Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fake Names and Classic Wednesday


By JccKeith

Ever give some thought to your pen name?  I am certain everyone has at some point, thought of a name they would use in various circumstances.  Some people have numerous names.  They have a superhero name, a zombie name, a rockstar name, a nickname and on and on. 

I suppose you could use your superhero name as your writing or pen name.  It would be one way to grab attention.  Unless your superhero name is lame like the Black Shirt or the Crimson Shoelace or perhaps even the Flying Rat.  In such case, I would suggest working on the art of writing to gain attention rather than a flashy name.

Now, for those who simply can’t think of a great pen name, I’ll offer some examples.  There is one uber famous classic author who stole his pen name from a riverboat term.  You see, two fathoms is a depth of safe passage for a riverboat.  An old word for two is twain.  I’m sure that gives it away.  Yes, Samuel Langhorne Clemens worked for years as a riverboat captain and so found a pen name.  He said the cry for a measured river depth of two fathoms was mark twain. 

  • Samuel Clemens also used two other pen names.  At one point he signed sketches as “Josh.”  He also used the name Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass.  Just so you know.


  • Stephen King used the pen name Richard Bachman.  He claimed he wanted to find out if his works would be as successful when written with a different name.  Another source says he chose to use the name because his publishers thought an author shouldn’t publish more than one book a year.  Doesn’t really matter, people aren’t always as dumb as they look and the avid Stephen King fans picked up on the charade rather quickly.  The publishers had to come out with the ruse.

  • The Bronte sisters, Emily, Anne and Charlotte used the pen names Ellis, Currer and Acton Bell to publish their novel.  They claimed that they felt men would be taken more seriously than women authors.  In reality, this novel did poorly but their later novels published under their real names were very successful.


  • Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, mathematician and fantasy writer, wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll.  He developed the pen name by translating his first two names Charles Lutwidge into Latin.  This created Carolus Lodovicus, he then anglicized them into Lewis Carroll.  If you ask me, that’s a lot of work just to create a pen name.


  • Now let’s move on to one of my more personal favorites, the legendary Stan Lee.  He was born Stanley Martin Lieber but chose Stan Lee as his pen name because he wanted to save his real name.  He wanted to use his real name for more literary endeavors.  Of course, Stan Lee never became an epic novelist, instead he has become one of the most well known comic book creators in history.  He has even legally changed his name to Stan Lee.


  • I am not familiar with this next author but a little bit of childish humor made me laugh when I read her story.  Julie Woodcock uses the pen name Anglea Knight to write her romance novels.  She does this because her real name has that whole double entendre in the context of her chosen genre.  And people like me who laugh at such things would well, laugh at such a name.


  • Back to classic authors I’m familiar with, let’s look at Edgar Allan Poe.   At one point he used the name Henri Le Rennet, there is no real reason listed as to why.  When he enlisted in the US Army, he used the name Edgar A Perry and claimed to be 22 even though he was 18.  He also once used the name Quarles.  Being the odd guy that he was who clearly had issues, there could be any number of reasons he chose these names.


After reading these famous examples, maybe you had a miraculous notion and have developed a pen name.  Maybe these examples inspired you to want a pen name.  I have some suggestions in case you have no ideas. 

  • You could just use the name people call you behind your back since that’s how they know you anyway.  If you’re really unlucky, you could use the name people call you to your face.  My guess is neither are suitable for a pen name but hey, you never know, maybe it will work for you.


  • You could randomly open the next book you see or the book next to you or the book you’re reading.  Open to some random page and without looking put your finger down on the page.  The word under your fingertip is your first name.  Repeat and the next word is your last name. 


  • One final idea is use the first word you see on the next road sign you pass, advertising billboard or whatever as your first name.  Drive five minutes and use the next word you see on the nearest sign as your last name.


Now in all honesty, I was going to write this week’s article about Mark Twain.  I’m a big fan of the guy and his talent.  I know a lot about him but I needed to do some research to find out all the nitty gritty details. 
After reading up on his life history I decided something.  Well I decided two things.  Number one is that I am currently ‘watching’ Blade III.  This means, my husband is watching it and I’m in the same room.  I don’t like the movie, it totally sucks.  But that’s neither here nor there.

The second conclusion I made was that Mark Twain is a complicated guy.  His life story is long and detailed and did I mention long?  He has a lot of accomplishments.  Too many accomplishments for me to write out tonight as I saw it.  First I’m really bummed out that Blade Trinity even got made, what was Hollywood thinking?  Being so bummed, I had lost my initiative to enlighten you fine folks on Mark Twain. 
For those interested in Mark Twain, I recommend ignoring his life story on the internet.  Instead, read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huck Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

1 comment:

  1. While this was very entertaining (and this is my pen name, I think, because I love a pun) I'm not sure I agree with your assessment of Stephen King fans catching onto the Richard Bachman pen name quickly.

    There were some minor suspicions beforehand, yes, but it wasn't until the first hardback release of a Richard Bachman book that King was actually outed. That was "Thinner," which was his fifth Bachman book. So he fooled us for four books, several years worth of time.

    (I agree completely about "Blade: Trinity." Really, they should have stopped after the first one, the second was pretty bad, too.)

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