Bad Writing Advice IV, “Finding a Writerly Name”

Hey you. I like you. You seem fine. You’re pretty? Yes. You’re pretty. Now read my blog.

Okay now that you’re hooked let’s talk about today’s topic: writing the right writer name for writers.

Puppy doesn't have time for this shit.

Puppy doesn’t have time for this shit.

The most important thing you must do about your writerly name is make a new one. The number one mistake I’ve seen in the writers of today is that they keep their original, provincial birth sake. In this age of re-self-discovery, fake is the new genuine. Take my friend Lee Sharp, for example. His name followed all of the rules that will be prescribed later in this article, yet once I found out his parents made it up some twenty years ago, it lost its cutting edge. Suddenly Lee Sharp was le dull.

Billy Shakespeare was the greatest playwright of all time and that might not even have been his real name (it could have been the equally awesome Francis Bacon). Point is – lie. Your readers will appreciate it.

Now what was your first impression of Shakespeare? That’s correct — his name. Before you ever cared about the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune, there was that name. Would you still have read Hamlet if it’d been written by Shakesheepe? Probably not. Shakesheepe. That’s so stupid. Shakesheepe.

Which leads to another point I’m trying to make about your writerly name. People prefer an aggressive name over a passive one. This is because people are turned off by weakness. For us writer types, a strong evocative name will draw readers like an etch-a-sketch competition sponsored by Kindle Fire. You know how when you ask someone what their name means and it turns out to be soldier of God or something? The same thing works here except your name should actually be Soldier of God.

But discarding our birth name for a better one is difficult. Things like emotion and introspection get involved.

Listen jerkface, if you want to be a successful writer, than you need to have a successful appellation. Your brevity, your wit and intensity and political relevance — it all goes out the window if your name is Finkledinger Whampabump. With a writer’s name comes all sorts of conjugations and philosophical-weight. Robert Frost wrote poems about snow. Coincidence? Charles Dickens would beat the dickens out of his characters. Fluke? How about Stephen King, the king of the horror genre? It was their names that laid out the groundwork.

Dan Brown evokes the color of poo. Fate?

Dan Brown evokes the color of poo. Fate?

But what about writers like Cormac McCarthy or Ernest Hemingway? Due to lexical changes in the English language, the potency of their last names have diminished in the public consciousness. In other words, I’d rather not talk about it.

I kid! A quick search on and you’ll find that McCarthy means loving person and is an artifact of a bloodthirsty Irish dynasty. That’s bad ass irony at its finest. Hemingway is an amalgamation of Middle English and Old Norse meaning homeward way — and what were all of his characters doing but fighting for a familiar solace in the wilderness of life?

For the front name, a boring and generic word is probably best. You don’t want to upset the strength or syllabic count of your surname. However, if it’s too conventional you could try pruning the syllable count to make it sound better. Are you a Julian? Try Ju. Maximus can be shortened to X. Ever heard of a guy named Abraham Stoker? That’s because he goes by Bram now. In fact I’m going to invent a verb to describe this. I’ll call it bramming.

bramming /bræmɪƞ/ verb: the act of shortening your name to make yourself more appealing.

You can also shorten the surname, too. Most people don’t know that Mark Twain’s real name was Mark Twainberg.

Puppy would prefer to  be called Pu from here on out.

Puppy would prefer to be called Pu from here on out.

A word of warning: a truly successful writing name is hard to find, especially since you’ll be working against your predilection for your birth name. But think about it. You were named by people who didn’t even know you. They just looked at a fleshy bump and said, “I’m digging the name Maurice. You guys digging Maurice? Maurice. Nice.” For a long time these same people weren’t sure of your gender.

My real name is Jared Crawford White but I’ve decided to pursue the ‘more writerly’ pseudonym of Desmond White. The transformation is a bit different from the steps I’ve described above but the concept and result is pretty much the same. If you think about white for a moment, it’s evocative. It’s the color of teeth, of pearls, of mountain peaks and stallions and lightning and the moon. As a surname it indicates immigrants forced to change their name to fit into an American homogeneity that was immediately suspicious of foreign objects. That’s pain, that’s suffering — hidden behind a word that commonly denotes light and goodness.

P.S. Thank you ancestors for your hard work. You probably would have been Beliebers.

Pu has decided OMGBALL! will be her evocative surname.

Pu has decided OMGBALL will be her evocative surname.