Updated: Sep 23, 2019
In designing this week’s writing Definition about pen names, I had a song run through my head repeatedly.
Released by Johnny Rivers in 1966, “Secret Agent Man” tells the story of someone “who lives a life of danger.” It’s a very catchy tune, and I swear… Someday I want to write a book that gets turned into a movie just so it can use this song in the opening credits.
It just contains the perfect notes of intrigue and interest.
If you’ve never heard of it before, look it up on YouTube. If you have heard of it before, you’ve already got the rest of the lyrics running through your head:
To everyone he meets, he stays a stranger With every move he makes Another chance he takes Odds are he won’t live to see tomorrow
And then the chorus:
Secret agent man, secret agent man They’ve given you a number And taken away your name
Not quite the same thing as our creative writing topic this time around. But hey, it’s what popped into my crazy creative writing head all the same.
Here are two facts about me:
I could never be a secret agent man, a secret agent woman, or a secret agent anything else. I’d forget my cover within the space of five minutes. On a good day. That’s just how I roll.
I really like my name. Jeannette DiLouie just sounds like it has a je ne sais quoi to it, even if it’s not, in fact, French.
The first has nothing to do with anything really relevant to this discussion. But I still have “Secret Agent Man” running through my head.
As for the second part, we’ll get to that in a moment…
This fun little farce is also known as a pseudonym or nom de plume. If you want to sound fun, you go with a pen name. If you want to sound mysterious, you employ a pseudonym. And if you want to sound like a snooty French elitist, you proudly promote your nom de plume. Though, boil them all down, and they still mean the same thing: what your readers will call you.
There are plenty of reasons why people choose to run with a pen name, from privacy purposes to unfortunate associations... to it just being downright fun.
Because, hey, there is just something at least a little bit delicious about being covert.
Again, I love my name. So I proudly put it on my fantasy novels, my historical fiction, my Christian fiction and my thrillers… like the one down below.
With that said, you don’t have to dislike your real name per se to use a pen name. You might just not like your name associated with what you’re writing.
Perhaps what you’re writing wouldn’t make you look good among your colleagues, clients, friends or family members.
If you’re the CEO of a serious company, but you’re writing romance…
If your parents are pacifists, and your best-selling series’ main character is an active Navy SEAL…
If you run in joyless scientific circles that would ostracize you if they knew you’d published fantasy.
Then again, perhaps everyone you know or who knows you approves of everything you do. In which case, you don’t have to worry about facing them after you publish.
That’s great and all. But there’s still a few more concerns you might want to consider in the pen name-deciding department.