How to Create a Pseudonym
Maybe you want your new screen-name to be Funky Phoenix, or you want to write a story under the pen-name Imogen Calveri. Congratulations, you’re using a pseudonym!
- You’ll want to consider exactly why you’re creating a pseudonym when you brainstorm for names. Many early female writers chose male names specifically to avoid sexist criticism. Others choose their pseudonyms in order to protect their identities and stay anonymous. In that case, you would want to choose a pseudonym that sounds like a real name and is easy to remember.
Or do you want to express your purpose or style with the name? An environmental activist might perform under the stage name “Willow,” while a boxer might prefer “Lightning Jones” or something like that.
Choosing a pseudonym is a creative endeavor, and the options are endless, so think carefully about what you want to get out of your pseudonym; what kind of impression do you want it to make?
- Start using it! It is not a legal name, so you cannot use it on legal forms, but otherwise, you can use it as much as you want.
- If you are creating a pseudonym for a character in fiction, the same rules apply. Consider what kind of name your character would choose and why; this way their pseudonym not only says something about who they are, but also who they want to be known as, so it’s a great tool for characterization.
When to Use a Pseudonym
You need to use your pseudonym only for its intended purpose, and not for all purposes. For example, a super-villain who calls himself “Professor X” wouldn’t want to use “Professor X” when he goes on a dating website! Likewise, a gangster (let’s say “Frankie Fists”) who also writes poetry (as “Dane Whittaker”) would never introduce himself to another gangster by his poetry pseudonym! Some authors, such as Anne Rice, even have different pen names for different genres.
You especially do not want to use your pseudonym for any official papers. People expect to know your real name for most jobs outside of the performing arts, and although you can publish a book under any name you like, you can only receive the royalties under your real name. If you started to use your pseudonym in the place of your given name on legal documents, that could be considered fraud.