What Is In A Pseudonym?

April 15, 2015

All writers naturally want to make a name for themselves. But what if that name isn't the one you were born with? Writing under pseudonyms or "pen names" is a fine and honored tradition among many of the greatest names in literature. In fact, many of today's bestselling authors use pseudonyms.


Legendary comic book writer Stan Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber. He adopted the pseudonym Stan Lee because he intended to save his real name for more literary products other than comic books. However, we all know that story and unfortunately, Lee's hopes for a novelistic career never happened. He is arguably the most important comic book creator in history. He even legally changed his name to Stan Lee because he had become better known under his pseudonym.


There are many reasons to use a pseudonym, good and bad.


The bad reasons should be obvious, but never are.  Many writers approach a pseudonym with the assumption that editors or readers will be more "impressed" by a more interesting name. Let me stop you there. No one care what your name is. Best advice I can give you is to let your writing impress them, and soon your name will be considered "impressive" in its own right.


When coming up with pseudonym you want to keep things professional. Remember that this name is going to be attached to your work. Something like Lady Majestic is bond to leave an impression of amateurism to an editor or reader.


If your reason for a Pseudonym is because you're presenting a controversial opinion and want to "hide" behind a false name then shame on you. If you’re willing to write it, you should be willing to defend it. If you're writing in a genre you fear others won't respect, keep in mind that this is their problem, not yours. This is a lesson I am still learning every day.


I think it’s also important to note that a pseudonym won't protect you from any legal repercussions of writing about other people. So if your goal is slander, it would be wiser to thoroughly disguise the identities of your subjects, not yourself.


Let’s talk about those good reasons for a pseudonym.


If you have a day job like myself a pseudonym might be a good thing to have. Especially, if you’re writing could interfere with the aspects of your career. Sadly, some careers don't mix well with the writing life. You could also have multiple pseudonyms if it helps. I don’t have that problem. Not that there wouldn’t be a few awkward hello’s if people stumbled upon Punkpoet69’s Fan Fiction smut, but that would be their problem. They wouldn’t be able to handle the romance writer in me. 


Another good reason for a pseudonym is if you write in more than one genre or field. Writers who have tried to "cross genres" often find the results disappointing. I can vouch for this, I have switched up my genre a few times and it ends up not working out because it’s not what my readers are into. However, my readers they see my name and they read it, only to be disappointed. People who don’t like my other stuff but my like this particular story in this fashion see my name and won’t read it.  


Sometimes there are expectations about authors and their chosen genres. I mean when was the last time you saw a romance novel by "Jake Hammersmith" or a hard-core thriller by "Lori Carmichael"? These are circumstances when you might want to consider changing it up. Or maybe you have the same name as an existing author. If your name is Stephen King, Anne Rice, or J. D. Salinger, you might want consider a pseudonym.


The end all be all good reason for using a pseudonym is if you just hate your name. Under some circumstances, having a "rotten" name can be reason enough to use a pseudonym. With a name like Anais Torres, I don’t know if a writing career is what my parents had in mind. But I have faith in my name enough to use it for my books and blogs. It is who I am.


As for my pseudonym Punkpoet69, I use her for my online fanfiction. Not because I’m ashamed of my work or trying to hide. My website displays both my writer names proudly. At the end of the day I use a pseudonym because Anais Torres is not Punkpoet69, they are two very different writers and require two different names. Even though they operate inside one mind.


It’s a writer’s lifestyle. 

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