The person at the recent Bouchercon gathering who bid $7,000 to have a name used for one of the characters in a future novel has created quite the buzz. The large amount can be explained in part by the fact that the money was not going to the author, but to support a local library system. The amount is a bit staggering. But the fact that people will pay to have their name used in a novel is a quirk of human nature I experienced after venturing into the creative writing game.
To add a bit of pizzazz to a book signing, I made the offer that every person who purchased a book would be eligible to enter a “Your Name in the Next Novel” drawing if he or she so desired. Two names would be drawn. I was not prepared for the reaction this offer created. Three people during the session said they were buying a book just so they could enter the drawing. Shocked? A bit, but …whatever sells.
The entry form for the drawing gave each person the option to select between being a “good guy” or a “bad guy.” At the end of the signing session, two names were drawn⎯one female and one male. She wanted to be a “bad guy.” He wanted to be a “good guy.”
After getting home that day, I looked through the balance of the entry forms. Two people wanted to be identify by initials and a last name. These gave no clue as to gender. Three first names could have gone either way. But among every name that clearly reflected gender, all the female entrants had checked “bad guy,” while all the males but one wanted to be a “good guy.”
The results cannot be used to draw any firm conclusions applicable beyond the group of people who entered the contest. But as I continue to cobble words together for another novel, I feel conflicted. I grew up with a nursery rhyme, two lines of which are:
“What are our mothers made of?
Ribbons and laces and sweet pretty faces.”
I cannot say that the “mini-poll will not be an influence on future character development when I envision what might be beneath those ribbons and laces and sweet pretty faces.