When people learned that I had a novel about to be published a few of them asked if I was going to use a penname. I’ll admit it sounded a bit strange to me at first. I hadn’t even considered it. I’d had work published in literary magazines without ever once considering the use of another name. I know there are people out there who do, and they likely have their reasons, reasons that make perfect sense for their circumstances. I see nothing wrong with it if that’s the way a writer chooses to go.
I always thought that if I had a book published I wanted to be the one to take the credit. Maybe if I was a big name author, like Stephen King, I might write under another name as he does with some of his work. But his reasons for doing so seems to make sense. I can’t imagine that someday I’ll suddenly start writing, say, romance or horror. In fact I can’t see myself writing anything other than what I write. But, as they say, never say never.
As a kid, I often used the name Linda during my times of make-believe. That was me, Linda McCormick, always getting myself into scrapes, and getting back out again. (I had a vivid imagination as a child. What writer doesn’t? Heck, what child doesn’t?) I have no idea why I chose that name. It hardly sounded glamorous, yet that was the name I chose. I guess even back then I had trouble coming up with any original sounding names. Imagine being able to pick any name in the book, and I chose Linda McCormick. Go figure! I don’t think Linda ever did any writing; she was all about the drama. Cooking up schemes and then coming up with solutions. (I’m sure you all know how that works.)
Concocting names for my fictitious characters is challenging enough for me without trying to come up with a super new name to write under. I have a few baby books that I thumb through when I’m on the hunt for a name. After all, it’s a pretty important thing. I like to give it a certain amount of consideration. The name has to strike me right. I have to look it over and see if it fits. I like to know a bit about my character before I begin naming them although, there have been times when the name was sitting there on my tongue just waiting for a character to come along and fill in the blanks. Sometimes, when a name doesn’t jump out at me, I give it a little time. Just as like it takes time for a new pair of shoes to feel comfy, sometimes it takes awhile for a name to grow on me.
Coming up with last names is the most challenging for me. That’s where I usually draw a blank. I start stealing names the last names from people I know or else starting thinking Smith or Jones. That goes to show you how original I can be! So don’t laugh when I tell you that I usually turn to the obituary column or the phone book. Again, I like to use something memorable. Of course every name in the stories we write can’t be something exotic with thirty-five letters. Every once in awhile we have to throw in a Jane or a Tom just to keep our writing in balance.
So how about you, do you find it challenging to come up with a name for your fictitious characters? Do you have any tricks to share of how you go about choosing names? What about when you were little. Did you ever use an assumed name as a child? If so, what was it? Do you now use, or plan to use, a penname in the future? Wow! I’m really full of questions today. Aren’t I? Oops there goes another question. Silly me.