Sep 5, 2010

the Nature of Pen Names


The pen name: A writer’s best friend (and source of anxiety).

This has been a big one for me for several months. I’m trying to come up with a pen name that a) suits my personality, and b) suits my genre. Oh—and then there is always c) doesn’t sound made up.

It isn’t easy.

It isn’t fun.

I do not enjoy it.

Ask me to come up with a character name. Ask me to come up with a baby name. Ask me to name your new retriever. Do not ask me to rename myself. How should I know what “fits” me? It isn’t like I really know myself, right? I mean, give me a character bio and I can tell you the perfect name to go with ‘em.

The name helps to shape the character, right? You don’t ever see Tom as a murder mystery, serial killer? Not exactly. Ted, sure; Tom, not so much. In fiction, the bad guy always has a somewhat-bad-guy-name. Cyrus the Virus from Con-Air, Sylar from Heroes, Lucius Malfoy from Harry Potter, Hannibal freaking Lecter from *duh* Hannibal!

And the good guys have good-guy-names (or normal names, depending on the genre). Harry Potter, Clark Kent, Jack Bauer, James Bond, Alex Cross, Sarah Connor, Selene (Underworld), Alice (Resident Evil)… Basically, nothing decidedly evil.

So does the same thing apply to people? Could I be, let’s say, Emily? Tess? Diane? Samantha? Nikki? Madison? Tracy? Faith? Elaine? Rachel?

No, no I can’t. Why? Because I’m not those people.

So basically, finding a good pen name to transfer on over to has been… a challenge. Unfortunately it’s one I have to face (and, hopefully, overcome). See, I work at an elementary school and it would be just plain awkward if one of my students, or even their parents, ran a little google search on me and got a direct link to a steamy blogfest entry. Yeah… creeptastic, I know. So it’s mucho important for me to get my pen name up and running. The problem—it’s not working.

My plan is to have a “general pen name” for the blog, the facebook, the writing world stuff. This pen name would go with my paranormal romance and urban fantasy stuff. But I’d also like to have a separate one for my contemporary/romantic suspense stuff. I can hold off on the 2nd name---no biggie there—but I need that first one.

Progress to come… wish me luck.


  1. I actually have two pen names. Ann Elle Altman and Clarissa Draper. I will never put my real name on my book because it's so unique people will recognize it as me right away.


  2. As you know, I'm right there with you. We'll figure it out. Then comes figuring out how to make the transition! I may just write a post on this subject for my blog as well, since it's been on my mind lately too.

  3. What I did for a while was I used my real first name and different last name. For me though, a pen name wasn't important and I eventually dropped it. Good luck finding the perfect fit :)

  4. I thought finding the pen name would make it easier. Now it's figuring out who to incorporate in the place where people already know us by our real name. Luckily I haven't been on in the bloggy world that long, so I doubt many people even noticed the change.

    I think we're all stuck on the pen name post wagon right now, M. It's been the topic of convo for a couple days now. Just earlier I was working on my post on the matter. I'll probably just save mine for anther day. :) I think between you and Courtney, y'all will have it covered.

  5. It's all about taking that leap... I know the name I'll be using (thank God) but I keep hesitating on making the switch. Oh geeze. What's the best way to switch? Brand new blog, or switching the name over? I'd have to change the URL and everything...

  6. I started a new blog under my pen name after a long blogging hiatus. My pen name actually was originally a name of a character I created.

    I have come to the conclusion though that if/when I write sci-fi/steampunk etc I will definitely be using a different one, which I have already picked out but haven't set up a site for.

    As far as easiest way to make the switch, I don't know that there is one if you really want to disassociate the name on this blog from your pen name- which is sort of the idea of having a pen name I suppose- to set out a separate identity.

    If you just change this blog over- you'll automatically draw the connective line between the two names. If you start over, well, you're starting over.

    It's a question only you can come up with an answer to because there is no right or wrong. It's all a matter of what you're comfortable with and what you're trying to accomplish.

    If you try to get all your followers and such to the new blog by telling them "I used to blog under this name..." then again, you're connecting the two.

    So it's up to you- fresh start- or continuation of the story you've told about yourself so far? Only you can decide.

    Good luck!

  7. Hiya CJ!

    I've got an award for you at my blog...even though I see you've already got it. *sigh*

    Love ya!

  8. LOL hey good segue into the Pen Name! I love the way you just inserted it into your writerly life. It totally works!


  9. I can sympathize with your current situation. I am lucky enough to have a job that doesn't have any regulated guidelines for these types of situations. So, I have the ability to write using my real name, but I have thought of writing in a different genre for a younger age group and I can see how important it would be to think about having a pen name and choosing one isn't that easy.

    Good luck!

  10. as elementary teachers, we know where you're at with this. christy used the pen name lynnea west and started her blog that way. when we started our co-blog, we changed the name of the blog, but kept the url since we have links posted. I see where that would be more difficult trying to eliminate your real name. Good luck!

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