Saturday, June 2, 2012

What's in a name: Picking the perfect penname

An author by any other name...likes privacy
When I started posting my writing a few years ago, I decided to do so under an alias, or a penname. That's a common theme in the writing world... and it's a common source of curiosity for the non-writing world.

My non-writer friends and family are always asking why I chose a penname, and my writer friends are always asking why the penname is so different than my real name. My answer to the first is fairly standard: I like my privacy.

So do most authors who choose to write under a penname. We're not writing with the expectation that we're going to gain a million fans or become rich and famous, but I think most of us have a little voice that whispers, "People are going to look for you."

If you like privacy, that's an immediate moment of panic. And some comes the penname. Having that buffer zone helps calm the nerves, and allows us to have a life that isn't for everyone to follow.

I adore my readers, but I don't necessarily want just anyone to know my address, where I shop, where the Keeper of the Cheerios lives, the names of all my family members, etc. And, well, I don't necessarily want every one I've ever met in my entire life to know I write. The first is private information and should be kept, well, private. And the second is just a frightening concept to consider because I know a lot of crazy people.

My point is: quite a few authors feel the same way. We absolutely love having a relationship with our readers, but would you tell anyone you came across the most intimate details of your life before you even got to know them?

Probably not.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same. Some people have no sense of where to draw the line when it comes to asking for personal information or intimate details. They have an expectation that because you write, your entire life is fair game. That's just not true! I've had readers pry for incredibly intimate details of my life like my address, what my sex life is like, or where I buy panties. That's creepy and crosses the line by miles! It also makes me rather glad I do have a penname and don't have to worry about the people that ask those questions camping out on my front lawn.

I know I don't live in a bubble, because, let's face it, you've all seen my secret ninja smile by now and know enough to do some sleuthing should you really want to go stalkerazzi up in herr (you know you wanted to laugh), but most readers respect the boundaries. I can trust they aren't going to be stalking my real-life Facebook, and I can simply decline request from those who do without closing myself off entirely to readers. It's a win-win situation. Unless you want to know all about my sex life, and then you're just SOL. 

How I came up with my penname and why it's so different than my real name is a totally different story, and it may or may not help you in your penname quest, but then again, maybe it will. :)

Unique names have become a tradition in my family, so that was a requirement for my handy-dandy alias. But I didn't just want to name myself Rainbow Starchild either. My name had to be more personal and significant than that, and it had to fit me.

Easy enough criteria. But when it came time to actually sit down and come up with a penname, I had no clue what I really wanted.

If you haven't already noticed, I freaking adore my nieces and nephews, so rather than trying to come up with a name myself, I decided I was going to let them name me. I figured my requirements would be met that way. Let me just say... that's probably not the best way to go about the penname business, especially when toddlers are involved, but it worked out well for me.

Kai told me I should be a Kai (or a Tiger). Losh pointed at himself, which was his way of telling me I should name me after him. Little Princess didn't talk yet, but she was giving me the, "Hey, I'm too cute to leave out and I will bite you" look. And Jay wasn't there, but I couldn't forget him either. Instead of fighting the inevitable because I'm a sucker and do whatever they want most of the time, I decide to take their advice and name myself after all of them on my own terms. Thus saving myself from becoming Dora the Kai and Losh and Little Princess and Jay Bubble Blowing Vampire Ninja Wrestling Champion of the Pirate World.

I played around with different parts of their names, put them altogether, and Ayden Kai'al Morgen magically appeared. That's too much to cram into a byline though, so I cheated and opted to condense it into initials on the official stuff. The kids think it's awesome, the name fits me, and I get to have my cake or privacy and eat it too. :)

Now, go forth and name yourself. Just not Rainbow Starchild. That one's already taken. ;)

xoxo,
A.K.M.

2 comments:

  1. You've chosen a really cool pen name. I'd always flirted with the idea of adopting one myself (at least one that doesn't scream Writer from a Third World Country where English is a Second Language). But in the end, I decided to stick with my given names, simply because it rolls off the tongue quite easily. Also, it's a fairly common name over here in Nigeria, so(future) stalkers would hopefully have a tough time pinpointing the right Michael Abayomi from the thousand or so Michael Abayomi's presently on Facebook. :D

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    1. Michael, thanks! I'm really pleased with the end result of the penname search. It suits me well.

      I love your name. Like you said, it rolls off the tongue nicely! And Abayomi is just fun to say. :)

      Ayden

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