For most people, our names are already chosen for us before we’re even born. There are those few exceptions where parents wait to see their child before deciding on a name that suits them. But for the majority, we are blindly assigned names that will identify us to the the world for the rest of our lives. In some cases, the given name doesn’t suit the person we grow to become. Have you ever met someone and thought, you don’t look like a Dwayne, you look more like a Marcus so that’s what I’ll call you. Okay, so that was a very specific example, but that actually happened to someone I know. At times, people are so disconnected from their names that they choose to legally change it when they are older.
Then there are those whose names suit them so perfectly, you couldn’t picture them being named anything else. I like to think I fall into this category and because of this, I have a difficult time wrapping my head around using a pen name when I write. It would make sense if there were already someone famous with my name and I wanted to distinguish myself. Fortunately for me, although there are a large number of females in the world with my name, there are none so famous that they are a household name.
Maybe it is my pride speaking, but I have been known by my name all my life and it is a part of me. I want my work, which is also a part of me, to be associated directly with me and how can I do this using a pen name? People that have known me at various stages in my life wouldn’t immediately think, oh, yeah, I knew her! when reading my work if it has another name on it.
What is the meaning behind the use of pen names? They made sense back when women used to pen their work under masculine names in order to be taken seriously. But in this day and age, this is no longer a concern. Do pen names still serve a purpose in today’s society?
Some would say yes. In today’s society, authors use pen names to distinguish their work in various genres. One of my favorite authors, Anne Rice, used the pen name A.N. Roquelaure to write a romance trilogy that is very different from her usual supernatural novels. This is done quite often with authors that write across multiple genres so that their fans know what type of story they can expect. But is this really necessary?
Personally speaking, I am an eclectic reader so I welcome a good story from any genre. If I enjoy an author’s writing style, I will read their work regardless if it is a thriller from an author that typically pens romantic comedies. My book choices depend on my mood and I would never be turned off from an author’s complete body of work just because they switch between genres; especially, as long as their signature style still comes across.
Again, that could just be my pride talking since my eclectic reading tastes are turning into eclectic writing habits. Given that pride is the biggest of the seven deadly sins, perhaps I should take a cue from Shakespeare’s Juliet and adopt the “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” attitude.