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What’s in a Name? Choosing a Pen Name

In the retired, predictable world that is Forestwood by the Sea, serious changes are afoot.

I’ve been lucky enough to score a part-time job writing for a lifestyle magazine. Yay for me. However, after the initial excitement settled, the ramifications of taking on this role had me worried. Journalists cop a bit of flack in today’s litigious world, and are often sued personally for what they write. What would be the implications of my name being in print, for both me and my family?

Might my privacy be violated by who knows what kind of nutters out there in a, ‘Covid-angry,’ world?

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

I decided I might just need to preserve my anonymity by writing under a pseudonym or pen name. But what name should I choose? Something fanciful, creative or something slightly ‘crae crae?

Choosing a Pseudonym

‘How would I even go about choosing a Pen Name? Is there criteria to be followed? A checklist or protocol in selecting such a name?

Just like choosing a baby’s name or the name of a new pet, I wanted to get it right! This meant I had to consider things like the genre and demographic I was writing for, whether the name had been used before in journalistic circles or whether it had any bad context or connections.

I sure as eggs didn’t want to find out the pen name I had carefully chosen happened to be the same as a serial killer or some onerous individual from days gone by.

I narrowed down a short list of names dredged from the depths of my imaginations, none of which my own family liked. Some initiated a variety of belly wrenching, hilarious comments. Hmm. [They DO love me, but have a quirky sense of humour.] But perhaps I wasn’t the best person to choose the name?

I then enlisted the help of an online pen name generator. Did you realise there was such a thing? This online marvel of suggestions, offered up some unusual name combinations, some of which I’ve starred* below, but I still remained sceptical of those choices.

Given the blogging community is so highly informed, intelligent and the reason my confidence had grown to the point that I even contemplated this job, I thought it prudent to seek their, [read: your] opinion on a potential pseudonym, as readers of Something to Ponder About.

Can You Help?

Following is a poll of some shortlisted preferences. Which one do you think sounds best?

Perhaps you have a suggestion of your own? Let me know in the comments.

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146 thoughts on “What’s in a Name? Choosing a Pen Name”

  1. I use a pen name for most of the reasons you mentioned. I started using it when I went on social media. It is scary to have yourself out there even if you aren’t famous. I don’t remember how I came up with Molly Shea.

    Liked by 7 people

              1. I can see that it might be confusing and I have to remember already which name I am using on the telephone. So I can relate. It is fun, though to choose a different name to the one that you were born with. I hear lots of folks say that they never liked their birth name so I wonder why it is we stick with it through thick and thin. Perhaps to avoid the confusion you alluded to?

                Liked by 1 person

  2. It has to be both memorable and to trip off the tongue so I went for Fifi. My second was the one that seems to have the most votes on your site, Emily …. So either one, I think. You want your readers to remember your name but if it’s too outlandish they will dismiss it. As a feature writer I always used my own name, why not? I also use(d) it for my short stories which I used to file very prolifically and am only now returning to.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You are so right Mari. It has to be memorable and roll easily off the tongue. It would look terribly unprofessional if I had trouble stating my own name whilst introducing myself in an interview!
      Emily is a good alternative, but I think I might spell it a little differently, even if that means I would have to spell it out all the time.
      How awesome is it that you are returning to writing short stories. Are you going to publish them at some stage?
      And good on you for using your own name! I take it that you never had any issue with slightly out of kilter readers?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a great idea, Mya. I hadn’t thought of a nickname and I wish that I had a nickname that was pretty funky. Sadly the two names that I have been called aren’t really mainstream suitable, so I could never use them! But thanks for the suggestion. That is funny to think of and perhaps I could adapt one of the nicknames a little?

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, Sarah. Why not Astrid Foster? Clearly, folks think there is something about it that doesn’t appeal. It actually was one of the front-runners for me! Interesting to see the different preferences, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I voted Emily Larsen – seems like she would be a trustworthy person.
    I chose a pen name when I started blogging. I didn’t want my online world to be attached to my real world location. Seemed like the best way to keep my family anonymous too.
    I chose a first name only – it is a variation of my child hood name, reasonably close to what my friends call me, but isn’t my legal name.
    The online world can be ugly. Personally I don’t think it is driven by Covid any more than it is driven by diverse opinions about politics, climate, religion and a million other things that social and mass media present in the most bias and divisive way possible!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Margy! I like that your think Emily is a trustworthy name. It does seem to have that reliable, solid feel, but possibly a tiny bit dull, maybe? I much appreciate your concurrence about it being important to separate the online world from our private lives. Not a bad idea to have just a single name! Less complicated!
      I do agree about diverse opinions out there in the social media world. It seems to be a place where letting off steam or venting one’s spleen is permitted in the most vehement and yes – divisive way without facing any real-life consequences. Yet there are always consequences for the victims. I hope we can learn to live better with social media in time.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Laurie. I could possibly use my own name, but I did want to keep my blogging world separate. You have been writing for ages, so it would be hard for you to change now. Me – I am just starting out, so I feel like if I am going to use a pen name, I should get it right and continue with it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Arundhati. I think I could have a bit of fun with it and use a name I have always liked. I knew a lady who changed the surname of their family when she married a second time. It was an amalgamation of the first letters of the names of all the members of her family. Even the new husband changed his surname! A lovely idea to bring cohesiveness to a new blended family.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Of the choices, Emily is my favorite – but only because it’s the only one that sounds credible.

    The rest seem inspired by bugs (astrid), forests (fern, fawn, birch) and french poodles (Fifi). I think you’re better off with your own name or some slight variation like Amber Woods or Ann Forest.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hmm. Sandy. I do want to sound credible. Would it still be credible if I spelt Emily as Emilie?
      I had to laugh out loud at your bugs comparison. What the hell is an Astrid bug? I have never heard of that! Haha!
      Yes the blog user name is Forestwood, so perhaps that explains the nature connections the pen name generator suggested. Thinking of French poodles means that Fifi has now been deleted from the possibilities. Amber Wood – not bad but makes me imagine a label on a tin of timber stain! Ann Forest: I have never taken to Ann for a name for anything… but I could do something with Forest perhaps. Good idea.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Another thought. You might even consider a male pseudonym: that would really fox the nutters who like to send rude letters to the editor about their female staff. A suitably punchy name like Rick, Hawk or Rocky should do the trick!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Excellent idea, Mari. A male name would really throw the hounds off the scent! Now to think of some male names. Hawk? Hawken isn’t bad – sounds like the Norwegian Haakon. I suppose we have spilled the beans now – they will be looking for a male name too if they blog stalk me! Haha!

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          1. A number of reasons, Amanda. I hope to start a new blog in the Autumn but am not quite sure yet of focus and content, though I’m pretty sure there will be walks. It’s what I do 🤣💕

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh AAAAAaarghh ! – those names are all totally ghastly, Amanda !
    But firstly, well done you !! – VERY well done. 🙂
    Back to pen-name; were I you, I’d follow Dickens’ precept: remember “Sketches by Boz” ? – in other words, not a name at all, but a made-up thingy.
    In Google translate, I entered “artistic” under English, having set the other side to Scots Gaelic. The result ? –
    EALANTA
    There you go.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Now M-R! Of course you would not find them to your liking. I have to disappoint you though. There is no way I am having a Dickensian pen name! You were kidding weren’t you? Amanda Magwitch perhaps! No way!
      Ealanta isn’t bad at all. I do rather like it. It does sound very artistic. Perhaps a little too artistic for me. Plus I would always have to spell it out, and it rhymes with Mylanta! That might be a deal breaker.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Therein lies the problem, M-R! How to pronounce the darn thing! Otherwise I’d go for it. I still think anything-A- lanta still rhymes with Mylanta – teehee!

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  7. I have two fake names on 2 different FB pages because my son is always paranoid and also because my step children had a mean streak after the divorce. . I finally used my first name but never my last on my blog. I like the idea of a pen name and am delighted to see there is a generator for them. I looked at all of them and Emily was the one my instinct went to immediately for a writer of serious material. Congratulations on the job!!! I’m so happy for you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My dear Marlene! I love that you understand the reasons for using fake names. I once had a facebook profile for my dog. She had more facebook friends that me. People loved it. I think facebook changed the rules and you can’t make them now. But I don’t use my official name anyway much except for official documentation. Perhaps I am far too sceptical. But then it has advantages. Prospective employers do google a lot now.
      Emily seems to be a front runner – but I would have to change the spelling. I just noted that it is the name of an American politician – a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. At least I got the better side of the political spectrum in that lucky dip! Lol!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Mordred! Gosh that doesn’t sound like the impression I have of you, at all, Derrick! Nevertheless, I like your suggestion. That is quite clever and I can see why you might be good at word puzzles. Do you like the cryptic clues?

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Pen must be so meaningful to you personally. Pen name generators might overwhelm you. You have to create it by yourself. Look within your life, reminisce the old times! Surely, you’ll get something. 😉
    For instance, like CappedX is my pen name or would be my pen name if i start writing seriously. It really has a meaning for me. I have a tagline for this as well “Always Capped” which clarifies the meaning more!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Always Capped means always occupied by some work, responsibilities, pursuing hobbies, doing creative work. It’s a complete concept actually, I created for my website BitterMarshmellos.com! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’d reluctantly go with Emily. How about Initials? Lets say, F.W. Wood. Female or male, why should it matter? What does F.W. stand for? Something, maybe nothing. Let the reader ponder over it. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Now F.W.Wood with no explanation is a fantastic suggestion. I have decided on a name but if I were to publish a fictional book, I think this would be one I might choose. I don’t usually write fiction, though. I really like that the F.W. is left to the readers imagination.
      I just googled F.W. Wood and apparently it is a category of golf “drivers,” – darn. I was liking this up to that point. However, I think your idea of using initials and a surname could work very nicely.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi, Amanda – What a fun task! From your list, I’d go with Emily. Just for extra kicks, I used the Pen Generator as if I were you (Starts with A, Female, English (Australian was not an option). The first response that I was given was ANGELA CUNNINGHAM. You could also go with ANGELA FOREST or ANGELA FORESTER. 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Angela Forest or Forester sound like a mystery writer, doesn’t it, Donna? It sure was fun to use the name generator! Felicia Valdez was a very random suggestion that it gave me, and last time I looked at the results, Felicia had no votes at all! I must check again. I will keep Angela Forest in mind. I like its connection with Forestwood!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Brian! Long time since we chatted. Great to hear from you. Yes things are reasonably well here. We have had trouble getting vaccinations due to government toe-tapping and now we have a large wave of Delta variant here – but it is down south and the have closed the state border. For the time being, we are safe, but for how long. I get my first jab this weekend!
      Re the Pen names:
      I agree Emily Larsen is a bit bland or obvious. I would alter the spelling of Emily as there is an American Democrat Senator with that exact name. At least she was a Democrat! Lol. Astrid Forster was a front runner until Sandy drew the parrellel of Astrid with a bug. It kind of threw me off that name after I read that. I like that you thought I sounded like an Astrid though. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I don’t want to alarm you, but whilst a pen name might offer some protection from a random reader throwing eggs at you in the supermarket parking lot, it is unlikely to hide you from the lawyers.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for your comment, Richmond. Nothing protects you from litigation it seems and the editor did warn me about that so we have to get the folks we interview to check through our article to indicate that they are happy with the content; which means we can’t write anything controversial, but it is not that type of magazine anyway!
      Have you had a bad experience with this yourself?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oddly, there is somebody threatening to take me to court as we speak, but I doubt that it will come to much. Am I permitted to ask the name of this honourable publication?

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        1. I am so sorry to hear that someone is threatening you with court action, Richmond. I feel sure that would affect your concentration on writing. Do you have any kind of personal indemnity insurance against this sort of thing?

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              1. Sometimes (frequently) these matters become issues of principal and sometimes (frequently) I wonder if discarding a few principles might make life a lot easier. But if I did that I’m not sure that it would really be my life anymore.

                Liked by 1 person

              2. That is surely a difficult decision. Journalism is not an easy job juggling pecuniary interests. There is lots not to envy.
                Discard the principles and lose your integrity? Keep the principles and a job?
                Whichever you choose you can still keep your values intact. Principles may change over time. Values rarely do.
                Your life will be what you are prepared to permit.

                Like

    1. I am writing about lifestyle issues, Chris, plus writing feature articles interviewing folks in the community. I am very excited if a bit daunted at doing interviews. I have completed a few already, and surprisingly, the client seems more nervous of me as a “journalist,” than I was of them. Little did they know that I was just a blogger winging it! Lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Your current top three is my top three. Larsen sounds Scandinavian. Congratulations on the new job. We are trying to come up with a name for our new camper set-up, but haven’t found anything fitting yet. It’s not easy. And, this one is quite complicated as well, since the truck camper has two parts to it…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Larsen is both Danish and Norwegian, Liesbet so you are correct there. Larsson with an o would be swedish originally. So you name your new camper set-up? xxx 1 and xx2? What was the last one called?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Our 19ft camper van was called Zesty (the Westy). We lived and traveled in it throughout North America for four years. Before that, our 35ft sailboat was called Irie, which was our floating home for eight years in the Caribbean and Pacific. We have our thinking caps up for this one. South America is next.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Normal! If I wanted a normal name, Emily would probably be the one I would pick. Then I think that perhaps I want something a little bit different. There must be lots of Emily Larson, or perhaps it is just the Larson that sounds familiar? As in Stig Larsson?

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I voted for Marta Birch. Emily Larsen sounds elegant but the former sounds very poetic and evokes images of a diligent poet at work in the 18th century in the midst of a lush green rainforest, listening to the songs of birds, adopting nature as her muse…. Yeah, you get the idea! Sounds like the name of a popular romantic poet.

    I had no idea that so much of work goes into selecting a pen name 😅I just use my nick name and one of the 3 names given to me at birth and put that to use in the very first book I published. But after reading your post, I realise that it’s important to have a pen name that makes you sound classy and… reliable.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You don’t have to go to the lengths some of us go to, but I thought it a fun challenge to find one. I really like your description of Marta Birch. It is highly likely that I will chose this one or something like this.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. One thing I’ve noticed in pen name is that: a pen name gives an individual the needed anonymity , at times in countries where writers aren’t that safe due to some things, a pen name usually protects them.

    Again, I think some uses pen name to cover up themselves when they don’t want to be judged or condemn, e.g those who write erotic stories and all, I remember I onces used a pen name in doing such.

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  15. What pen name, if any, did you finally selected since I just saw this; i.e., late?

    Thanks for sharing the pen name generator; didn’t know that it existed. Not surprised though – with technology everything is out there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am unsure if I should reveal it here as I would like to keep my blogging life separate from that life, and after a bit of feedback I am thinking of changing it to a gender non specific name.

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