Reposted From Monday, May 30, 2011
Before you write that first crime fiction novel consider a few things. What follows is the ninth in a series of short articles about what you might want to consider as you put pen to paper or fingers on the keyboard. Click here for the On Writing Section.
|Product placement is unethical. Using brand names isn't.|
I can tell you I’ve never received a penny for naming a product, never so much as a free cup of coffee for mentioning a restaurant. Most writers pass through life anonymously — especially those of us who live well below the New York Times bestseller list. No one knows who I am. However, in an era of paid product placement, I can’t blame a reader for being suspicious of brand names appearing in the story. And it is possible to write by saying “she lit a cigarette,” or “he jumped in his convertible,” and get the job done. But truthfully, did anyone else wince when it showed James Bond driving a BMW? Could Rockford have driven a Chevette? A woman wearing a Hermes scarf or a man driving a Dodge Ram provides more telling glimpses of those characters’ lives than using either the simple “scarf” or “pickup truck” or a dozen adjectives. Using a brand name can be an effective shortcut and make it real to the reader.
Again, there are no rules, only choices. A reader might have a greater sense of the timelessness of the story if those kinds of specifics are spared. Twenty years from now there may be no such thing as a Blackberry. Culturally, though, might it not be particularly rich for the writer to reflect the times with greater specificity? And would the potentially banned brand name require writers to replace Blackberry with “a versatile communications device?"
On writing, brand names in fiction, product placement