cyberfriendship, I think I would be deeply hurt to discover it was all for make believe.

    Being creative online is fine, online role-playing games are fine….but it’s when you start to involve real people who have real emotions that things start to get fuzzy. The difference between a role-playing game and a fake blog is that everyone playing the RPG is playing a character and they all know it’s fake. OR, in the case of one RPG I was playing where I portrayed Gwen Cooper from Torchwood, the real people leaving comments on the Gwen journal were all well aware that I was not really Gwen Cooper or Eve Myles.

    Would I still read your blog and comment if I knew it was all a fake? I don’t know.

    When I blog, I try to stay as true to myself as I can. I write using my own words, and even when I get a little creative, everything I write about is factual. Do I hope to one day write a book? Yes. Do I wish a publisher would stumble on my blog one day and go “Yes! Here’s the book we’ve been looking for”? Of course I do! But I think that’s very different to fake blogging.

    • Michelloui says:

      Your very first point is really interesting. It shows how careful a novelist blogger needs to be in their relationship building!

      Thanks for this comment, it was really well thought out.

  2. Jen says:

    Honest answer…..I don’t know. I guess it would depend on the content. Some things would be fine but others would not be, say for example someone was writing a novel about child abuse and passing it off as true, well that wouldnt’ be ok with me.

    • Michelloui says:

      Yes, very valid point. If someone is manipulating emotions like that it would be very hard to feel comfortable when the truth is revealed. The blog I was thinking of last summer was much more ‘chick lit’ so in that case much easier to accept as false.

      • Rebecca says:

        I never even heard about this! now I’m super curious about it! LOL

        • Michelloui says:

          LOL! On one hand I think its clever but on the other hand it seems like a heck of a lot of work when a novel is a heck of a lot of work in the first place!

          • writersblogq says:

            If the blog purports to be true, then lying in it is a bad betrayal. However, if it’s not designed to mislead but simply amuse, it’s not.

            Michelloui is right; it would be an enormously hard way to write a novel

  3. If a blog is a spoof, or the writer’s alter-ego, for research or ‘just for fun’ then I’d like to know that. I don’t need to know about the ‘real’ person behind the blogger, or be reminded in every post, but I wouldn’t want to be lied to.

    • Michelloui says:

      Thanks, that’s an interesting take on it as well. Do you think that if you knew it was a spoof it would be more difficult to engage with?

  4. I think I would mind, if it was passed off as real. I’m in this for the people and the relationships, so I suppose I would.

  5. Depends on the type of blog many are hysterically funny and some are quite delightfully bonkers for these I’d say no problem but for others that involve me opening myself out emotionally I would be less happy.

    • Michelloui says:

      Yes, I agree completely. It’s something I didn’t think about when I wrote the post, but yes, it definitely depends.

  6. Expat Mum says:

    I read blogs and always think that everyone else is leading a much more interesting and diverse life than me, so if I found out that someone was actually making it all up I’d probably feel rather relieved.
    You had me really confused at the beginning there though, I have to say. The cats could possibly have been made up since I’ve never actually met them, but Michelloui? Hologram perhaps?

    • Michelloui says:

      LOL! I can understand what you mean by ‘relieved’!!

      Well the next time you’re in the UK you’re welcome to come meet the cats, just to verify, of course. Stay for a glass or two of wine as well :)

  7. If the blog was entertaining and fun, I probably wouldn’t mind and maybe even get a kick out of discovering it was a fake all along.

    But, as someone else mentioned, if it was about serious issues and manipulating real emotions by pretending to be real, I’d find it ethically objectionable.

    • Michelloui says:

      Yes, I completely agree with the ‘get a kick’ out of it feeling! And you’re right, if it is a blog manipulating emotions, that is quite objectionable.

  8. Some bloggers create tongue in cheek blogs that are obviously fake and that makes me smile (particularly at the commenters who get taken it – am I a meaner?)

    As for a novel blog. I very much agree with Rebecca about the extent to which you built relationships based on the blog. If it was just an entertaining blog that I read and that was it I doubt I would care that much.

    On a completely different note – would less people buy your book if you had already released a decent amount on the net? Although Ree Drummond did ok I guess with her saga of meeting her man.

    I think you raised an excellent point.

    • Michelloui says:

      Oh no, now Im wondering if Ive been taken in by some of these blogs!! 😉

      And YES, thats a fantastic point about buying the published book–Im not sure if I would, unless it was to get the chapters I missed or something (because Im never organised enough to keep completely up to date on all blogs I read!).

  9. JGregg says:

    if the blog (or the concept/idea) was better than anything i could come up with? then, yes, peeved beyond belief with jealousy.

    likewise, if the person was someone who interacted with me personally via email or somesuch social media, and projected a real persona, then yes, again, probably wouldn’t be too happy about my “investment” into such conversations.

    however, if this blog was purely a non-interactive project by the writer (even if they swore up and down that they were a real person), than by all means NO. i love a good “novel” concept (pun intended).

    btw, my blog purposely carves out any real identifiers b/c of the industry i’m in, and b/c of the pitches i make to studios for certain scripts and to VCs for investment pitches in various businesses over the last decade. someday maybe … as if anyone in the GP would care (but an interested investor or studio’s legal affairs would).

    • Michelloui says:

      Ha! Very honest of you to admit jealousy!! Thats a point no one else has said!

      Interesting about how you write your blog. Yes, I to have to be careful about what I say in my blog, but for very much less glamorous reasons–it’s only about being respectful to people around me who may not want stories about them to be ‘out there’!

  10. Star says:

    I would not like to be duped! If I found out that someone had been lying or making up stories, I would feel cross. There is enough richness in real life to make it unnecessary to make things up.
    On the other hand, I know of a few Blogs where we are obviously in fairyland and those I really like. It is escapism and quite acceptable.

    • Michelloui says:

      ‘Fairyland’ thats cute! I think some of those writers are in fairyland and don’t even know it! Escapism is a great word to use for some blog reading.

  11. Sass says:

    To be honest,
    No, I wouldn’t continue reading if I found out a blog I had been reading, commenting and creating a friendship of sorts was all a lie.
    Because that’s what it would be.
    Perhaps it’s because I’ve been burnt in the past.
    Last year, a woman (who I had met, and even invited to my house for tea) pretended to have terminal cancer.
    She made up people, facebook profiles, other bloggers and used peoples sympathy for attention.
    Now, clearly, this is a little different. She was doing it for the thrill of attention, a writer would be doing it for the writing purpose.
    However without knowing that the blog is a fake, it’s still dishonest and leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

    • Michelloui says:

      Wow, that is crazy of that woman to do that. And how bad you must have felt when you found out. Yuck. I can see why it would really trouble you to discover a blog you were following was fake.

  12. Really interesting post. I believe in blogging with integrity, and so I understand how some people could be a bit peeved by this. But the internet is ‘open source’ and so if someone wants to make up stuff online and it makes them happy, good for them. If I had really engaged with a blog and felt an emotional response to it and it turned out to be fiction, I guess I’d feel I’d been wasting my time with them. Would depend if the ‘relationship’ as well as the content was fiction I guess.

    • Michelloui says:

      Your comment ‘wasting my time’ is a really interesting point. We really do invest a lot of time in the reading/writing of blogs don’t we? I can see exactly what you’re saying.

  13. Mother Hen says:

    I have come across some blogs that are truely ‘ my novel in blog form’ and they don’t always work. They seemed forced as if they were just beeing written to find a publisher.
    The blogs that have some laughter, love, thought and affection are the good reads for me. I like a good bit of fiction but I didn’t get into the blog world to read it there, I have an ipad and a Waterstone’s gift card for that!

    • Michelloui says:

      I know exactly what you mean–there seems to be very little actual humanity to them. The writing is too rewritten (or polished) and the interaction too stilted (if it exists at all). The normal mistake, poor grammar, typos, wandering off topic or general lack of direction of many blogs is what makes them interesting and reassuringly human!

  14. Iota says:

    Nobody likes being taken for a fool, and that is what I would feel if I’d developed a blog relationship with someone who was faking it.

    In one sense, lots of relationships are a little like that. We wear masks all the time. But on the internet the mask can be impenetrable, in a way that it can’t face to face. That’s where a feeling of unfairness comes in.

    • Michelloui says:

      Well said. And I do find that people tend to open up more as if trust (both ways) and confidence is not only more acceptable but more essential in the blogosphere (even if you never intend to meet these people in real life). So if that culture of ‘openness’ exists, then the discovery of complete sham (without disclosure) could be quite a shock. I can see that. It would have been all one way trust/disclosure.

  15. I'm So Fancy says:

    What’s so funny is that I was accused of being fake when I’m most sincerely not. Yes, I hide my identity and change some details to protect the innocent, but I’m not creative enough to make this stuff up. But I can see how people do it and I suppose it would depend on the skill of the person and the content. Because frankly, some of the blogs out there are sort of mundane ramblings that I could care less about while others really draw me in. And isn’t entertainment why we are here?

    • Michelloui says:

      Wow, how crazy it would feel to be typing out your life–and doing your best to make it as entertaining as you can so readers come back (and relationships build, yadda yadda) and then to have someone say it must all be fake. I was just trying to put myself in that position. I’d think it’s pretty funny I guess. Unless they were being mean. And even then I might think it’s funny.

      You’re right, some blogs are mundane ramblings while others are fantastic entertainment value. It’s the entertaining one’s that people love to read of course!

  16. john Falchetto says:

    Great post Michelle. I read the first few lines and thought Damn she’s good. Brilliant novelist for creating all these post over the months and making it so…lifelike.
    I don’t see a problem if it were true. You didn’t mislead people, they read your blog because they find it entertaining and who cares if it’s true or not really.

    I see so many online ‘gurus’ who tell people how they should quit their jobs and travel the world or some other work four hours a week nonsense and this is what I find a lot more deceitful than posting a novel online.

    Great post, have an amazing weekend

    • Michelloui says:

      Thanks John that’s also a really great point–compared to all the other forms of deceit people are ‘tricked’ by or led into, the novel/blog is relatively tame.

      But I can still see how the relationship building aspect of the personal blog writer/reader is an extremely important aspect. Looking at the other comments here shows just how important trust and integrity is to humans–in the real OR virtual world.

      Thank you–you have a great weekend as well!!

  17. EmmaK says:

    I don’t think I’d be bothered as long as they hadn’t tried to exhort me for money for their cancer treatment when not actually being ill!

    There was actually an interesting case recently a very popular funny blog written by this girl who looked like a sex kitten. Had tons of male fans. It was like can this be real: a really funny smart girl blonde and with a fit body? Well it turned out all the photos were nicked from some model’s flickr account but I found it funny that she’d taken the piss out of so many men was called much ado about sumthin

  18. I feel when I’m blogging I’m doing the inverse of this: i.e. presenting my real life in a somewhat fictionalized form.
    I think if a blog I read was revealed to be a fictional enterprise, I’d probably be a lot harsher on the writing or the contents of a post than if I were reading a normal (or should we say non-fictional?) blog. I also have to wonder whether such an exercise really would work as fiction once it’s removed from the blogosphere?
    The only examples that I can think of that have that have gone down this sort of route have often resorted to shock tactics. They’ve presented themselves as a real person and accordingly try to aim for a verisimilitude with how a normal, personal blog would be written. In these cases I think they have an extremely limited life as a blog. Once the big reveal that they’re fake has been made there’s not much to hold the interest. The immediate example that comes to my mind was 90 Day Jane. It was a blog supposedly set up by a young teenage girl with suicidal thoughts who was intent on killing herself and had set a 90 day countdown. During these 90 days she blogged about her thoughts, her preparation, she even put videos on you tube about what dress she was going to wear. The whole blog was later revealed to be a hoax with those behind it claiming it as a “personal art project.” Understandably, a lot of people were outraged at this and felt it was in bad taste, especially those who commented and were worried for the emotional and physical wellbeing of someone they thought was an actual young person. I do think it was a s****y thing to do, and was, to use a term that comes up a fair bit on the internet, attention whoredom of the highest level. That said, as an idea, it’s not that different from the Time to Go columns in (I think) the Observer written by the satirist Chris Morris (Brass Eye, Four Lions, The Day Today) back in the 90s. This was a series of newspaper columns supposedly written by a Richard Geefe. Geefe was down on his luck and over the course of the series started writing about his depression and his plans to kill himself. And while I found 90 Day Jane to be immature, unfair, and potentially dangerous, I didn’t feel that to be the case with Time to Go: like a lot of Morris’s other work, the manner in which it presented itself seemed real, but gradually it incorporated such bizarre elements that the fact it was fake was staring you in the face all along. Not too dissimilar, in that respect, to Swift’s A Modest Proposal. I know you probably didn’t have such extreme examples in mind, but, I guess, I’m just trying to say very un-simply that it’s the manner in which it’s done that determines whether I like it or not. I think such a blog would have to work on more than one level, it should be layered, and if people fall for it, it is because they were too credulous rather than because someone preyed on their goodwill and concern.

    • Michelloui says:

      Your comments are always fab, thank you for taking the time! I had forgotten the 90 Day Jane example but yes, I agree completely with you that this was a s****y thing to do. And like you, I would also be a lot harsher in the bog comments if I knew it was fictionalized–perhaps I would even create a fictionalized blog reader to leave comments!

      You’re right–it is all about the manner in which the fake blog is done that determines how a reader will feel about it.

  19. Marianne says:

    Gosh it’s getting late and this post – brilliant one that is, requires an intelligent reply. I liked a previous commetn which struick a chord with me. If I had spent time commenting and creating a friendship of sorts I would feel cheated and think I had wasted my time but this is internet adn we must allow for anything here I suppose.

    • Michelloui says:

      Thanks for your comment. ‘Cheated’ is a really emotive, but accurate word to describe this feeling!

  20. SaraLouise says:

    For me I think it would depend on how ‘involved’ with the blogger I had become. If it was just a blog I read, then I probably wouldn’t be upset, but if it was a blog where I left loads of comments (ie; have fun at the wedding, hope your dog gets better, etc…) and they commented on mine ‘posing’ as someone, I probably would be a bit annoyed

    • Michelloui says:

      I agree–if it were just a blog I read without any interaction I would probably think ‘hunh, well thats interesting’ and leave it. But if I had really become involved with comments and sending nice thoughts etc I would be annoyed at wasting my time.

  21. Very interesting…

    I thought for a minute that this was actually fake and my immediate reaction was huge annoyance. We’ve swapped guest posts, commented on each other ex-pat posts etc so if I found out you were lying I’d feel seriously cheated and would feel that you’d completely disrespected me, taking me for a fool.

    So, I guess the upshot is, yes I’d be bothered.

    However, if we hadn’t had any connection and I was just a mere reader who enjoyed your posts but didn’t necessarily share any common ground then… you know what I’d still be annoyed.

    If you want to write a novel, then sell the blog as a novel not as a real persona.

    Very thought provoking post.

    • Michelloui says:

      Really interesting comment. I wondered if anyone would get irritated with me at the beginning–in fact, I was so anxious about it that I wasn’t sure if I would post it until I accidentally posted it when trying to update instead!

      But it’s also interesting that you would still be annoyed even if you hadn’t interacted with me at all. I suppose this shows potential blog/novelists that they may lose their audience (and potential customers) if they try this route.

  22. ella says:

    I don’t if I’m a bit of a stick in the mud but it would really bother me. Some really funny blogs make it clear that they are written by a persona of some sort and they are funny and well written and I love reading them. It’s the ones that pass themselves off as the blogger’s real life but are in fact fictionalised – I feel really let down by the fact that I’ve made a connection with someone who is not really a real person.

    • Michelloui says:

      Haha! Funny, no you’re definitely not a stick in the mud. Your words ‘really let down’ by the revelation are very descriptive of how most people would feel.

  23. This topic’s dear to my heart. Thanks for writing about it.

    I blog anonymously on purpose, because even if you THINK you are writing about your own life and those in it, you are STILL just writing about characters and events BASED ON the real ones. No one can see their own life objectively! It’s all opinion. Might as well call it fiction and be honest. If people can’t handle it, too bad – it’s inescapable.

  24. Hmm, interesting post. I mostly feel that I don’t take blog-following that seriously. Just like reading a book – it’s all just stories – whether it is fiction or nonfiction.

    Personally I would be uncomfortable writing lies and untruths without full disclosure – it would eat away at me.

  25. David says:

    If it was a blog I read only occasionally, I wouldn’t be too bothered if it were fiction. If I had invested time and emotional energy, I guess I would be, well, a little bothered.

    I have followed fictional blogs in the past, and they have stated that it is a fictional account.

    I suppose no one likes to be deceived, entertainment or not.

    When I read the opening lines to this post, I wasn’t annoyed, but confused, because what and how you write gives substance to how I imagine you live your life.

    I am glad you are not a fake.

    • Michelloui says:

      I’m really pleased you said you were confused because what I write ‘gives substance’ to the real me. Pleased partly because I was worried some people might think ‘is this a double bluff and she really is a fake?’ and partly because it’s nice to know that my blog is viewed like that. Thanks for your comment David.

  26. Tanya (Bump2Basics) says:

    Great post and interesting comments. I think since bloggers build ongoing cyber-relationships to all of a sudden find out someone was a “fake” and just interacting “in character” would not sit well with me. I view two-way blogging relationships as different to what I would have with columnists in newspapers or novelists that I wouldn’t have any dialogue with. Still though, it’s difficult online, because you never know 100% who you are reading/commenting with until you meet someone in the flesh. Things like Cybermummy are changing that though I’m still always aware of that. I am honest in who I am and in my comments but I don’t always know if others are. I think most are, but do we ever really know?

    • Michelloui says:

      No we don’t ever really know. And I think some bloggers love the ‘bare all’ aspect of blogging and bore readers silly with far too many details while others carefully vet what the rest of the world sees about them. Doctoring the truth, or embellishing the truth are not a bad thing to do as the bloggers who blog for potential future contracts (for publishers or just advertising) have to market themselves. I’m totally fine with that. Bloggers who manipulate emotions (as another has said here) or who create a character to interact with the rest of us do make me feel uncomfortable.

  27. sun-flowery says:

    I like to read other people’s blogs in general because I enjoy perusing ‘snapshots’ of other lives and the threads that connect us all. I do have different expectations of a blog than of the fiction novels I choose. Fiction for me is escape, entertainment, art, perspective. I expect non-fiction (authenticity) in blogging, however entertaining or artistically it may be presented. For example, when starting my own ‘expat’ blog, I was first inspired by other expats who share their experiences. I continue to look to other expat blogs for commiseration, so I would be disappointed if someone were merely posing.

  28. Deer Baby says:

    Oh tricky one. I’ve said before (on BMB) that I would rather read a novel than read a fake blog but now I’m not so sure. It’s a grey area. I prefer ‘getting to know’ someone via their blogs and not sure I like the idea of a fake persona because it feels manipulative. Also, if what they say is a mixture of funny anecdotes which really stretches my suspension of belief, then I am less inclined to believe them when they write about something ‘real’ or heartfelt if that makes sense. I think I would be pissed off but I also think I would spot it for what it was. Hopefully.

  29. Troutie says:

    My online relationships are fairly surface. I’m not ‘intimate’ or ‘intense’ enough with anybody to feel hurt if they were lying. I’m just a general truth teller though. I have to really think about lying….as a general rule the truth is better.

  30. Jenn says:

    I really think it depends on the blog, and how they are portraying themselves. Are they pretending to be a real person and interacting as such, literally? I’d be disappointed.

    One of my favorite bloggers has an “alter-ego” who has her own Facebook identity. THey post to each others’ walls. But we all know this, and the alter-ego IS her eccentric side, so we don’t care! (Although, she was miffed when her alter-ego was getting friend requests from people SHE didn’t know!)

    Another favorite blogger actually posts as her 5yo daughter. Do I know it is her? Yes. Again, a distinction of intent.

    I have to say that if you are posting something as FACT and it is not, well, that is dishonest.

  31. As a writer, personally, I wouldn’t want to do that. I want to maintain integrity with my readers. If you read something that is fiction, there might be slices of life in it, but you can assume I made it up. If I am writing it in my personal blog then you should be able to assume that everything is accurate to the best of my recollection (although for privacy reasons may be lacking details). If someone wants to come up with a story and test it out on a blog, that’s fine, but it should be clear that’s what they’re doing.

    I remember watching something about Fargo which they start off saying is a true story and one of the actors asking to see the information about the real story for research. He was told it wasn’t real and told the directors they can’t do they and they said that they were doing it because it people believed it was a real story they might stick with it longer.

    I have a feeling that’s probably where the motivation comes from with people who do that. They want people to stick with them, and many people will if it’s labeled as true. But if it’s a good story, good character, and one has done enough research to make the situation believable, then readers will stick with a story, even if they know it’s fake.

    • Michelloui says:

      I never heard that story about Fargo! Interesting concept and I can see what they were thinking. I agree that’s probably what the bloggers were thinking, but I also agree that people will definitely stick with it even if they know it’s a fake, if it’s engaging. And if they know from the beginning that it’s a fake–no one enjoys the feeling of being tricked.

      • I wanna say it was on one of the DVD specials, but I could be wrong. It was a loong time ago. I agree. I think that’s probably the big thing that disappoints people is feeling tricked. If they started it as a story and no one asked, then I could see saying “well, you didn’t ask,” but if people asked, they said “yes, I’m a real person,” and then later said “no, actually, I’m just writing a story,” then I can understand people being upset.

        • Michelloui says:

          I agree completely. They wouldn’t mind if they went in knowing the basic premise.

  32. Vanessa (HousewivesInc) says:

    I haven’t been reading your blog very long, but today is the first time I realise the ‘truth’. I have no objection :-) in fact you’ve been honest about being fake. How many people in cyberspace are who they purport to be anyway ??

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