British SAS soldier turned author Andy McNab has made the news by offering to auction the name of a villain in an upcoming novel. For the right price, your name will appear in his book and the proceeds will go to charity.
I love the idea of McNab integrating his fans into his work, and I certainly applaud his desire to donate the proceeds to a charitable endeavor, but I do have concerns as well. When creating a fictional universe that requires consumers to buy in to your creation, will this gimmick shatter the illusion? Character naming is a vital part of the fictional universe. If a name isn’t believable, readers can quickly tune out. Is McNab creating a character and then simply applying a readers name? What if the character is supposed to be a Russian weapons dealer and the winning bid comes from George Lopez? What if the winning bid is from a woman?
I’m sure McNab has some passionate fans who would love to be a part of the DINU he creates in his books. How are they going to feel if the winner is someone who hasn’t even read a McNab book, but has money to burn and thought it would ‘be fun’ to be in a book?
I think this is a great idea that could have been even better by engaging his most ardent fans earlier in the process. Beyond just a name, could the character have some characteristics of the winner? By collaborating with his readers McNab brings them into his world in a way that is deeper than just a one-off name.