1. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    Prefer to avoid actual names and places?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mercury12000, Jan 7, 2012.

    One steady principle I write by is the strict absense of any actual names or places in my work.

    In my worlds there is no Coca-Cola, Elvis Presely never existed, and there isn't even a United States.

    I use imaginary replacements for that stuff instead.

    When authors set their characters in real cities and they use real brand names and introduce real names into the story, well, it feels cheap to me.

    Do you guys do that?
     
  2. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    I use real names and brands if they're called for by the plot.

    For example, if social networking plays a large part in your story and you want to write about a website that's similar to facebook, I think it's tacky to make up a website that is obviously facebook, just under a different name.

    If music plays a large part in your project, I would roll my eyes if you didn't refer to any actual musicians.

    And as for place names... Well, I do normally set my novels in fictional towns. But the fictional towns are in very real countries, with very real cities bordering them. You could finger them on a map, even if they don't exist. I write mysteries and thrillers, and I couldn't imagine reading a crime novel set somewhere entirely imaginary. It would feel less realistic to me, and it would also make me think the author was lazy and couldn't be bothered researching a real area (and, in crime, the laws of that area).

    Edited to add: There is value in not using brand names, as they can date your work.
     
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  3. BradleyS
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    BradleyS New Member

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    As a confessional poet and writer; I have to strongly disagree that it comes off as cheap using real places in stories. My memoir I am working on has all of the real street names and city/town names included as well as my completed manuscript (Which is set in a place called Haworth for the most part, with real events and certain people who lived there and situations included too. Haworth is the home of the Bronte' sisters by the way, and most of their work is set there too.)

    I would explain more, but if you feel it is cheap to use real places and such in stories then you might not grasp the upper hand it can give you if done properly amongst other writers or the effect it has on a reader.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Using real places or names isn't cheap by any means. Just try to imagine reading a Holocaust memoir (or a piece of fiction even) that doesn't mention the names of concentration camps or the names of the real life people that existed during that time (since I'm reading The Diary of Anne Frank right now, that's the first example I thought of). It just adds to the authenticity of the novel/story.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't agree. Unless you have a specific reason to create a new fictional world, I think that eliminating all the richness and associations and nuances and emotions that are tied to the real world seems like an unnecessary decision that will handicap you and starve your story. It also burdens you with the need to paint an entire world, people, customs, everything, and make your readers understand it, before your story can even begin.

    Sure, you don't want product-placement namedropping, but that's a far cry from acknowledging that the world exists.
     
  6. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't usually go too far out of my way to put my stories in real places. I don't really specify any location, really.

    I have to ask (the OP, that is) in relation to this: why would Elvis Presley not exist in your version of Earth? If you're writing a contemporary story, a person's musical tastes can say something about them. I'm 19, but I absolutely love The Beatles and a lot of old music because I was brought up with old music. That says something about the way I was raised. A person's musical tastes are subject to change, and if your character is listening to the radio, there's no reason not to say the name of the song.
     
  7. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    Ok, you people seem to assume that I implied that I would create "knock-off's" of actual things. That's not the case and that's not neccessary.

    Ever heard of a Fairy Tale? Dr. Seuss? Brothers Grimm?

    Do you think Star Wars was at all based on actual people or places or things?

    No. So don't be so ignorant not to acknowledge that it works.

    The Bible?

    "Once upon a time, in a far away land, there lived a King...." Get it?

    Are any of you capable of that?
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm going to agree with the majority. If your story is set in the real world, there is no reason not to use references to things that really exist. Attempts to avoid doing this are more likely to come off a cheap or unnatural. If your story is set in an alternative or fictitious world where such things do not exist, then obviously there should be no reference to them.
     
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  9. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    Therein lies the question.

    Say I want my character to drive a big black car, but I don't want to associate it with a Mercedes or Lincoln or any other real car. It's not easy to pull it off, but I do think it can be done without requiring much explanation as to the origin of the car. I'm not saying it's neccessary to make up a fictional name for the car, but I would really like to allude to the fact that it isn't like any car that actually exists.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't see anything wrong with that. By the same token, I don't see anything wrong with mentioning it is a Lincoln if that is what the character is driving. Either way works just fine. I got the impression from your original post that you thought it was wrong, or at least bad form, to mention that it is a Lincoln if the author so desires.
     
  11. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    No star wars wasn't based on real people/places but that was because it was set in a fictious world. If you have a story in the real world it makes sense to use the real brand names.
     
  12. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    Thank you Captain Obvious.
     
  13. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    But what if you want your fictitious world to be fundmentally the same as "the real world", just different?
     
  14. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    Lol

    Anyway, I tend to use real names of places or products if I think it is necessary to the plot or if it will add something to the narrative in terms of quality. Also, it's important to think about what your audience is expecting, as some people will want to see things they recognise so they can relate to the story whereas others will want to use their imagination and be transported somewhere new and unknown.
     
  15. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I disagree.

    All of my work is set in the real world, modern times, and pop culture plays an important role in establishing the setting. If you're writing a story set in London in the 1970s then it won't be unusual for a teenage character to be a fan of David Bowie; set it in Bangkok in the present day and maybe it's more likely that a character of the same age will be a fan of Golf & Mike (Pichaya & Pirat Nitipaisalkul, respectively) instead.

    I actually dislike reading stories that aren't set in real places. I can't get into them. The exception to this is a fictional town/building being added to an already existing place - I don't mind changes to the real environment as long as it is not a completely new world. The setting needs to be completely realistic and, to some degree, reflect the real world in a way that is appropriate for the time and place in order to make me want to read the story. I imagine it is no shock if I add here that I don't read high fantasy.
     
  16. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Well it didn't seem very obvious to you, seeing as you were talking about never using brand names ever.
     
  17. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    It all depends on the story and genre.

    If I am writing about the real world: Yes, I would.

    If I am writing about an alternate world: No, I would not.

    But that is not to say I would not add in my own "brands."
     
  18. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    I don't mind stories that are set in a different world. As long as it's clear to me from the outset that that's what's going on. I'd like to understand that I am reading a story set in a parallel universe or whatever. It changes my perception of the story. Makes me think something new or unexpected could happen. The downside is that I might find myself relating to the characters less, because of the mental distance I place between myself and them. I don't read a lot of fantasy.

    I don't write fantasy, either. My stories are set in the real world. I find it lends authenticity to my story, and at the same time lets the reader better understand and relate to my characters and their situations. The hard part is the research. I like to be accurate. I like to describe cities and homes and restaurants where things happen. I've been to all the places I write about and I take notes. One of my characters just found herself in NYC, and I've got three maps open right now of Manhattan and the transit system. The effort, I feel, is worthwhile. Anyone living or traveling through the places I describe also gets the satisfying "Aha, I know that place" moment when reading.

    Creating a whole new world takes a different sort of creativity and planning, though, I imagine.
     
  19. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    If a reader can't comprehend a hypothetical landscape then they are probably more than slightly dumb.


    1984, anyone?

    It was set in Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia and the "disputed area"... I comprehended that geography just fine. And there was no Barack Obama or Queen Elizabeth... there was Big Brother. There was no Tangurey Gin... it was Victory Gin.

    How can someone say that a story needs to be based in reality to be understandable?
     
  20. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    You don't have to base a story somewhere that actually exists, but the essence of a story's location has to be based in a reality of sorts. I cannot think of an example of a story that isn't based to some degree on society or an existence that is familiar to us as readers. It would take a very good author to make the readers engage with a story which was totally and utterly alien to them.
     
  21. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    No one is telling you that. You asked for opinions and you got them. You asked how other people would go about doing this and you got them.

    Nobody is telling you that you are wrong. They are just giving you their opinion on what they think and what they would do. There is no need for you to take all of this so personally; especially when you ask for personal opinions.

    I think it is safe to say that all of us here can understand hypothetical landscapes and 1984 just fine.
     
  22. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    Don't get me wrong here. I'm not arguing with anyone, I'm just prodding people to get some insight as to why people like actual people, places, things, etc. There is something about a persons personality that makes them prefer one thing or another and I need to understand what it is.
     
  23. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you've made a mistake? The setting of Nineteen Eighty-Four is not make-believe; it is based on earth's geography. Oceania is made up of the Americas, Britain, Australia, New Zeland and parts of Africa; Eurasia is mainland Europe and the Soviet Union; Eastasia covers at least the Far East countries; "disputed area" covers many areas of the undeveloped world. Even the main setting of the novel, Airstrip One, is simply Britain (or just England, I'm not entirely certain). This is understandable because they are just new terms for the earth as it is. It's an easy setting to understand because it's based on the geography of the real earth. The names used aren't unique either: Oceania is a region; Eurasia is a super continent; Eastasia (although usually written as two words, not one) is a sub-region of Asia.

    And of course there was no Barack Obama - it was originally published back in the 1940s!
     
  24. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    A very astute observation. Thank you for clarifying that, sir.
     
  25. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want to get people's thoughts on something that you're curious about, you might consider being civil while you engage in the conversation.
     
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