Thursday, January 7, 2016

More On Reality

As I said in my last post, I like to include some reality where I can.  It helps blur the lines between the real world and the fictional one, and that can draw the reader into the story in a more encompassing way.  However, we are writing fiction, so not everything can be straight-down-the-middle real.

In my last post, I talked about how this impacted geography.  But there are other areas, like products and people.  While it would be cool to always include real people and products all of us recognize, like Pepsi or Nike, there are copyright and libel implications that have to be considered.  Most people won't care if you play them up as some genius or hero, they might have an issue with being portrayed as evil or an idiot, and some don't want to be mentioned at all.  This isn't an issue if you're making a statement from a factual or historical perspective, but if you make them a character in your story, this is much more an issue.  Always best to obtain their permission, which means being up front about their role in what you're writing.

Products are similar.  Ever notice that movies don't use CNN or CBS, but rather a stand-in like "GNN?"  Or that hotels are "Best Rest" instead of Best Western?  This is because of the limitations some companies put on their products' use.  The smallest perceived slight can lead to a lawsuit, and most of us don't have the resources to handle that.  I've contacted numerous companies for my novels, and most have been gracious.  Glock and Beretta granted me permission(Beretta had the caveat that "bad guys don't use Berettas," but that's not an issue in my book), as did Philippe The Original restaurant in Los Angeles.  However, one major university explicitly denied me permission to use their name or their campus for anything since my book "contained violence."  A few others were as adamant, despite the fact that their products were throwaway sarcastic lines by the main character under torture.  Regardless, they said no, so I changed what was said.  It was a pain in the ass, but better an inconvenience rather than lost money.

When you write, write without editing, but go back through and check what everyday products you've put into your work.  You'll be surprised by how prevalent it was, and each instance requires someone to approve, unless it's generic and neutral(better safe to get permission anyway).  Readers are likely to forgive you for changing some; just don't go too far.  Ask yourself if your reference is critical to the story.  If not, go generic and move on.  It'll lessen the relatability, but you'll save yourself lots of headaches in the end.

No comments:

Post a Comment