What if Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights had been named Jimmy? Or can one imagine J.D. Salinger’s Fanny as, say, Sarah? Authors frequently spend long hours determining the appropriate names for their characters and readers often develop a close bond with these personas as they begin to develop throughout a novel or short story. In a very interesting twist, a number of contemporary authors are selling the right to have a character named by the highest bidder all for a very good cause. The characters will be featured in a forthcoming literary work, and the monies raised by this online auction will go directly to the First Amendment Project, a nonprofit group that promotes freedom of information and expression. Some of the authors participating in this project include Stephen King, Dave Eggers, Amy Tan, Michael Chabon and Nora Roberts. Of course, the authors have given some very specific requirements as to what may befall the character in each work. Ayelet Waldman notes that the name of the character in question will appear at least once in the next Mommy Track mystery, while Michael Chabon notes that the name will appear at least once in his next novel, but that he also reserves the right “not to use the name if it is offensive, mischievous, ill-intentioned or inappropriate.”
The first link will take users to a news story on this rather compelling auction as offered by the _Houston Chronicle_ in this past Tuesday’s online edition. The second link leads to quite an entertaining piece on the auction by C.A. Bridges, writing in the _Dayton Beach News-Journal_. Bridges even remarks that “I want to be a Chuck Palahniuk character with an entirely new pathology, maybe something involving floss.” The third link leads to the homepage of the auction, where visitors will want to check out each author’s specific requirements for the character “to-be-named”. The fourth link leads to the homepage of the First Amendment Project. The fifth link will take interested parties to the rather engaging homepage of the noted author Michael Chabon. Here they can read some of Chabon’s latest work, and they would do well to read his delightful essay “The Mysteries of Berkeley”. The sixth and final link will take visitors to the “short short” stories by Dae Eggers composed for the _Guardian Weekend_ magazine.