After watching the site announcements and noticing how many people werenâ€™t taking the hint to start stamping their posts with their personal avatars, it occurred to me that many of you might not know the value of a good avatar. This, of course, is where I come in to tell you all how itâ€™s done, because teaching the requirements and benefits of a good avatar has no official qualifications whatsoever. Itâ€™s incredible to think that such professions are always what I seem the most drawn to.
So then, Lesson 1: Your avatar is the first thing people notice about you. It is your trademark, your calling card, and your representation of everything you are in a nutshell. (Yes, I know the content is supposed to be the important part. But rest assured, the average man is almost as shallow as I am.) So a good avatar is indicative of what you bring to the table, and of who you are. If you donâ€™t like yours, then who you are is a liar, which is a pretty decent strategy, but thatâ€™s lesson 2. (If you find lesson 1 beneficial, please contact me to bid on the first printed copy of lesson 2.)
Take some of the prominent examples on this website, for example. Les has a very distinct and memorable image evoking two of the biggest fandoms today, so that we know he is the ultimate fan who writes about whatever the heck he wants. This is an example of an avatar that requires you to earn it, and to find out what that entailsâ€¦ talk to Les.
Then we have the examples like Moviefan12, who opts more for a revolving door of avatars but keeps it strictly in the line of Disney and My Little Pony, the usual topics he explores. This way, he lets you know what to expect, while still allowing you to (usually) assume itâ€™s him and adding a level of variety that indicates how much he knows about both (approximately as much as I know about self-promotion). The fact that no character is off limits also indicates that he is taking a stand, presenting his subject matter straightforward, with pride and no attempt at concealment. I should note that this approach isnâ€™t a favorite of mine.
Moving away from recognizable characters, you might prefer something like Ratin8tor Pretty Boyâ€™s avatar: a big blue question mark. Itâ€™s more than ominous enough for a series with a title like “In Too Deep,” and itâ€™s also simple and distinct enough to make sure you remember who brought such question-answering insight to the table. (Actually, maybe I should rephrase that, because Iâ€™d like to think the insight around hereâ€¦ wait, my avatar has a question mark in it too. Never mind. Weâ€™re good.)
Moving on, one of the most recognizable avatars belongs to T-kun Unusual Wordsmith III, an illustration of a cute, colorful girl giving a salute. I have no idea where it comes from (so I can of course assume that nobody else does either), but thatâ€™s probably a benefit, now that sheâ€™s stuck with it long enough to make it truly synonymous with her. In fact, by now, most of us probably subconsciously assume itâ€™s what she looks like. Granted, you might have been around on the occasions she happened to post actual pictures of herself, but considering the average attention span, Iâ€™m not sure that makes much of a difference.
Now, if you arenâ€™t sure that you can match such avatars, perhaps you could learn something from my long and storied journey to find the perfect avatar, starting from the top:
Ah yes, Bill Nyeâ€™s â€œconsider the followingâ€ cutaway. This was a pretty good start. Since I call myself â€œThe Second Opinionâ€ without staying consistent on what Iâ€™m actually going to give a second opinion on, a recognizable image which only indicates that Iâ€™m about to give an opinion was a very nice fit. Plus, since Bill Nye is often seen as considerably smart and likable, it therefore implies that I am very smart and likable, just subtly enough so that few people realize it was intentional and get skeptical about my ability to back it up. The only problem is that it was already sort of an avatar, so instead of a distinct series, it implied that Iâ€™m just a humble fan of Mr. Nye trying to bring my own pieces of insight to the table. And who wants to be humble?
Now hereâ€™s what I picked when cult movies started to become a recurring theme on my channel. This creepy and distinct poster to a movie Iâ€™ve never seen seemed like a perfect fit. Itâ€™s got an eyeball in it, for one, so it probably implies that I â€œseeâ€ something you donâ€™t, which is a good start. Plus, Wikipedia made it sound like an obscure attempt at an art film, so if you didnâ€™t see it either, it probably implied that I know a lot about such movies, which is also a good way to sound smart. But unfortunately, there is a line between sounding â€œsmartâ€ and sounding â€œpretentious,â€ and with everyone around here opting for â€œunpretentiousâ€ fan favorite characters and such, an evocative image of a bird trying to swallow an eyeball on judgment day just made me seem like a try-hard.
Now this one I didnâ€™t stick with for very long. At first, it seemed like it might be the answer to my problems with the last one. People do know Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when they see them, so itâ€™s recognizable while still implying that Iâ€™ve seen a movie not everybody else has. Plus, being as they are synonymous with the choice between good and evil, one or the other, it also pushes the â€œsecond opinionâ€ motif a bit more. But between its status as a â€œclassicâ€ and the imageâ€™s incredibly deliberate attempt to make the clean-cut Dr. Jekyll â€œcuteâ€ and Mr. Hyde â€œscaryâ€ that whoever drew it must have thought was oh-so artistic, it made me seem even more pretentious. It also doesnâ€™t help that yellow and pale green as a color scheme just doesnâ€™t evoke anything all that pleasant.
Now here, finally, is one I think I could stick with for a long time. For one, it finally involves a recognizable character that I like and most fans can agree is cool. I donâ€™t know why it is, but among pop cultureâ€™s favorite supervillains, Iâ€™ve always had a soft spot for the Riddler. Heâ€™s just kind of a pimp, with his slick green suit, his top hat, and his question mark cane. And I can sort of identify with him. He likes dreaming up big projects, and so do I. He wants to wow people with something new and clever, just like I try to go in with the hope of bringing something fresh and enjoyable to the table. And he likes to establish that heâ€™s the smartest one in the room, just like I like to establish that I desprately want to be seen as the smartest one in the room.
But this particular image fits pretty well. Thereâ€™s a giant target full of arrows, implying that somebody (probably The Green Arrow) or many people have already taken a â€œshotâ€ at whatever the subject is, and now heâ€™s going to have his say on it. Whatâ€™s more, reaching right through the center of all of them, it implies that he, like a boss, knows exactly where they went wrong and what he has to do to come out on top. Itâ€™s a slick, stylish piece of comic book fun, exactly the tone Iâ€™d want to strike on a perfect day. (Granted, some incarnations of the Riddler do have a goofier side, but I canâ€™t think of a reason to cover that right now.)
So what, in short, have we learned?
- Pick an avatar that you enjoy, an image you like in a way youâ€™d way that youâ€™d want people to associate with you and your work.
- Try to make sure itâ€™s distinct and recognizable, something that readers will remember.
- Try to make it in some way indicative of what you do in your series or at least of what you hope to bring to the table.
- Donâ€™t be a paranoid schizophrenic. It makes sweating it out over 4 avatars, choosing and throwing them out for nonsensical reasons before finally finding one you can be happy with, a painful waste of time.
This concludes lesson 1. I expect very gracious thank yous for the free sample.