Hiya Freshman Writers! Hope this finds you well and writing. Today’s post is about pen names. I shared previously that a pen name was a way for writers to branch out in various genres without sacrificing their reputations in a particular field of work. According to Dictionary.com, a pen name (pseudonym for writers) is a fictitious alternative to a person’s legal name or a name used to hide an individual’s identity.
Annette Charles was not a writer, but was an actress best known for her role as Cha-Cha DeGregorio in Grease. Last week, while reading about her passing, I also read that “Annette Charles” was a pseudonym and that she was also a speech professor in California. Shocked, I read that Ms. Charles used her birth name to teach classes. I would have never guessed that Annette Charles and Anne Cardona were the same person.
This is how a great pseudonym works. It effectively keeps two (or more) careers separate. For writing, a pen name allows for a writer to work in different genres. I use my name for all of my non-fiction work and some fiction pieces. But, I keep a pen name on the side for those pieces that would be too racy to publish under my own name.
In this way, writers can avoid backlash in one genre for writing in a different one. Such as writing parenting articles and then writing erotica. All genres have their places, but writers can write in more than one. A pen name allows for writers to move between genres.
Hiya Freshman Writers! In the last post, I wrote about pen names. Now I’ll be taking it a step further. How does a writer choose a pen name?
From the comments, I gathered that people have different ways of choosing a pen name that best fits them. Sometimes, writers choose a name depending on how books are shelved. (This was something new for me.) I didn’t realize that there were writers out there who gave serious thought to shelf placement for their books.
In other instances, writers choose a name that would best represent them in a particular genre. Some writers keep their own names for more technical work and pen names for fiction or spiritual works.
My pen name (which I’ll keep to myself for now) is a slight variation of my middle name along with my mother’s maiden name. I needed a pen name that would still allow me some anonymity, but would also be a name that is connected to me. I’m reserving my pen name for projects that would be too touchy for me to share under my real name. Sometimes, the best pen name is the one you already have.
Some of my writer pals use nicknames or shorten their first names to allow them to write in different genres. In my research, I’ve noted that many writers use one name for fiction and another for non-fiction. Still others use a completely made up name.
Whatever name you choose Freshman Writers, make sure that you put your best work out there.
One thing that writers tend to think about is a pen name. I saw a special about Beyonce Knowles on television the other day and heard about her “other self”, Sasha Fierce. When I first heard of it, I thought it was silly and strange. Why would a celebrity choose another name for a performance? Does Beyonce have a split personality? Self-esteem issues? Could be. Or she could be doing what some writers have done in the past.
Many writers have pen names. Great writers such as Samuel Clemens (AKA Mark Twain), the Bronte sisters, and Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) all adopted pen names.
What is it about a pen name? Does it bring out a new personality? Does the person feel more confident about writing? Maybe it was because of the time period.
The Bronte sisters may have chosen pen names because they couldn’t be published under their own names as they were women. Like some female soldiers took on men’s identities to fight in battle, the Bronte sisters may have chosen pen names for the same reason. Except the battle is in the world of writing and publishing.
Whatever the reason, some writers have elected to write under made up names. Stephen King writes under the name Richard Bachman. Maybe writers choose a pen name because they change genres. Or due to contractual obligations are limited in how many books they can publish per year.
I thought it was so interesting that a singer would choose a pseudonym. Sasha Fierce apparently is intense and exciting while Beyonce is calm and humble during interviews. Maybe the appeal to her is that she can do things as Sasha Fierce that she doesn’t feel she can do as herself. I can understand that as a writer. Having another name to use without your past history attached to it? Sounds like freedom.
So Freshman Writers, I’m taking a poll. Would you use a pen name? Why or why not?