How on earth did Todd Strasser come up with all this stuff? Well, to be honest, he didn't. In fact, the title of The Wave is just the title of the movie it's adapting. Okay, but that title had to come from somewhere, right? Well, kind of. The experiment-gone-wrong detailed in The Wave was originally called "The Third Wave." Okay, now we're getting to the bottom of things. But wait, there's more. That name came from, well, Ron Jones' head. Mr. Jones, the teacher represented in this book by Ben Ross, claims that he called this movement "The Third Wave" because the salute he'd chosen looked like a wave, and he knew that the third wave was always the strongest in a series (source).
Got all that? Good. Now forget it all.
In the book, the story goes down a bit differently: the students actually inspire the name in Todd Strasser's version of things. As he watches his students leave on the first day of the experiment, Ben Ross notices that "before him the class rose in what seemed like a single movement and rushed out into the hall" (6.71). So Ben adds some glue to this group identity the next day when he gives it a name ("The Wave"!) and even a nifty ocean-wave logo:
"A wave is a pattern of change. It has movement, direction, and impact. From now on, our community, our movement will be known as The Wave." (6.15)
It turns out that this Wave will be a destructive one. Generally waves roll in, do their thing, and roll back out. That's pretty much what happened with The Wave, right? But The Wave was more like a tsunami: its effects were extreme and it will be long remembered by the people who lived through it.