Writing Under a Pen Name vs Real Name

Aly Hughes is not my real name.  There, I said it!  The illusion has been shattered!  But no, my first name is an English variation of a common French name, and my last name is Filipino in origin.  And if I’m to believe most of my teachers, substitute teachers, employers, coworkers, doctors, and mechanics…they’re both damn confusing to pronounce and spell, especially next to each other.  Which has always been news to me, since they’re actually not that complicated.  Then again I did grow up with them so my view is definitely skewed on that end.

But I digress.  I don’t use a pen name because I dislike my real name.  I don’t use it to hide my identity, heritage, or gender.  And I most certainly don’t use it to adhere to what genre I write in.  I use it for simplicity.

I use a pen name because it’s easy to spell, easy to remember.  Short, sweet, and actually not very far off from my real name.  Aly, being a shortened version of Alyse, and a seldom-used nickname of mine; and Hughes, being my mother’s maiden name.

Really though, how much of a difference does it make if I write under a pen name?  

To me?  Not much.  But then, I didn’t pick it for me, I chose it for my audience.

Yes my name is unique and guaranteed nobody shares it, but that doesn’t mean it will help people remember it.  I don’t want someone to become familiar with my writing then attempt to share it with a friend, only to find that they can’t pronounce OR spell my name.   Being known as “that one writer” or “that one girl” isn’t something I strive for.

So I chose a name to write under, one that isn’t complicated.  I didn’t go to the far corners of the internet to find unique names with hidden meanings.  I simply found one that is, essentially, still me.  It’s a name I’ve grown to love, one I can write under, and one I can answer to.

What about all of you?  Do you write under a pen name or real name?  If you do use a pen name, why?  How did you choose it?   If you don’t use a pen name, do you think that I am in some way “caving in” to society by picking a name other than my own, just so people can remember it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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About Aly Hughes
Unprofessional, unedited, unpublished. Aly is out to make a name for herself by blogging, twittering, facebooking, and general internet-ing. Be warned: She may not know what she's talking about.

29 Responses to Writing Under a Pen Name vs Real Name

  1. crashmad says:

    Yes, unfortunately my real name is not crash but I use my pen name for security reasons though, I don’t want random people hunting me down on the internet;) Crash is just a nickname I’m called because of my clumsiness. I think using a pen name is fine, and I understand your reasoning. check out my blog: diddlydoop.wordpress.com
    🙂

    • Aly Hughes says:

      haha, my dad used to ironically call me “Grace” because I was so clumsy! I’m not going to lie, Crash sounds a lot more interesting. 😉 And I can understand the security reasons of hiding your name through blogging. It’s much different when you’re blogging in order TO get noticed. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Sara Flower says:

    I use a pen name as well. It is actually in honour of a friend I had in college, who died very young. I told him that my middle name was Flower, and he lit up and said, “Sara Flower! That is so cool. That is definitely a rockstar name or something.” 🙂

  3. Anthony Casson says:

    I don’t use a pen name, but I don’t think it’s ever a problem when others do. I’ve known some writers who, early in their career, kept changing pen names. That *was* a problem.

    If a writer ever chooses to stop using a pen name — or start using one — he or she should consider putting this news in peoples’ faces, unless he or she’s trying to purposely hide something. It could get tricky! 🙂

    • Aly Hughes says:

      That is very true! Aly Hughes was the first pen name I thought of using, then I proceeded to spend a lot of time coming up with other names or variations. I obviously ended up back where I started. I didn’t want one that was too flashy or contrived. If I had chosen Violet Rose, or something, I’m sure I would have tired of it and wanted to change it later on! But this one seemed rather natural to me, and as mentioned, Aly is just a nickname from my real name, Alyse. It’s just not as confusing to pronounce! 😉

  4. Tuesday says:

    Hi Aly,

    I have to laugh as I thought for sure you were NOT writing under a psuedonym. I knew from the very start that I would have to write use one both for job and family privacy. I can’t say exactly how I came about the name…it happened pretty quickly. Once I was able to find a wordpress name for a blog that wasn’t already used (that’s a challenge in itself) I decided on Tuesday, not Wednesday or Thursday, but Tuesday as a first name. It’s dfferent and is a name I wouldn’t mind actually having. I think Tuesday is unique enough that it needs a simple, single syllable last name, like Tuesday Weld. Somehow, March entered my mind. Tuesday, a day, and March, a month! It sounds atmospheric, too, and goes with Cashmere Clouds. I have to say though, I like my psuedo-name better than my blog name!

    Tuesday

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Thank you for that comment! That’s how I know I picked a good pseudonym! 🙂

      I know how difficult it is to find a good blog name! I settled for, again, something simple. Here I thought I was being semi-original but I’ve already seen half a dozen blogs with “_blank_Writes”! And I love both your blog name and your pen name. I actually wasn’t sure if Tuesday was your real name or not. I think it’s one that really sticks and stands out- in a good way!

  5. Max Spelling says:

    That’s interesting. I also use a pen name. It’s a rather clever play on my real name so it still feels like my name to me. I use the pen name because the work I create is very personal and I’d prefer not to have my friends and family getting into my deepest darkest thoughts. Maybe my reasons are a bit cowardly, but it gives me to freedom to write completely honestly without spoiling my vision.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      I love that yours is a play on your real name! I chose my name because both Aly and Hughes are very personal to me, so it feels natural when I use it. I did consider using a pseudonym that isn’t so close to my real name, in case I wish to post or publish personal writings. However, I figure if I want to post personal writings I can start a separate blog, and I don’t plan on publishing personal stories in the near future. I suppose I’ll deal with that when/if it comes. 🙂

  6. rmridley says:

    I write under R. M. Ridley.
    The last name is my own last name. The M. is the first letter of my birth name and the R. is the first letter of the alias I’ve used since I was seventeen. I don’t like my birth name much at all so I wasn’t going to use it and have to answer to that name more then I already do. But my alias, Raven, does give the impression more of a female then a male so I decided to only use the initials and let the readers figure it out

    • Aly Hughes says:

      hmm, I probably would think of Raven as female. I do think initials are a good way to go, though. I’m a tad jealous your last name fits so nicely! I couldn’t come up with initials and a last name that went well together.. an my actual initials ARG, which would be awesome if I was writing about pirates. Unfortunately I’m not. 😦

  7. Rachel says:

    I go back and forth on this one. Sometimes I want to use a pen name just because I want something a little more interesting. But then I feel weird about using a name other than my own, so I try variations on my name, but that doesn’t always work. So far I haven’t actually published anything, so I’ve got some time to think about it!

    • Aly Hughes says:

      I’d say don’t use one unless you find one you’re completely comfortable with. I had to ask myself, if I were being interviewed or meeting other writers, would it feel natural if that is the name I used?

  8. Eric Storch says:

    I’ve entertained the idea of using a pen name recently when I found out that there is a doctor with the same name as me. He tends to come up in internet searches much more often.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Well sometimes that’s not always a bad thing. If you search for my real name you’ll find all my embarrassing endeavors from my juvenile MySpace, which I should delete, to my poetry website I created when I was 14. There’s nowhere for all the skeletons in my literary closet to hide! 🙂

  9. hereticfox says:

    Ah, pen-names. I get fickle with those, but I couldn’t dream of ever publishing something without one.

    There is a very deep and philosophical reasoning behind my preference of pen-name, I like to think, but at a glance its purpose is merely to serve as a mask. Far down the road, I’d enjoy the possibility of becoming famous through my writings, but the States have a voracious appetite for dogging celebrities or anything they can for the sake of a cheap dollar on written works. Ideally, I would be famous without ever being truly known.

    Thus, I can reap the benefits of the writing, stay relatively humble, and also feel as though my publications are appreciated for themselves rather than the writer.

    Looks like I’ll be following you, my dear;
    Cheers!

    • Aly Hughes says:

      I love what you said about staying out of the spotlight. ” Ideally, I would be famous without ever being truly known.” It’s definitely scary how people in this country attach themselves to celebrities and those who are popular at the time. I myself get enthusiastic about books, series, movies, etc, but I know how to keep it at a reasonable level. It’s nice to see people who are more concerned about the authenticity of their writing, instead of just trying to get their name out into the world.

      I’m glad you enjoy my blog, and I look forward to checking yours out as well. 🙂 Cheers, indeed!

  10. rtd14 says:

    Great post and thoughts! It is interesting how you created your pen name. I like Aly Hughes. For my book, I came up with R.T. Dickinson. It is the combination of my first name, middle name, and maiden last name.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Thank you! I think it’s important to find pseudonyms that fit, and ones that we aren’t willing to part from easily. It’s kind of like naming a character, except twice as personal. I like that you stuck with something more natural to you, those are the best kind of pen names, I think. I much prefer ones that make me believe it’s the authors actual name, as opposed to ones that I can tell are fake. 🙂

      • rtd14 says:

        My book is written from the perspective of two teenage boys, so I thought it would be easier to come up with a pen name such as mine. However, I also use it to separate the work related to my book, because I’ve had two short stories published, as R.T. Dickinson. All of my other work is Rebecca T. Dickinson. Another problem I ran into was I carried my first husband’s name when I worked as a full-time journalist. He was a writer too. I promised myself I would never do that again.

        Thank you again!

  11. ivanlabayne says:

    It’s interesting, your last name being Filipino in origin. I wonder, are you part-Filipino? I am a Filipino and I always take delight in discovering Filipino bloggers here. Real name vs. Pen name? I write with my real name and I think it’s less of an issue, anyway. Let’s just keep writing, using our real name or otherwise, about the tragedies of life and more vitally, how do we recover from them, the coos of the birds and how they inspire poetry, the politics of everyday and how should we stand while their eyes are bulging, threatening us. 🙂

    • Aly Hughes says:

      I am indeed part Filipino. My actual name is Alyse Galimba. My dad is half-Filipino, half-Native American, but he and most of his brothers were raised solely by their dad, who immigrated from the Philippines to the States when he was 18. My grandfather really wanted to fit in as “Americans” so, unfortunately he never shared the language or stories with my dad and uncles. Really, all I have to show for it is my name, my nose, and my lumpia making skills. 😉

      It’s true, no matter what name someone writes by, it’s always the substance that matters. Thank you for the delightful comment. 🙂

  12. robstroud says:

    Years ago I wrote a pseudepigraphical extra-biblical epistle entitled III Thessalonians. It was published in a small journal and the introduction was so overboard as to make it clear that it was fiction (without expressly saying so). You can imagine my shock when a seminary professor contacted me to inquire about the specific milieu of the manuscript I had translated! Not the same, of course, as a pen name . . . but quite memorable.

  13. ouija board says:

    i love your blog, i have it in my rss reader and always like new things coming up from it.

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