#010–What’s in a (pen) name? How do you find a good one & keep your privacy…sort of?

In light of the concerns I’ve had over personal safety the past couple of weeks, I have been thinking hard about online security as well as offline. I gotta admit, I’m having better luck online than off right now (thanks to my sister-friend and some good advice all around).

The “offline security” is getting tricky, partly because I had my first self defense class yesterday. I concluded that over a month without the gym really screwed me. I’m grossly out of shape, I should’ve done this years ago when my knees weren’t so bad, and the 10- minute warm up on the mats nearly did me in (sore as hell all over, and I don’t know how!)

Better late than never, I suppose…like most of my “good” ideas.

For another “offline security” concern, I got to thinking again about maybe using a pen name when I start submitting stories again. My main reason for this is simple: my last name gives telemarketers apoplexy. I can’t imagine seeing a customer try to find it on a bookstore shelf, or somebody on a book-talk radio show trying to pronounce it. It’s tough enough for people I’ve known a while, let alone complete strangers.

I’ve read up a little on pros and cons (though the legal aspect and copyright and all will likely give me fits, and I can’t concentrate on them right now). The tough part is, I can’t figure out how to come up with a pen-name. Guess me and my sister-friend will be brainstorming that the next few weeks.

6a00d8341bf67c53ef014e6008bc8c970c-800wiThe tricky part, too, is for privacy. I’ve written things and let people see them in the past, which earned me some unwanted attention in one regard, and psychoanalyzed by family members through my work in others. I’d rather have complete strangers give me their input (for the most part) because they’ll accept the work as it is. My name is very unique, which makes me easy to find for everybody who’s ever gone looking for me. Hence why I just go by “Tally” or “The Chatty Introvert”: a nickname and a descriptive title work here.

So today’s concern is starting fresh with a new name that will fit what I write about. So far, much of what I’m writing (or have written) has delved into Sci-Fi more than anything else. I don’t write romance, so something all lovey-dovey would make me want to punch myself in the mouth, but something too masculine or “high brow” (can’t figure a better way to say it) wouldn’t do me favors, I bet.

All this makes me wonder: what’s really in a pen name?

I worry about pigeon-holing myself into a corner with a pen name that sounds too genre-friendly. I also wonder how the hell some of these authors with 5 or 6 pen names can keep them all together (and why they persist in using said pen names even after they’ve been outed). Also, what if I decided to advertise said works on my blog in the future, or advertise my blog? Would I want to advertise “The Chatty Introvert” on a book jacket?

My real name would bring in people I’d rather not have commenting on my blog or reading it (the psychoanalysts and stalkers, you know). The possible trade-off between privacy and expanding a career is getting annoying to contemplate.

Despite the constant mispronunciations, I admit I like my first name (unique as well), but if I’m going to have it as part of a pen-name, I can’t figure a way to make it fit. It doesn’t roll off the tongue well, and is mispronounced a lot…and I definitely can’t find a last name that fits the bill. If I went to initials and a last name, I’d still have to pick a last name for it.

I’ve commented all day on other blogs about being a writer and trying to get my flow back, so I’m quite aware of the irony in my working on something that’s keeping me from writing (facepalm). But it hit me–even when I enter writing contests, can/should I already have it in my pen name? I can only imagine the confusion with writing contest submissions, tax forms, and other such with changing names in the middle of all this.


Correction–found one I WON’T use, I guess.

A new name would help denote a fresh start, but I just can’t think of how to come up with one. Character names are a bit easier because I just pick something that came out of the ether in many respects, or what fits the situation or time period (I brainstormed a master list of about 200 names to start with and check off which ones I’ve used so I don’t repeat).

But a name for myself? A name that I would want to use for the next several decades of a (hopefully) flourishing writing career? That’s proving to be far more difficult.

So, for story writers and/or readers alike, what could/would you draw inspiration from that would give you a new name for yourself? Has an author’s name ever just kinda struck you as you browsed the aisles in a bookstore and why?

Any free advice would be great. My fave characters seem to get the names I’d have for my alter-egos, so I keep giving the ones I think of away to the pages and paragraphs. Should’ve thought to save some for me (dang it).

4 thoughts on “#010–What’s in a (pen) name? How do you find a good one & keep your privacy…sort of?

  1. Andrew | w1nt3l.com says:

    When I first started writing, way back when just out of high school, the pen name I used was the first name of two bullies that tortured me for almost four years. It just so happened that their first names worked in a “dude with two first names” kind of way. Given that you’re name is so unique, have you considered creating an anagram?


  2. PiedType says:

    Early in the development of the internet, I realized that privacy was a big concern. So I decided to adopt a screen name rather than use my real name. Ultimately I decided to keep my first name and adopt a common variation of my much-less-common last name. It starts with the same letter and is a good solid Anglo-Saxon name that sounds appropriate if not great in most any situation. It feels comfortable to me, and that was important.


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