Nom de plume. Pseudonym. Literary double. Even the term “pen name” has pen names. Now you’re thinking of using one; maybe your real name is hard to spell, or you want to differentiate your brand, or you don’t want your ex-wife to know about some extra income. You thought naming a baby was hard? Try naming yourself when there’s money and fame at stake. Robert Galbraith nearly died of starvation before J.K. Rowling gave him a cot and fed him three squares a day. Then there are genre concerns — you can’t write about a street-smart private eye if your pen name is Mellificient Elfwing, and Dashiel Hardcase presents problems if you’re writing fantasy about unicorns. Here are some time-tested methods to create a pen name that will be more famous and successful than whatever nonsense is on your birth certificate.
Method 1: Found Object
Picture your protagonist’s bedroom. What’s the first thing she lays eyes on when she wakes up in the morning? If you write horror, it could be a writhing eldritch horror creeping toward…yikes, let’s start over. If you write YA, the first thing your protagonist sees is probably a book — nobody loves books as much as protagonists in young adult novels. From there you can free-associate names like Henrietta Papercut or Penelope Inksmudge or Elizabeth Spinecrack or Angelique Deadtree or Daphne Dustjacket. Easy as pie. (Those names are up for grabs, by the way. You can claim them in the comments section.) [Read more…]