1. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    Real Names

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Nicoel, Jan 31, 2015.

    How do you feel about using real brands in your stories/poems/books? For example, instead of saying "I'm going to eat some instant noodles" you say, "I'm going to eat some ramen." Some people just alter the real brands name in some way but it's still recognizable.

    Is there a legal difficulty here, or do most people abstain from using real names so that people around the world are more likely to understand?

    Personally, I love it when people use real names in their books, it really increases the realism in it for me - especially for sci fi and such. However, as I'm writing my own story/novel I'm hesitant about it.

    What are your thoughts?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, ramen isn't a brand name, I don't think, so I'd be fine with that.

    In general? I think it makes sense to go with whatever will jar the reader the least. So say 'Kleenex' rather than 'facial tissue', but say 'dog food' rather than 'Purina One Large Breed Kibble'.

    This is assuming you aren't trying to make a point with your use of the brand names. Like, you might say 'Mercedes' instead of 'car' if you wanted to establish that the character is driving a high-end but not over-the-top vehicle. Or if you're trying to portray a really materialistic character, you might have his POV include lots of brand names - was it American Psycho that did this so effectively/annoyingly?
     
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  3. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    Hmm you're right, technically Maruchan is the brand. I've always thought Ramen was the brand because the generics are always called *generic store name* Instant Noodles.

    What about in small things such as using the word "candy" instead of M&M's? Or Doritos instead of Nacho chips?
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends how specific you want to get, I'd say. Like, if it's important for the context that readers picture the characters eating small candy-coated lumps of chocolate, I'd say 'M&Ms'. But if it's not important, 'candy' might do.
     
  5. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Think what your characters would call the thing, and go with that. In the UK, it's quite likely a character would say, "I have to Hoover the rug" (or even, "hoover the rug"), but an American would more likely say, "I have to vacuum the rug."

    Sometimes using the brand name can lend specific overtones. As in " . . . sitting in his underwear eating Cheetos in his mother's basement." "Crispy cheese snacks" simply is not the same thing.

    Just don't overdo it, like a YA novel I once read where brand names were used for every damn thing all the time-- and this was an adventure story about middle school kids coping with the aftermath of a tornado!
     
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  6. Carly Berg
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    Carly Berg Contributing Member

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    I would go with what you (or your character) would really call the items in question. For example, I say Kleenex, Vaseline, Tylenol and Coke even when I'm really using a different brand. But I call canned soup "soup," not "Campbells," and I say "peanut butter," not "Jiff," and "coffee," not "Folgers." I'm not sure why, on any of it. I think when to use a brand name and when not to should just go by what sounds more natural to your ear rather than any rule of thumb I can think of though.
     
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  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Be sure any brand names you mention are consistent with your story's time and location. And you should be going for a specific era and location because those brand names date your piece. That's not a bad thing, but it should be a consciously decided thing.

    As for legal, as long as it fits the story and isn't an attempt to sell something using the brand name, I don't think there's a copyright infringement. @Steerpike's a lawyer and perhaps will weigh in with a better informed opinion but the logic of it says you can, no problem, mention a brand name in a story.
     
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  8. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    The main thing when using a brand name is not to say anything critical or disparaging about it.
     
  9. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, rats. You mean I can't say my protagonist's Ford is so old and clapped-out he has to hold the rear bumper on with wire? :D
     
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  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you could. You should just be careful about saying his new Ford is such crap he has to hold the bumper on with wire!
     
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  11. Adenosine Triphosphate
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    Adenosine Triphosphate Old Scratch Contributor

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    What if you say that a particular brand is really bad at something it was never intended for?

    "Benadryl was a horrible excuse for a sedative. It was like alcohol with no buzz and ten times the drowsiness. It was a miracle if he managed to walk twenty feet on it."
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I had an old Ford once. We had two names for it: Fix or Repair Daily and Found on Road Dead which is where is eventually ended up. But it got me to Colorado, made it over Bertha Pass, and lasted until I earned enough money to buy a new car.

    Sorry, carry on.
     
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  13. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I dunno. I got a nasty buzz on Benadryl when they pumped it into me too fast before my chemo. Like a cheap drunk at a dorm kegger.
     
  14. DaveOlden
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    DaveOlden Member

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    Yes, absolutely.

    I am not a Lawyer, but I'm certain that if I write in my manuscript...
    ... you can bet I will hear quickly from [Popular Brand of cola]'s Lawyers.

    However, if I write...
    ...I'm sure we'll be fine, and [Popular Brand of cola] happily gets free product placement.

    For legal advice always consult an accredited legal professional, which I ain't.
     
  15. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was thinking fight club; which I just found unreadable. I mean it was literally a series of tedious lists of ingredients/ items googled off the internet. But then I have also found the film unbearably cringeworthy for well over a decade (I was young eough to like it the first time I saw it).
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2015
  16. JanMarie
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    JanMarie New Member

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    What about using the names of sport teams? And local points of interest? Anyone know?
     
  17. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sure, why not use the names of real sports teams? It can enhance the atmosphere and tell you something about your characters.

    In my WIP, my MC moves from Pittsburgh and buys a farm in an imaginary county in eastern Ohio. Her new neighbor plows his fields wearing an old Steelers ball cap. They hit it off well. Would it be the same if he were a long-time Browns fan? Not so sure.

    As for local points of interest, absolutely, if your setting is at all important. I'm reading a mystery that takes place in Venice, Italy, and it's like the city is a character in the novel.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2015
  18. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Why not? My MC has an old battered Honda Elantra. We know in the story that it's old and battered and is described by her partner as having "doors that squeak like an old lady's arthritic knees!"

    Obviously, you are talking about wear and tear, nothing lasts forever. If you are still not sure, maybe you could put something in to reflect how good it used to be when it was new, something like "it was a perfect runner in its day but time and overuse catches up with even the best made cars, eventually ..."
     
  19. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I have a theory about this:

    I say Coke because I only drink Coke, I don't like any other brand of cola. If I have a headache, I will take paracetamol or paracodol and refer to them by name because I don't take any other brands.

    Where coffee/tea is concerned, it doesn't really matter which brand we have, usually whichever is cheapest the day I buy it so saying coffee is like a generic description.

    "What do you want to drink?"
    "Coke."
    "There you go, one coke."

    "What do you want to drink?"
    "Nescafe."
    "We don't have Nescafe."
    "Kenco then."
    "Nope, you obviously didn't buy Kenco this time."
    "OK, so what's in the cupboard?"
    "Not sure, this is a new one, hang on while I read the label ..."
    "I'll have a coke ..."
     
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  20. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Unless your characters are in the pet store looking at dog food ...

    "But, Honey. This Purina One Large Breed Kibble just looks so good and is not bad on price neither ..."

    :)
     
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  21. hawky94
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    hawky94 Active Member

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    My current WIP deals plenty with the military, and so I'm using a lot of acronyms and the names of actual military hardware used by say, for instance, the British Army. I hope it adds a sense of realism to the novel, but I have been guilty of overuse. For example, instead of saying "A helicopter would swoop in and drop the assault and reserve teams in the field." I've said, "The Mi-7 transport helicopter would swoop in and drop the assault and reserve teams in the field."

    Whether I will run into difficulty later on using brand names of military hardware, or weaponry, remains to be seen.
     
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  22. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I used "helo" in my WIP for a police helicopter.
     
  23. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I could see doing that the first time. But after that (and this likely goes without telling), an individual soldier would just say, "Look, here comes the helicopter!" or "the copter" or whatever.

    If you give the piece of equipment its full name, it might be good to let your readers know somehow or other what's special about it. Like, how many men does it carry? How long can it fly without refuelling? Not in an infodump, no, but enough to let the reader know why you specifically named it.
     
  24. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    In reality, as with most areas of expertise, you probably start using serial numbers or pieces of code or acronyms that would be indecipherable to most people on the outside looking in. I think you need to cater your language to suit your audience.

    In terms of brand names I think I tend to default towards the fewest syllables. Coke rather than sugary fizzy shit that is inexplicably pleasant, hoover rather than vacuum cleaner, Tannoy rather than public address system and so on.
     
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  25. Dunning Kruger
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    Dunning Kruger Active Member

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    You have to use the military jargon because that's your audience. And your audience knows the difference between the various types of helicopters or wants to see it in the story. You will need to run with the accepted nicknames that the military people use. So the American main battle tank is the M1A1 Abrams (they may have upgraded to the M1A2 though). But after the first time, you'll go with the nickname the actual army guys use - Abrams or "The Beast", as I understand it. In contrast, if you just say "tank" it sounds so generic your audience will either lose their interest or assume you have no idea what you are talking about. People read Tom Clancy because they loved nerding out on the techno jargon (particularly The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising).

    To the OP, IMO, referring to real brands should serve a purpose. If someone in Atlanta calls any soda a "coke", I know its local color. If someone specifies a particular brand for a reason, it says something about that person's character. Saying a character has an expensive watch is different than saying they have a Rolex or Omega. If a character specifically calls out every brand name you know they are a high end brand whore or they are mocking other characters who are. The distinction matters a lot or not at all depending upon what you are trying to communicate about the characters or the setting.
     
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