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Old 10-19-2017, 03:28 PM   #1
Charmolypi
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Using real places and business names in your story

I'm considering the issues that might come up with naming real businesses like hotels, restaurants and such in my stories. For my own pleasure, I prefer to make the scene as real as possible. The characters are fictitious but I could actually walk through the places they did in the story and enjoy imaging them there. However I understand that some major hotels, coffeehouses and other privately-owned businesses may not think that being the setting for swinging escapades, tawdry affairs and the occasional gang bang is great press. Can't imagine why personally but I'm trying to put myself in their shoes. What do you think? Am I overthinking this? Write on with abandon or change the names, though that seems like a lot less fun.
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Old 10-19-2017, 03:37 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Charmolypi View Post
I'm considering the issues that might come up with naming real businesses like hotels, restaurants and such in my stories. For my own pleasure, I prefer to make the scene as real as possible. The characters are fictitious but I could actually walk through the places they did in the story and enjoy imaging them there. However I understand that some major hotels, coffeehouses and other privately-owned businesses may not think that being the setting for swinging escapades, tawdry affairs and the occasional gang bang is great press. Can't imagine why personally but I'm trying to put myself in their shoes. What do you think? Am I overthinking this? Write on with abandon or change the names, though that seems like a lot less fun.
You are overthinking it. First of all, it's unlikely that the hotel or restaurant or whatever will know about your story here. Second, even if they find out, they can't do anything about it. No one is going to think that if you use a Hilton hotel as a setting that Hilton has sponsored or approved your story. You don't have anything to worry about.

I prefer to fictionalize everything, but that's a matter of personal taste. If you want to write a hot story that's set at the Hilton Hotel hallway or the KFC drive through line or the bathroom at Starbucks, go for it.

The only restriction I can think of would be if the owner of this site has any restrictions on this sort of thing. I'm not aware that she does, but others might know more about that.
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Old 10-19-2017, 03:39 PM   #3
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That's the answer I hoped to hear.
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Old 10-19-2017, 04:43 PM   #4
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You can use the names of businesses and locations in your writing without fear of losing a law suit.
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Old 10-19-2017, 08:17 PM   #5
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I've used real names of businesses, and also slightly changed the name of real ones, like "Bills Family Foods" to "Wills Family Foods".

I don't worry about litigation anymore, for the reasons others have already mentioned.

However many of the stories I write take place in a small town. It's based on a real town, a very Very conservative rural town, because of that I'm sure that many will be reading sex stories and watching porn.

I've changed the name of the town in my stories, as well as some businesses, but only slightly, or at least in a way that would be recognized by residents. I hope those reading it will be wondering who in their town writes about the goings on there. (All characters and situations are made up.)

I enjoy thinking about the outwardly righteous and oh so hypocritical folks there who secretly enjoy reading Lit.
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Old 10-19-2017, 08:25 PM   #6
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I donít worry about real entities tangential to the plot. I donít know why anyone would. Mentioning, casually, a lunchtime trip to McDonaldís is a silly thing to worry about.

But when a business or other entity is used to advance the plot, I usually invent one. An example is Secret Whispers, a chain lingerie store where a lot of my characters shop. I invented that for an early story, when I had concerns similar to the OPís, but it has since come in handy as a spot where a couple of my characters work. And have occasional encounters.

Towns are always fictional, and states go unmentioned unless a character is from there in the past. Iíve always figured my stories take place on the Chesapeake Bay somewhere, but nobody will ever know that.
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Old 10-19-2017, 08:49 PM   #7
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I put real clubs and hookup spots in some of my stories. I've had more than one e-mail saying I could write a hookup guide to Key West or Bangkok or a couple of other places. Not anymore but I once could have, I think.
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Old 10-19-2017, 09:14 PM   #8
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My "Valentine's Day Mess" series is placed in real locations or in places very similar to real locations. I was never worried about being sued, but I used slightly altered names for businesses and locations. I thought it was respectful to not use the actual business names, and I liked obfuscating the locations a little.

A relatively well-known Hispanic author/poet wrote at least one story in the same locale, and he used all of the place names without alteration. He did, however, alter the names of prominent individuals.
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Old 10-19-2017, 11:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Voboy View Post
Towns are always fictional, and states go unmentioned unless a character is from there in the past. Iíve always figured my stories take place on the Chesapeake Bay somewhere, but nobody will ever know that.
They will now.

I usually blur my cities, but since Oz doesn't have many of them, astute readers with a fair sense of geography can usually figure them out. I rely on American readers thinking you turn right at Germany to get to Australia to vague the rest of it up.
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Old 10-19-2017, 11:25 PM   #10
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They will now.

I usually blur my cities, but since Oz doesn't have many of them, astute readers with a fair sense of geography can usually figure them out. I rely on American readers thinking you turn right at Germany to get to Australia to vague the rest of it up.
But wait. If I go to Germany and turn right, (skipping the rest of Europe in between) aren't I in Liberia or something? I don't want to be in Liberia.
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Old 10-19-2017, 11:29 PM   #11
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Many of my tales are set in identified real places that are themselves players in the action.

Sometimes I'm coy, as when I don't need to name the seafood eatery at the northeast corner of Ghirardelli Square, or name a Pacific Coast university or port town. Anyone who has been there will recognize the sites.

But I do take care not to viciously diss identified businesses. Why? 1) No need to, and 2) an owner *mght* feel impelled to track me down and ruin my life. What's left of it, anyway.
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Old 10-19-2017, 11:34 PM   #12
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"Once upon a time I was attending an Acme manufacturing convention in a large Midwestern city..."

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Old 10-20-2017, 12:17 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by electricblue66 View Post
They will now.

I usually blur my cities, but since Oz doesn't have many of them, astute readers with a fair sense of geography can usually figure them out. I rely on American readers thinking you turn right at Germany to get to Australia to vague the rest of it up.
See, but thatís the thing. Itís not really on the Chesapeake; Iím the writer, and even I donít know where these places are. There are elements of all sorts of coastal places Iíve been; I mentioned the Chesapeake because, well, itís in the middle.

Besides, Iíd be surprised if many readers are aware of this forum. If so, hi guys!

I hadnít thought about it before this thread, but I donít do a lot of cities. Mostly towns. I think if I did Iíd feel no qualms about identifying the cities.
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Old 10-20-2017, 12:26 AM   #14
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What pilot said was correct and well worded "without fear of losing a law suit."

The problem is that doesn't mean someone/business won't try and that can be a time and potential financial drain in the process to not losing.

Writers use real locations all the time without repercussions. Would I write a murder mystery in a real restaurant and have my victim die of food poisoning? Only if I want to wait by my mailbox for a letter from a law office (which again ultimately I won't lose the suit especially if I have a carefully worded disclaimer at the beginning.)
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Old 10-20-2017, 12:29 AM   #15
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Some of my stories happen in the Chesapeake Bay area, complete with town names, business names, street names, and directions to specific spots on the ground. I've been doing that for decades.
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Old 10-20-2017, 12:32 AM   #16
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Some of my stories happen in the Chesapeake Bay area, complete with town names, business names, street names, and directions to specific spots on the ground. I've been doing that for decades.
If I remember correctly, Sue Grafton and Patricia Cornwell use/used real locations.

Dan Brown and Clive Cussler use real locations.

I am constantly seeing Starbucks referenced in fiction to the point I'm trying to look for Starbucks "We'll pay you to give us free advertising" link on their web page.
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Old 10-20-2017, 12:38 AM   #17
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If I remember correctly, Sue Grafton and Patricia Cornwell use/used real locations.

Dan Brown and Clive Cussler use real locations.

I am constantly seeing Starbucks referenced in fiction to the point I'm trying to look for Starbucks "We'll pay you to give us free advertising" link on their web page.
Most authors do--as "yes, I've been there" flavoring. Patricia Cornwell, when she was in Richmond, though, didn't always get it right. She kept writing about Charlottesville, 75 miles to the west and getting it wrong.

Rita Mae Brown writes about Charlottesville not only in providing specific place references (my wife keeps thinking she's caught Brown in a mistake but always finds out she hasn't when she checks it out) but she also includes real Charlottesville people in her books. This gets a little hokie, though, as she never says anything bad about those people so they stick out in her books like sore thumbs.

When I have a house featured in one of my stories, I've invariably gone to local real estate listings and used a specific house--but I usually give a different (but still real) location for the house.
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Old 10-20-2017, 11:45 PM   #18
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I should mention the places I'm writing about are more specific than just the run-of-the-mill Starbucks. This is a specific locally owned coffee shop, a very specific luxury hotel etc. After reading some of the comments, I am thinking of altering the business names ever so slightly. I don't want to offend or be perceived as smearing a business.
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Old 10-21-2017, 12:32 AM   #19
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Yep, very specific names are good to go--and I go with them. Have for decades.

Every time this comes up, folks hedge on whether you can do this. You can. Best-selling authors do--whenever they want to. If you don't think you can, cite successful court cases against doing so.
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Old 10-21-2017, 05:03 AM   #20
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I've used real places. No one is going to care. In fiction you do as you please.

There are people here who claim to write nonfiction. If you do it better be actual nonfiction. It could go very badly if you write about real people by their real names in their real places, and then assert fictitious events that sound real. Libel is illegal; publishing accounts of someone's sexuality in certain ways is automatically libel (unless you can prove it true.)

Avoid referring to people in easily identifiable ways and you're fine. Celebrities are generally fair game, though, probably because so many people make up stories and fantasies about them there's no point in complaining. It's still wise to change the name.
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Old 10-21-2017, 05:30 AM   #21
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I purposely leave out real details about places unless it is essential for the story. I describe surroundings, and then let readers set it where it fits for them. Actually, I think only one of my stories is explicit about what country it's set in.
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Old 10-21-2017, 05:49 AM   #22
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I write some stories set in real places while others take place in fictional places but I still state where they are located.

For example, I'm from Melbourne, Australia and therefore the stories I've written set in Melbourne and Geelong are more detailed in describing locations, famous buildings, suburbs, street names and landmarks. It is similar for stories I have set in Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast; I am familiar with these places and therefore will be more detailed. However, as I set most of my stories in the past I have to be careful and not include things that are historically inaccurate, such as characters seeing a building not built until several years after the story is set. For example, if I wrote a story set in Sydney in the 1960s I would look pretty silly if I wrote about characters going to the Opera House which was not completed until the early 1970s! And I would look even sillier if I wrote a story set in Darwin at Christmas 1974 where everything goes right and everybody has a great time with not a single bad thing happening.

For stories set overseas, I will tend to be more vague. I wrote a story set in a town in Sussex, England during The Blitz of World War 2 but never specify what town it is. In a story I set in New York in the late 1980s, the characters live in a fictional town on Long Island's South Shore that I made up, however one of the characters I stated worked in the World Trade Center's North Tower, as it helped me tie the story firmly in the past.

As for brands and specific businesses, I tend to avoid using them. I will say that characters drank cola rather than Coke or Pepsi. If the characters go to a coffee place, it is a fictional place never a Starbucks or some other famous brand. And if I was to write a story set at a bank where a group of aspiring young executives were to go away camping as part of a team building exercise, I would use a fictional bank not a real one.
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Old 10-21-2017, 11:22 AM   #23
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I have fun making up names for restaurants and bars, actually. I visualize what part of town they're in (I live in Boise, so not a lot of options, lol), and then give a little description along with the name. I come up with places I wish were really here. Like an exclusive private club for state government/state movers & shakers, in an undisclosed, nondescript downtown location that I called The Foxtrot. Everyone in town knows it exists but very few have ever been there. Of course, MY characters have been there, and even booked it for a family wedding reception.
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Old 10-21-2017, 02:39 PM   #24
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For fun, refer slanderously to actual businesses and establishments by name, but only those that have shut down. It's like, telling ethnic jokes about Tasmanian or Yahi people is okay because they're extinct. Just so, I can expose the chefs' "secret sauce" ingredient (fuck juice) at Vince's on Hwy 60 because it's gone now. I hope. Hey, take it easy there, Vince. I didn't mean nothing...
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Old 10-21-2017, 02:48 PM   #25
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In my story Pantry the heroine wanted to market specialist jam under the name Rosie's Pantry. It was a minor point in the plot that there already was a product line using the trade name Rosie's Pantry.
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