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"For several years I lived on the proceeds of the three novels I wrote as Edgar Box. The New York Times lavished praise on Box; then, years later, when I published all three in a single volume, confessing to their authorship, the Times retracted its three good reviews to give me a bad one."
Gore Vidal, Palimpsest

A Pen Name (also known as a pseudonym or "nom de plume" if you want to sound fancy) is a made-up name a writer or artist (in the case of performers, this is called a Stage Name) produces works under for whatever reason. Often due to Rule of Cool, but other reasons also abound. In the case of famous actors / people, it's sometimes a way to find out whether or not they'd be successful even without their star power attached to it. Many writers have used a fictional name in order to avoid the typecasting associated with their name and particular genres, allowing them to write outside the expected genre that they've become well known for. Some manga creators use a pen name to avoid legal difficulties due to rules of their regular employment (school teachers and civil servants in Japan are often forbidden from pursuing other sources of income and it could be scandalous if a high school teacher was also a mangaka). A pseudonym may be used to protect the writer for exposé books about espionage or crime. Many female writers have used male pen names when writing in a male-dominated genre, and male writers have used female-sounding pen names when writing in a female-dominated genre, due to public expectations or the avoidance of potential scandal.

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Sometimes, the pen name the author uses gets its own individuality and qualities; in these cases, it can also be called a heteronym — the fictional identities authors can create in order to talk through them, experimenting with new styles and acting as different people instead of writing under a different name, but otherwise writing as themselves. Thus, heteronyms can be said to be characters not much different from the ones the author creates in the work proper, sometimes with their own biographies, personalities and writing styles that differ from the creator's.

Supertrope of Moustache de Plume and Same Face, Different Name, so please don't repeat those examples here. See also House Pseudonym. Compare Anonymous Author, when the writer doesn't give any name.


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Examples:


Sometimes one person uses multiple pen names:

  • Alberto Carreiro, Ricardo Reis, Álvaro de Campos and several dozens of others (Fernando Pessoa), with at least 70 different names being used throughout his life. Notably, Pessoa gave the aforementioned ones their own individual biographies, birth dates and writing styles.
  • Allan Devon, Christopher Golato, Mark Rowane (Sidney Sheldon)
  • Anson MacDonald, Caleb Saunders, John Riverside, Leslie Keith, Lyle Monroe (Robert A. Heinlein)
  • Ampe R. Sand / Dave Ahl Jr. / Zarf (Andrew Plotkin)
  • Anne Desclos, writer of Histoire d'O (Story of O), used the pseudonym Pauline Réage. Under another pen name for most of her novels, she was Dominique Aury (known for a demure, intellectual, and almost prudish persona).
  • Anne Rice, Anne Rampling, A.N. Roquelaure (Howard Allen O'Brien, Rice by marriage) note 
  • Ashida Kim, Christopher Hunter, and possibly Dr. HaHa Lung (Radford W. Davis)
  • Brian O'Nolan used the pen names Flann O'Brien and Myles na gCopaleen for his novels and journalistic writing because Irish civil servants were not allowed at that time to publish works under their own names.
  • Buronson (the name chosen both due to Rule of Cool and as a tribute to the American actor Charles Bronson, whose mustache he imitated), also known as Fumimura Shō, was born as Yoshiyuki Okamura.
  • Dr. Seuss, Theo. LeSieg (Theodor Seuss Geisel)
  • David Gordon, Lou Tabakow, Ivar Jorgenson, Darrel T. Langart, Jonathan Blake MacKenzie, S. M. Tenneshaw, and Gordon Aghill, Randall Garrett (Randall Phillip Garrett)
  • David Osborne, Calvin M. Nox (Robert Silverberg)
  • Emily Rodda, Mary-Anne Dickinson (Jennifer Rowe) — Later reprints of her books that had been published under the Dickinson name used the Rodda name instead.
  • Evan Hunter, Ed McBain, Richard Marsten (Salvatore Lombino) note 
  • Hugh Marlowe, Jack Higgins, James Graham, Martin Fallon (Harry Patterson)
  • Ignaz Wrobel, Kaspar Hauser, Peter Panter, Theobald Tiger (Kurt Tucholsky)
    • The German writer used four pseudonyms while working on Die Weltbühne so his name would not appear so often on the index, assigning different styles to his four alter egos. Theobald Tiger wrote only in verse, Peter Panter general satires, Ignaz Wrobel acerbic, hard-hitting stuff, and Kaspar Hauser on the lines of "this world is crazy".
  • James Rollins, James Clemens (James Paul Czajkowski)
  • James Tiptree, Jr., Raccoona Sheldon (Alice Bradley Sheldon)
  • J. K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith (Joanne Rowling)
  • Johannes de Silentio, Johannes Climacus, Anti-Climacus, Victor Eremita, Constantin Constantius, Vigilius Haufniensis, Nicolaus Notabene, Hilarius Bookbinder, etc. (some of Søren Kierkegaard's many pseudonyms)
  • JT LeRoy, Emily Frasier, Speedie (Laura Albert)
  • Kawashita Mizuki used to draw shoujo (teenage girls) manga under the pen name Momokuri Mikan but changed to Kawashita Mizuki later on when she started writing romance manga.
  • John Wyndham, John Beynon and Lucas Parkes (John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris)
  • Moebius, Gir (Jean Giraud)
  • Robert Jordan, Reagan O'Neil, Jackson O'Reilly (James Oliver Rigney Jr.)
  • Robin Hobb, Megan Lindholm (Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden)
  • Richard Stark, Tucker Coe, Samuel Holt (Donald Westlake)
  • Pat Murphy wrote There and Back Again under the pseudonym of Max Merriwell. She wrote Wild Angel under the name Mary Maxwell, which was supposed to be Max Merriwell writing under a pen name. In Adventures in Space and Time With Max Merriwell (written under her real name) Max Merriwell meets his pen names on a cruise.
  • In addition to his most famous pen name of W. E. B. Griffin, William Edmund Butterworth III published works as (long breath) Alex Baldwin, Webb Beech, Walter E. Blake, James McM. Douglas, Jack Dugan, John Kevin Dugan, Eden Hughes, Allison Mitchell, Edmund O. Scholefield, Blakely St. James, and Patrick E. Williams. He also published work with multiple variations of his real name—W. E. Butterworth and William E. Butterworth, the latter both with and without "III".
  • Robert W Lowndes
  • Donald A Wollheim:

Sometimes two or more people use one pen name:

  • Ellery Queen (Daniel Nathan and Manford Lepofsky)
    • "Mallory T. Knight" (Bernhardt J. Hurwood) is very probably a parodic reference to that pen name - the author wrote mostly parodies anyway.
  • Emma Lathen (Mary Jane Latsis and Martha Hennisart)
  • Erin Hunter is the pen name of seven authors and editors of Warrior Cats, Seeker Bears and Survivor Dogs (Victoria Holmes, Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, Tui Sutherland, Gillian Philip, Inbali Iserles, and Erica Sussman).
  • There is a theory that Euclid was actually one of these.
  • Grant Naylor (Rob Grant and Doug Naylor)
  • Fujiko Fujio (Hiroshi Fujimoto, who has since passed away, and Motoo Abiko)
  • Franklin W. Dixon, writer of The Hardy Boys
  • Carolyn Keene, writer of Nancy Drew
  • Charles Moulton (William Moulton Marston and Joye Murchison)
  • Charles Ogden (various authors)
  • Ilona Andrews (Ilona and Andrew Gordon)
  • K. A. Applegate is credited on the covers of Animorphs, Everworld, and Remnants — actually co-written by K. A. Applegate and Michael Grant
  • Kozma Prutkov (A.K.Tolstoy and Zhemchuzhnikov Brothers)
  • Publius, author of the Federalist Papers, was three Founding Fathers: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay.
  • Michael Slade, pen name of Jay Clarke, along with his various collaborators, whose thrillers pit the Mounties against serial killers. Clarke is a Canadian lawyer whose specialty is criminal insanity.
  • LA Graf, a pen name used by Julia Ecklar and Karen Rose Cercone for their collaborative works in the Star Trek Novel Verse, as well as one Alien Nation novel. (The name stands for "Let's All Get Rich And Famous.")
  • Robert Randall (Robert Silverberg and Randall Garrett)
  • Many pulp and paperback publishers used "house pseudonyms" so that it would appear that one writer wrote e. g. all stories featuring a certain hero even if they were actually written by a succession of work-for-hire writers. See Extruded Book Product.
    • TSR explained that their reason for doing this with the Forgotten Realms Avatar Trilogy (Scott Cecien and Troy Denning under the name Richard Awlinson) and Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition novels (nine authors, including names that could probably shift product to D&D fans on their own, writing as T.H. Lain) was that it ensured the books would all be shelved next to each other in bookstores.
  • Owen Hatteras (H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan)
  • For Rocky and Bullwinkle, the name "Ponsonby Britt" was used as a pseudonym for Jay Ward and Bill Scott because the network wanted an "executive producer" credit and the two already received "producer" credits.
  • The Melody Man, a comedy play which flopped badly on Broadway in 1924, was ascribed to one Herbert Richard Lorenz. Herbert Fields, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart took their last names off the play apparently because they considered that it would become their Old Shame.
  • Nicolas Bourbaki was the pen name of a group of French mathematicians.
  • Manning Coles was the pen name of Adelaide Frances Oke Manning and Cyril Henry Coles.
  • The Economist generally do not name the author of their articles, Columnists are instead assigned a relevant pseudonym according to the author's area of expertise, eg. Bunyan for the Asian Correspondent, and Lexington for the US Correspondent. Some of the more established pseudonyms have been carried on by multiple authors.
  • James S. A. Corey is Ty Franck plus Daniel Abraham (who himself used "M.L.N. Hanover" for another work). The first and last name are taken from Abraham's and Franck's middle names, as The Other Wiki knows.
  • Jack McKinney was used by the team of James Luceno and the late Brian Daley, most significantly for the Robotech Novelizations and Television Tie In Novels. They also co-wrote an original series, the Black Hole Travel Agency. Luceno reused the pen name to write several Robotech interquel novels in the Nineties after Daley's death.
  • "Black Flames" and "The Colossus Of Maia" were co-written by Robert W Lowndes and Donald A Wollheim, and published in Stirring Science Stories under the name Lawrence Woods.
  • "The Castle On Outerplanet" was co-written by CM Kornbluth, Robert W Lowndes, and Frederik Pohl, and published in Stirring Science Stories under the name SD Gottesman.

Fictional examples:

  • Tim McGee in NCIS writes thrillers under the pen name "Thom E. Gemcity," which is of course an anagram of his real name.
  • Strong Bad from Homestar Runner once claimed that he writes an advice column for a girls' magazine under the "pseudoname" Cara Carabowditbowdit.
  • Monster: Franz Bonaparta, Klaus Poppe, Emil Sebe, and Jakub Farobek. All one person.
  • The X-Files—Fox Mulder wrote an Omni article under the name "M.F. Luder."
  • Castle main character Richard Edgar Castle was born Richard Alexander Rogers.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Haruna Saotome (no relation to that other Saotome) uses the moniker "Paru".
  • Kenji Harima from School Rumble draws manga under the pen name Harima Hario.
  • Ender's Game: Peter and Valentine Wiggin use the pen names "Locke" and "Demosthenes" (respectively) to write blogs for political discourse. Ender later takes one of his own, "The Speaker for the Dead," to write biographies of his brother, the Hive Queen, and later for one of the pequeninos.
  • Galaxy of Fear: Working on the Holonet, Tash Arranda takes the usernames Seeker and Searcher 1. A different user puts out stories about the extinct Jedi Knights under the penname ForceFlow. Even when he meets Tash, he doesn't tell her his real name. Because he's actually the Big Bad.
  • In The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow, the eponymous Johnny Hollow provides a Spooky Photograph to an Occult Detective investigating a Mystery Cult. Careful examination of the investigator's other documents reveals that "Hollow" is an alias adopted by Johnathon H. Ollow, a writer for the in-universe newspaper, The Greater Toronto Gazette.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, Kaneki's favorite author writes under the name Sen Takatsuki. It isn't entirely clear what her actual name is, and she probably likes it that way. Her real name is Eto Yoshimura, the Antagonistic Offspring of the Big Good Yoshimura, and is one of the Big Bad (later revealed at the sequel as a sympathetic, if not a well-intentioned villain) of the series as the infamous One-Eyed Owl.
  • In Jean Robinson's The Strange But Wonderful Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon the narrator's father writes a cooking column under the name of Grace Gallagher.
  • Mirai from Senran Kagura writes online under the alias of Futsure, which is her name in English (Future), pronounced in Japanese.
  • In ZUN's Music Collection series, Renko decides to give Maribel the pen name "Dr. Latency" for the book they are writing about her visions and experiences.
  • In YuruYuri, Kyoko publishes her Mirakurun doujinshi under the name Nishikyougoku Ramuko, a parody of the in-universe actual creator's name Saikyouyaki Ranko, and referencing her Trademark Favorite Food rum raisin.
  • Miu Amano of Blend-S is a doujinshi author under the pen name of Hanozono Folder.
  • Comic Girls's cast are Sequential Artists, and each of them have different pen names:
    • Kaoruko Moeta uses "Chaos/Kaos".
    • Koyume Koizuka uses "Koisuru Koyume".
    • Ruki Irokawa uses "Big Boobs Himeko", a name imposed by her editor.
    • Tsubasa Katsuki uses "Wing V".
  • Bakuman。 also features manga artists with various pen names.
    • The main characters, Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi, are collectively known as Muto Ashirogi, a portmanteau of both their names, along with the "A" from Mashiro's Love Interest Miho Azuki's surname.
    • Yuriko Aoki goes by the pen name Ko Aoki.
    • Aiko Iwase also uses a pen name, Akina.
  • Lethal Weapon 4: It comes out that Roger Murtagh's wife Trish publishes what Martin Riggs calls "cheesy sex novels" under the pen name Ebony Clark. Riggs had initially gotten suspicious because Murtagh was incurring expenses that were beyond a cop's pay and was trying to find out where the extra money was coming from.

  • Ah... and Mm... Are All She Says is about hentai publishing, so a lot of the artists uses pen names:
    • Norush's real name is Nogami Ryoushi.
    • Downplayed in Toda's case. Her legal given name is in kanjinote , but published with her given name in katakananote .
  • In Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, the titular character uses the pen name Yumeno Sakiko.
  • The BBC Radio 4 spoof Nordic Noir series Angstrom is supposedly based on a series of books by a man named Martin English, who published them under the name Bjorgen Swedenssonsson.

Alternative Title(s): Pseudonym, Nom De Plume

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