Readers in the know will smile.
by Andy Scheer
Last week I found an Easter egg. Not the type that gets hidden in the spring, but the kind some authors place in books.
In Death on a Vineyard Beach, Philip R. Craig needed a detective on Cape Cod. So on page 72, he writes the client had hired “a man named Aristotle Socarides.”
For most readers, that’s just another name. But for those in the know, “Soc” is the protagonist of a Cape Cod detective series by fellow New Englander Paul Kemprecos.
In the course of a novel, you need many supporting characters. So why not include some people you know?
When he was learning the craft, now-bestselling author Steve Berry met regularly with a writers group. Two of its members were Nancy Pridgen and Daiva Woodworth. In Steve’s second published novel, The Romanov Prophecy, his protagonist works for an international law firm: Pridgen & Woodworth.
For years, thriller writer Jack Du Brul has known book collector Wayne Valero. When Jack needed a name in Corsair for an Undersecretary of State for Mideast Affairs, the assignment went to Wayne’s wife, Cristie. Though Wayne knows all the co-writers for thriller grandmaster, Clive Cussler, he’s still waiting to find his own name in a novel.
That could be a good thing. There’s a well-known quote attributed to Mary Higgins Clark: “When someone is mean to me, I just make them a victim in my next book.”
The prize for the most-included name may go to Leigh Hunt. In a dozen or more of his Dirk Pitt novels, Cussler included his friend—often as a character who got killed in the prologue.
You could even include yourself,
much the way Alfred Hitchock
gave himself cameos in his movies.
Or you could even include yourself in your own books, much the way Alfred Hitchock gave himself cameos in many of his movies. If you want a precedent for this, look again to Clive Cussler:
I was typing a description of Pitt and a classic car he was exhibiting at a concours meet. In the scene, he walks over and extends his hand to the old white-haired, bearded man who was exhibiting the car next to him. I wrote, “Hello, my name is Dirk Pitt.” The old fellow shook his hand and said, “I’m Clive Cussler.”
I immediately thought, Why did I do that? I meant to change the name, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed fun to leave it in. … Now readers wait for me to show up.
You might not want to go that far, but your novel does have room for quite a few names. As long as you don’t defame someone, why not?