What were the chances …?

by | May 15, 2019 | General | 8 comments

I can’t speak for other writers, but for me an unsolicited comment from a reader is worth more than getting published, or even getting a check in the mail. For a total stranger to tell you she read your story and that it affected her … wow, you can’t put a price on that.

Like a lot of folks around here, my first time exposing my scribblings to the public came courtesy of ERWA and the Story Gallery. And while email addresses of authors are tacked on the stories that appear in the gallery now, some time ago readers were encouraged to share their thoughts with authors about stories. And, if you think seeing your words in print is a thrill, wait until you get your first fan mail from someone you don’t know saying, “Hey, I really liked your story.” Then it’s Release the endorphins!

I can’t remember ever getting a negative response to a story, but I remember one that was somewhat unsettling.

I don’t have any particular system for choosing names for my characters, particularly last names. Most are relatively common surnames, so no one is likely to confuse a character in one of my stories with an actual individual, even when I pick a name from someone out of my past – except for this one time. Oy!

I was pondering a name for a female character who was a psychologist and settled on the name of a kid with whom I shared a few classes at high school.

The story was chosen to appear in ERWA’s story gallery, and shortly afterward I received an email from a young woman who was urgently curious to know how I had come up with the surname of the character of the psychologist. She explained that it was her family name and only 35 people on the entire planet had it.

It was a classic Uh-oh! moment.

I replied explaining I was trying to settle on a name that fit a female psychologist and that I remembered the name of  the kid from high school. I described him and told her his first name.

“That’s my Dad!” came the reply.

Like I said, Oy!

I braced for her to demand I change the name or take down the story. You can’t tell, after all, how someone might react to having their family name in an erotic story. I explained that her dad and I weren’t friends, but only shared a couple of classes, so only knew each other casually.

She replied, “That’s amazing.” Then she shared that she was in college studying psychology, and wasn’t that also a coincidence.

We kind of chatted back and forth for a bit, as she told me what had become of her dad. I offered that he would likely not remember me at all.

Anyway, that’s how we left it. Except, feeling a bit more relaxed about the situation, I asked her how she liked the story. She said erotica wasn’t really her thing and that it was one of her dorm mates who had read the story on ERWA and brought it to her attention. I didn’t think to ask her what her dorm mate thought of the story. Afterward, I couldn’t help feeling like I had dodged a bullet of sorts.

The story was never published anywhere else but in the Story Gallery, but if I’d ever submitted it elsewhere I would have likely changed the name.

And so … a bit of a cautionary tale. What were the chances?

Robert Buckley

Bob's stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including multiple editions of Maxim Jakubowski's Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica.


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    You’re lucky she was so relaxed about it. Some people would have been a good deal more upset.

    You’re certainly right, though – nothing compares with a favorable comment from a reader. It’s worth hundreds in royalties. (Not that I’ve ever seen hundreds in royalties – but if you asked me to choose, I really would select the reader’s kudos!)

    • Robert E Buckley

      Thanks, Lis. Nothing like that direct connection to a reader.

  2. Belinda LaPage

    Bob, this is hilarious. I would’ve definitely done a ‘Bob who?’ and denied everything. I rarely use surnames in erotica, a practice I’m now certain to continue.

    • Robert E Buckley

      Thanks, Belinda. I agree it was hilarious, but could have gone another way.

  3. Larry archer

    I often use someone I know as the basis for a character in one of my stories but rarely use a surname, more out of habit than anything. In the Lifestyle, people never use last names to preserve anonymity and you always refer to a couple by their first names. Certainly if they become close friends, you usually learn their full name at some point but it is still not used in normal conversation.

    Someone who knows us can likely figure out who a character is based upon but the names have been changed to protect the guilty. I’ve found it’s often easy to include someone I know in a story as you don’t have to make up a persona for them, just use them as is.

    • Robert E Buckley

      Ah, it was a case of finding the perfect name.. Thanks for commenting, Larry.

  4. Darnell

    I think you would have a better chance of winning a million dollar lottery than the chance of someone remotely associated having the rare surname of one of your stories. What a story 😥

    • Robert E Buckley

      Come to think of it, I should have gone right out and boought a ticket. Thanks for commenting, Darnell.

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