Monday, August 27, 2012

The Mortal Kombat test

Ugh, I hate my blog. No, I'm sorry, I didn't mean that! It's just, with all I have going on, the blog started to seem like just one more chore. Since I don't want this poor little website to wither and die, I'm trying not to take it so seriously.So please forgive me if the posts over the next little bit are a bit tongue in cheek. There's lots of sites you can go to for actual solid writing advice.

But today we get down to some serious business: pen names.

Pen names are a tricky business. Personally, I find it hard enough to keep a handle on myself just going by one name, so I stick with it no matter what genre I’m in. I’ve had romance, mystery stories, slice-of-life stories, horror, and sci-fi all published under ‘Shannon Fay.’

But there is another reason why I use my real name rather than a myriad collection of alias, and that’s because my name passes a little something I call the ‘Mortal Kombat test.’ I’m sharing this with you now so that you can put your name to the test and see if you need a pen name or not.

Mortal Kombat is a fighting video game originally released in 1992. It’s known for being one of the first really violent video games and its awesome theme song. Go on, listen to it. Really, please do.

Thank-you. Through the synth and electronic punching sounds you can make out a computerized voice passing on words of wisdom (“Test your might.” “Finish him!”) and reciting names. The Mortal Kombat crew is a diverse cast, featuring people from all over the world and beings from various dimensions, from thunder gods to washed-up movie stars, and hey, there’s even a chick! The names are also all over the place, but somehow they all seem to fit within the world of fatalities.

If your name sounds like you could be a Mortal Kombat character, then you don’t need a pen name. Here’s how you test it out: put on your best MK narrator voice and read this list aloud:

Liu Kang
Johnny Cage
<insert your name>

Does your name just fit right in there, or do you stumble? That, my friend, is the biggest indicator of whether you need a pen name or not. Forget about genres, about placement on the bookshelves, how it will look on the cover, if there’s already a successful writer with the same name, if your name passes the (highly subjective, nonsensical) Mortal Kombat test, you’re fine.


  1. Haha, that's awesome. As a combination martial arts/video game nerd, I'm a total fighting game junkie.

    Unfortunately, J.W. Alden doesn't quite pass the Mortal Kombat test, but then again neither does my real name, which is one of the most common first/last name combinations in the world. Man, what I would give to hear my name read by the Mortal Kombat voice guy, though. . .

  2. The nice thing about the formula is that it's flexible. For example, Sonya's full name is Sonya Blade, but in the roll call she just goes by 'Sonya.' And lots of other people just go by one name as well. So maybe 'J.W. Alden' doesn't work, but 'Alden' could fit.