Making of Celebrity Bounty, Part 2 of 3: Writing evil is easier than writing good

I had roughly an hour to kill. I taught a class at a law school and we had our annual opening session which started at night. If I left work too late, I’d get stuck in traffic and be miss the session. Instead, I left work early and grabbed an early dinner, but I still had time on my hands. I was looking over what I had written about winning a lottery and knew it needed something more … a more legitimate conflict. I don’t remember what was in the news that day, but it had focused on some celebrity who seemed to only be a celebrity because she was famous. As recently as a decade ago, people were really only famous for accomplishing great things (or terrible things, I suppose). Now though, people seem to seek fame and worry about how to justify it and perhaps more importantly to many of them, maintain the fame for as long as they can.

But I started thinking about the lure of fame and how some people were drawn to it while others openly despise it. We all know of movie stars who prefer to hide from the paparazzi until their movie opens, at which point they smile at the same paparazzi they claim to hate. But these movie stars sought fame, on at least some level, by choosing their career. Every accountant knows that if they become a great accountant, they’ll still be relatively unknown. But actors? They know that if they hit it really big, they may be famous. But what if some tabloid decided to turn someone into a celebrity against their will?

And that’s when I thought of the name of a character; Heléna Midas. I’ve started on more novels since I wrote Celebrity Bounty. But so far, nobody else has just kind of ‘written herself’ like she did. I worked on coming up with a name, and Midas has a wonderfully greedy connotation—plus, I don’t think I have ever met anyone with that last name, which makes it slightly easier to write about her. There are no images lingering around some real person from my memory banks.

I spent the remainder of the time before the class furiously writing down things that I thought a tabloid would do to exploit our protagonist who won the biggest lottery in American history. How could they exploit his newfound fame and capture him saying and doing things he wouldn’t want publicized? Over the next few months, these thoughts all took shape.

I came up with the not-outlandish concept that the paparazzi are on the verge of becoming extinct and useless. That’s not because consumers don’t want the pictures. It’s because the paparazzi can’t be everywhere. But, cell phones can be. All Celebrity Bounty (the fictional magazine) would need to do is tell people what they would pay for certain photos of certain celebrities doing things. They would publish a “buylist” and basically turn everyone into their hired paparazzi.

The rest of the book flowed from the concepts in these first two parts; how would somebody protect themselves after winning a giant lottery, especially if the tabloid industry decided to make them an unwilling celebrity? Hopefully, the details are what make the rest of the book worth reading.

If you ever decide that you want to try your hand at writing a novel, I hope that you get to meet someone like Heléna Midas. Almost from the minute I came up with her name, she practically wrote herself.

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