1. NovemberRose
    Offline

    NovemberRose Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2011
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    1

    The nit-pickers!

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by NovemberRose, Jun 28, 2012.

    Hello, I need some advice, please. I am writing a novel and one of my characters goes to see a Shakespeare play in London, at a famous theatre. (There are references to this play throughout the story - it's a theme) The character goes to see this play in the year 2000 (it's important it takes place in this year as well, for the sake of the story) and I've since found out that that particular play wasn't on at that particular theatre that particular year. :( I know that die hard Shakespeare fans would be picky about this, but do you think anyone else would be? Do you think it really matters?
     
  2. michaelj
    Offline

    michaelj Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2012
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    5
    Just explain it at the end of the novel in authors notes.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,723
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I don't think it matters. If that matters, then maybe it matters whether or not it was raining that day. Did you check that out? You can go nuts trying to be too accurate.
     
  4. Justin Richards
    Offline

    Justin Richards Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    1
    If it's fiction, it's fine. It's your world, and you determine what happens. Don't get too hung up on what a 'die hard Shakespeare fan' will think of small details. The people who could pull you up on that probably represent a small portion of the population, and who's to say any of them will care or actually read what you've written.
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    To hell with it. Accept that there will be errors. There will be typoes that make it to print, there will be factual slip-ups, there will be scenes you will rgret ever penning.

    Once it has made it to print, there's nothing you can do but learn from it.

    If it's still in manuscript, fix it if you can. If you can't fix it, try dancing it. Otherwise, shrug and live with it. Novelists have lived with bigger plot holes than that.

    Larry Niven received tons of letters from engineering students about a fatal flaw in his Ringworld. So what did he do? He wrote a sequel that addressed that as a central problem.
     
  6. NovemberRose
    Offline

    NovemberRose Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2011
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    1
    Phew. Thanks for your replies! :)
     
  7. Complex
    Offline

    Complex Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    120
    Likes Received:
    3
    Its probably better that you don't name a real life anything or such if you can help it for fiction. Identifying specific theater groups is probably a no-no; how would you like if dear uncle bob's snoring is spread to the world and someone decides to mock uncle bob? It may have just been a harmless reference or joke, but I'd avoid inserting identifiable individuals, groups or anything if you can help it. Just as a courtesy to those willingly or unaware of the reference. This includes naming the specific theaters or other places.
     
  8. NovemberRose
    Offline

    NovemberRose Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2011
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    1
    I don't see how naming a big theatre in London compares to shaming Uncle Bob! Seriously, this place is a landmark.
     
  9. Thumpalumpacus
    Offline

    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    566
    Likes Received:
    106
    Location:
    Texas
    Yeah, I wouldn't worry about replicating a showing schedule.
     
  10. Complex
    Offline

    Complex Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    120
    Likes Received:
    3
    Use of trademark companies or figures is typically unchallenged, but it is wrong and a liability. Those companies, places and including theater have a very specific interest in their image and portrayal and have rights. While it is a rare matter it is actionable. Particularly if an author maligns or writes negatively and potentially libelous manner. Now if we are talking about a specific set of performers and dwell on them, you could open yourself up to liability here. I would be fairly upset with my portrayal or even personification in a work, regardless of whether or not it is positive or negative. There is a reason why so many various types of media (especially visual) have a disclaimer saying their is no portrayal of real individuals in this fictional setting. Do not use real businesses, or people (cast and crew of the production) in anyway.

    The Running with Scissors author was sued and settled out of court under defamation because even changing the names of the family portrayed wasn't enough. The Red Hat Club was another in which a person was defamed and was successful in court. Now while these are about characters, issues of places can still be a sticky matter. If something is negative it is potential libelous, even something like 'The bathrooms were always dirty so he went to the nearest gas station...' would likely raise the ire of someone and its only a hop and a skip to a lawyer who could try and bring a case against you. Cover your bases and don't make it so accurate as to use real life examples in fiction.
     
  11. Estrade
    Offline

    Estrade Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2012
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England
    Mmm. Actually part of me thought it did matter a little bit when I first read this. I think probably because you name the year and it's quite a memorable sort of year. If it had been 1998 or something... and I wondered if it had to be that theatre. There are many theatres in London and one of them may have been showing the play you want, so I was going to suggest moving the action to wherever the play was on show.

    But actually, if you're writing about a production which happened in a certain year, if you say anything about the actors/production/ quality of acting, colour of hair, style of scenery or any reference to anything, really, you risk being inaccurate (or even defamatory). So maybe it's better the way it is. You have all the freedom to make the play how you want it - to have costume and set design of any period and actors who are either good or bad or dressed as traffic wardens or an all-male/all-female/all-in-wheelchairs cast, and so on.

    So, if you really do something with that freedom, you'll imply that you aren't making a mistake, you're making a choice.

    (Unless it's The Globe, where you might have to be a bit more careful about the avant garde stuff.)
     
  12. NovemberRose
    Offline

    NovemberRose Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2011
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    1
    I was not going to go into great detail about the play or the actors. The way I'm writing, it's more like a diary format. "Went there, saw that." I have great respect for the theatre. I can think of many books where characters go into real restaurants or visit real landmarks. Do I need the theatre's permission to refer to it at all- even if it's in a favourable light?
     
  13. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    it is not 'wrong' either ethically or legally, so there is no 'legal liability'... it's done all the time and is most often only good free advertising/press for the company/person mentioned...

    ...and that is poor advice, imo...
     
  14. Complex
    Offline

    Complex Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    120
    Likes Received:
    3
    I'm not going to cite case law or bring up a bunch of examples (i've already mentioned two) to back the point up, but identifying anyone or any thing in such a manner is a liability. Any publisher would recommend consulting a lawyer if persons, places or things used or represented in the book could be considered defamatory or libelous. Depending on your jurisdiction (say the UK) this means different things. However if you must use real places and people, be wary as they could press matters on any depiction, good or bad.

    The only reason I'm pointing this out is because I've known close colleagues work to be sunk for simply referring to the name of a 'trademark' owned by a certain company which threatened legal action if it wasn't removed entirely. While I'm sure the usage was legal, I'd particularly not want to wage that battle in court with my time and money. Unlike most defamation or libel matters which are settled out of court, for various reasons, I would urge anyone writing without explicit permission to avoid making direct references, as the matter has come up time and time again in my areas of interest and in plenty of other cases. Then again I'm speaking more of a publishing matter, so I guess this is getting off topic, but always consult a lawyer. They can give you good legal advice on just about anything related to the work, its contents and the valuable contracts and rights of your works.

    A final point, since I love a good example, conducting a crime/murder/mystery novel using real places would be exactly the sort of thing my advice applies to. I do not even know the genre or anything about the work, but I'm fairly certain that any business would not want to be a focal point for such a work and you would probably be dealing with the lawyers. I may not have a full idea of what the book is about, but as a matter of common sense, writers do not have absolute freedom to do whatever they wish with real people or places. Mike Daisey and Apple? According to legal experts and Forbes, it was pretty obvious slander and libel, the entire thing was formally retracted by NPR and he's been blasted publicly for it, it would be an interesting court case, but a worthless venture for Apple which could ultimately do more damage by carrying on a battle with an individual even if they acted maliciously.

    Call my advice whatever you want, but the matter is in the portrayal and use of names and places, you are not necessarily protected and dozens of cases and thousands of settlements are proof that writer's cannot go about doing whatever on a whim. Sorry, but its the truth and examples are plentiful. Passing references are typically not a concern, but be mindful that you are not immune from litigation.
     
  15. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,210
    Likes Received:
    4,218
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    So, you mean if I made a mean tavern owner named Charles Wilkins...I could get sued by an actual tavern owner named Charles Wilkins because I used his name and position in a negative light, even though I wasn't at all referring to him/didn't even know he existed?

    Same to be true if I created a heroine named Holly Morrison, I could be sued by an actual woman named Holly Morrison even though I, again, was not referring to her, and had no way of knowing she existed?
     
  16. marktx
    Offline

    marktx Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2012
    Messages:
    202
    Likes Received:
    8
    Agreed. Who the heck is going to remember what they went to see on a specific date twelve years ago, unless it coincided with something on the scale of 9/11 or the JFK assassination? And if they are going to go to the trouble of looking it up, then you probably don't have them in your clutches to the degree that you should.

    When Steven Speilberg was starting on the initial stages of Jaws, he told Peter Benchley that he didn't want the shark to sink to the bottom of the ocean silently (as it did in the novel). Instead, he wanted to make it explode with an oxygen tank.

    "But, Steve," said Benchley. "That couldn't actually happen! It's impossible!"

    "Peter," said Steve. "If I'm doing my job properly, the audience won't care."
     
  17. Complex
    Offline

    Complex Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    120
    Likes Received:
    3
    Link the Writer, sharing a name alone is not enough, there are tons of John Smiths in the world, but if I happen to have a drunk, wife beating, flaming pony tattoo across his chest with a lazy eye who lives on Marvin Gardens. I'm pretty sure that John Smith who matches that description and lives on Marvin Gardens might insist on dragging you into court for defamation under the grounds that he's not a drunkard. This is the problem with that family referred into in Running with Scissors had to deal with, even if the names were changed it wasn't exactly hard to figure it out. Same was with the Red Hat Club as mentioned above. Anything written, non fiction or fiction, could be open to libel charges. John Travolta and that spa matter, they are going back and forth with it. Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt is a famous case in which Irving was portrayed negatively in a book and sued. It may have only stemmed from a minor passage and reference, but it still was enough to be a huge court battle.

    For example, if I write about a specific Broadway show in which the theater has a murder, a fire or terrible bathrooms, rude employees, snarky patrons or has comedic relief in the form of a botched scene in a play which causes the audience to boo or laugh the cast off the stage, I'm fairly certain that specific group of people will be positively upset at being the subject of my fiction. You are not going to get sued or sent cease-and-desist letters for someone eating a brand-name hamburger or walking around in a brand-name shoe. Still this matter is probably far off topic. If it continues can we do it in PM. I'm kind of an expert on this sort of thing and I rather not bog down the forum with lengthy posts back and forth when we are so far from the original question. I cautioned and that is all I should have done. My details and arguments tend to be overly verbose for the situations I find myself in.
     
  18. P R Crawford
    Offline

    P R Crawford Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2012
    Messages:
    77
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Morocco
    Bravo to Complex for fully clarifying what could be a tricky sticking point.

    NovemberRose, if you expect to attempt to publish your novel, you'd be advised to check into this point more thoroughly. I would, regardless of sentiments to the contrary. You're the only one who'll be paying the lawyer's bills (your own and the opposition's in case of actual litigation).
     
  19. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    complex...
    writers use the names of real well-known places and people in their fiction all the time... and as long as what they write is not defamatory, there is no legal problem, so for you to say one should never use any real name/place 'in any way' is what i consider poor advice...
     
  20. Darkkin
    Offline

    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2012
    Messages:
    1,758
    Likes Received:
    515
    Location:
    Following the footprints in the sand...
    There would be far fewer books out there if writers took it to heart.

    - Darkkin
     
  21. NovemberRose
    Offline

    NovemberRose Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2011
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    1
    Sorry, Complex, but if I take your argument to it's logical conclusion, I won't be able to set my story in London, on planet Earth, in our Solar System because it is a real place.
     
  22. Thumpalumpacus
    Offline

    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    566
    Likes Received:
    106
    Location:
    Texas
    Do those real places have DBA names, brand identities, or personal reputations to uphold? Can they retain legal counsel?

    I imagine that's what he's getting at. A mountain isn't going to sue you. A theater company might.
     
  23. Estrade
    Offline

    Estrade Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2012
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England
    I honestly don't think you have to worry at all about a diary-type entry which names a certain play at a certain famous theatre. There's no chance on earth that that would be any worry to anyone.
     
  24. Complex
    Offline

    Complex Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    120
    Likes Received:
    3
    If its that, there is no concerns as I labeled out above. Since I had no information I drew my advice from certain cases in which the content could be defamatory or libelious. Conducting a murder mystery scenario at that theatre is vastly different from "We went to see (Play) at (Theater)." and leave it with a paragraph of neutral fluff. Landmarks are also not people, and you can destroy the White House and Statue of Liberty any dozen of ways, but the moment you write about a real person or business in a negative manner they could take action. Do you have to be concerned, I doubt it, but that other one about the Cartoon Network president one is a perfect example in which the writer could wind up needed a lawyer. Don't overly slam my comment, just realize there is a big difference between the cases I mentioned and a passive reference to wearing brand name clothing or sneakers. Its night and day differences.
     
  25. Estrade
    Offline

    Estrade Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2012
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England
    I didn't mean to slam you, Complex. There's nothing wrong with pointing out the dangers, it's just that the OP made it clear in post 12 that it was only a brief and positive reference. I thought they might be feeling a little confused/frustrated by the way the conversation had gone.
     

Share This Page