Thursday, August 19, 2010

What's in a name?

In my journeys through other writers' blogs, I've noticed a trend.  A lot of people refer to the significant others in their lives by nicknames.  Meg Cabot refers to "He Who Shall Not Be Named In This Blog;" Tawna Fenske talks about Pythagoras (which I love as a nickname, btw!); The INTERN has her Techie Boyfriend, Hippie Roommate, and Vampire Roommate; Natalie Whipple has Dino Boy and Ninja Girl.  Someone out there keeps referring to her husband as Hot Stuff, but I couldn't find any references to him in my reader while I was searching today. (If you know who it is, let me know and I'll update this post!)

This got me thinking.  Why do we use nicknames?  Is it because we're worried about privacy? Is it because we're worried about what said nicknamed person will think?  Is it because the nicknamee has asked for it?  I know that I link to my friend Colby's blog a lot.  I don't have any problem referring to her by name, because all you have to do is click on her link and there you go - her name is not hard to find.  Conversely, I find myself referring to another friend as just "my friend" when I link to her.  I realized that it was because I had not seen her name on her blog, and I was wary of revealing her identity if she didn't want to be revealed.  Today, though, as I was thinking about this post, I decided to ask her if it was okay - and she said yes!  So from this point forth, I shall link to my friend Tanya's blog. (*waves*)

So what about me?  If you know me in real life, you probably know that my real name is not Danielle Lanois. I do have to qualify that with "probably" because there are actually a few people who are under the impression that 'Lanois' really is my last name. I have chosen to use a pen name for a couple of reasons, and I want to share them with you.

  • I'm youngish, and still single.  There is still a chance that, at some point, I might get married.  If that is the case, my last name will likely change (although I'm still torn on that point - but it's all theoretical right now, so it doesn't matter).  Then I would have to choose whether I wanted to continue writing (and hopefully publishing) under my maiden name, or if I wanted to change.  By using a pen name all along, even if my real name does change, it makes no difference.
  • I have been Danielle Lanois for years. It, or some variation of it, has been my screen name since 2000 (or thereabouts).  It has become my online identity, and if I were to use my real name, there are some who wouldn't recognize me.
  • There are people in 'real life' who really do think that my name is Danielle Lanois. Well before I started blogging or writing with the thought of publication in my head, I was given the nickname 'Lanois.'  It happened, like many nicknames do, because a drunk guy at a party couldn't remember my name.  It stuck. It stuck so well that I have had wedding invitations addressed to 'Danielle Lanois,' because the bride really thought that was my name.
  • Even though I know it's ridiculously easy to find my real name, using my pen name gives me an extra bit of confidence when I'm writing.  It's like I'm playing a part - Danielle Lanois is smart and sexy and glamorous and all the things I imagine a writer should be, instead of a mildly-insecure, slightly-crazy, yarn-obsessed introvert.
  • My last name is Norwegian.  It's hard to pronounce.  And if you hear it, it's hard to spell.  There's something about French that just seems easier (to me, at least). 
    What about you, bloggy-friends?  Do you use a pen name for yourself, or nicknames for other people?  What drove that choice?

    1 comment:

    Anonymous said...

    *waves back*
    To answer your question, I write under my maiden name because when I started the whole writing thing, I was not the woman I am now. I use my married name for everything except my artistic endeavors.
    I also tend to use my initials instead of my name: (TL Schofield.) Studies have been done about author names, the position of the name on the book cover, the font, etc. and how those factors relate to book sales. Short and simple wins most of the time, and if it can't, then at least part of the name has to be simple and/or memorable.
    For example: Dan Brown - simple. Stephen King - simple, but not as generic as Dan Brown. Not a lot of letters, and with Stephen King you can use a smaller font for his first name, really maximize his last name, and have a very pleasing visual composition on the book cover.
    In my case, I've gone the JRR Tolkien route (or JK Rowling, for a more recent example.) I feel like Tanya is not a simple enough first name to be paired with Schofield on a book cover, so I have opted for my initials instead. And my new last name might not even FIT on a book cover, it barely fits the signature line on a check, so that's out of the question.
    And as for the significant other nickname ... I rarely refer to my husband in my blogs, but when I do he is "bearfood." (because "honey" is trite, basically. There's more to the story (there always is,) but for now, it's because "honey" is trite.)