View Full Version : Using real settings
April 29th, 2004, 10:02 AM
Just had an idea for some urban fantasy. I would like to set it locally. All the people will be totally fictitious of course but is there a problem with using actual places?
By places I mean buildings, shop names, street names etc. Could I for instance mention the local Woolworths?
Are there any legal issues with this, particularly in the UK.
I am particularly looking at using local landmarks, churches, common land and gardens etc.
April 29th, 2004, 11:03 AM
I can't tell you anything specific for England, but I think the general rule of thumb goes something like this:
There's nothing wrong with using specific places or business names. Businesses might even like the free publicity. The thing to remember is the tone in which the places are going to be used. If the Woolworth's in your story is managed by a Satan worshiper who is trying to conjure up the devils of hell to devour every mortal that buys discount clothing, then perhaps a different (and invented) local may be in order.
The two laws I know of that would apply stateside are libel and defamation. And since we took most of our laws directly from Mother England I would assume that they are roughly the same on your side of the pond.
In a nutshell, if you use specific businesses they generally need to be shown in a favorable (or a least neutral) light. If not, make sure you know a good attorney.
April 29th, 2004, 01:08 PM
I agree with ironchef texmex here. I don't think you'll run into any legal problems - especially if you are writing fiction. Sometimes its good to remain on the generic side of thigs ie. have your characters go to the "grocery store" rather than the "IGA" or "Loblaws" or whatever you have over there in the U.K. This would work if you don't want to have your reader suddenly have a jingle go off in his or her head and lose concentration on the story. On the other hand you may want the reader to draw on particular associations with brand names, in which case stating specific brands would work.
Didn't Stephen King just come out with a book about a Buick 8? As far as I know, that's a make of a car.
April 29th, 2004, 01:42 PM
Real things are fun to use in a story, but as pointed out one must always shed then in a good or neutral light. Unless you're really really famous and 10,000,000 people will read your story and cause a negative effect on the 'real place' in question, you'll be fine. Just make sure you don't set yourself up.
I think it's fun to look up real places in places I don't like. I used the Mayflower Motel in Wisconson and I also used Ed's Diner on King Street in London. Never been there, but I found enough pictures and background to use the places effectively.
Hey PDB, I got a question, does your name come from the comic by the same name or is it your initials?
April 29th, 2004, 02:00 PM
It depends how you use places.... If you use real names and villages, towns etc... then hundreds of other writers have done the same, hadthe action of their novel take place in "real" places.
If you take a real place, describe a real place or part of, but call it something different and fit it into your fantasy world, then who will know? You are just using the world you live in to advantage... Tolkien did it... In fact Iuse the ruins of Fountains Abbey in a novel. I spent a day there jotting notes about how the "ruin looked". Done the same with many places.
April 29th, 2004, 04:27 PM
Thanks all, I guess the general rule is that it's ok so long as I don't upset anyone. That's ok, all the bad stuff will work being generic anyway:)
April 29th, 2004, 04:28 PM
Thanks all, I guess so long as I don't upset anyone it's ok:)
Maus: pdb are my initals (never heard of the comic:), been a long time since I read a comic:)
April 30th, 2004, 10:49 AM
Names are important though. If its important to the story, it needs a name.
Only if you use the name in a negative way, you get visited by strange men wearing expensive suits and carrying briefcases who wave vaguely threatening papers in your face with lots of odd words on them, some in latin.
So tweak the name. Its not a Burger King, its a Burger Lord! A totally unrelated fast food corporation that can't sue you for writing bad things about them because you just made them up.
April 30th, 2004, 11:10 AM
For commonly known public places, you should be fine -- Westminster Abbey and such. For copyrighted products, you have to be a bit more careful. For instance, one mystery writer I worked with had to change Barbie dolls to an imaginary name (the tweaking Exp. mentioned.) It was perfectly clear that she was talking about Barbie dolls, but the name had to be changed because of copyright -- she didn't have the legal right to use a copyrighted product name in her product -- the story.
The degree to which this is important may, as has been noted, depend on the context of the product in the story. A character drinking a Coke may not be a big deal. A character pissing in a Coke can may. Woolworth's is a registered brand, but using their building may not be an issue.
If it's a short story being published in a magazine, any such issues may be ignored by the magazine or they'll ask you to change it. If you are writing a novel, and you sell it to a publisher, the publisher's legal people will vet the novel and alert you as to whether anything in the novel needs to be adjusted for legal reasons. So to start with writing it, don't worry about it. When you get to the final stage, you can adjust the name of any products you feel might be a problem, but places usually aren't.
May 2nd, 2004, 05:02 PM
I'm gonna let ya' in on a little secret, Ray. K-Mart sucks.
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