Hey guys, today I’m proud to present my first ever guest blogger in the form of Horror writer Armand Rosamilia. Armand is currently on a blog tour to promote the latest book in his Dying Days series. There are chances to win a copy too, so check out the details at the end of this post. I hand you over now to Armand…
I remember, in my early twenties, subscribing to Writer’s Digest, and seeing so many ads from Jeep, Coke and others. But not just regular ads, these ran full-page and said something to the effect: “Jeep is a registered trademark. You can say car, auto, SUV, automobile, riding thing with wheels, motorized car – but don’t say Jeep or we’ll sue you.”
Now I actually don’t remember them saying they’d sue me, and I’ve used the word Jeep in a story or two in the last twenty+ years of writing. I’ve also mentioned McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, and a bunch of other restaurants, food items (a Diet Coke seems more realistic in a tale than ‘generic soda’, and everyone knows its cooler to say Budweiser than ‘generic beer’, right?), and used real places in my stories like hotels, cities, airlines, Styrofoam (they had an ad as well, now that I think of it)…
I’ve also been edited in several short stories over the years, where I’ve mentioned the protagonist and his whimsical sidekick were eating at Dairy Queen and talking, and the editor came back with ‘can’t use a real place, make something up’ or ‘make it a non-descript restaurant.’ Did I agree with that? Nah. No, if I’d said Satan worked the grill at Burger King and was cooking souls and making them anyway you ordered it, sure I could see a problem. I just never subscribed to the fictional world where you strip all reality out of it, no Hondas, no Walmart, no White Castle, and no Barbie Doll. Yet, I keep getting edited on the side of caution and told simply ‘you can’t use real things.’
But is that right, and is it realistic?
Not really. Think about writing a story with your hero using his new pair of Nike running shoes to get across town to the Texaco to buy Kleenex and a pack of Marlboros for his wife, before jogging to the Olive Garden to pick up dinner.
Is there anything wrong there? Nope, it’s benign product placement and it dips your tale in reality. A boring reality, but reality nevertheless. Now, suppose our villain is using his Nike shoes – outfitted with laser beams and a saw-blade on the toes – and going down to Texaco to buy crack, which he wraps in Kleenex to transport in the Marlboro boxes, and takes his stash to Olive Garden, where he picks up dinner (even villains have to eat). Is that going to get you sued?
Actually, if you were Stephen King or James Patterson it might, although they wouldn’t even try to add that scenario in and their editor would have a cow. But you and I? Nah. Unless your story goes viral, sells a ton of copies or someone makes a huge huff about it… actually, nah. No one would touch that one, and no company would waste their time with a lawsuit with some ‘unknown’ writer.
Would I write that? Never. In the case where I’ve added an evil company or product that directly affects things, I make it up myself. It’s fun that way.
But I’ll still get an editor in my future who insists I take out Cheetos (Cheesy Poofs, perhaps?) or Clorox or Hefty, even though it isn’t an evil item after world domination.
I once had an editor delete my throw-away line in a zombie flash fiction piece “You can’t leave, all the plants will die”… as if Bill Murray and the producers of the movie Stripes would be upset I stole it from them, or sue her and have her anthology removed forcibly from the store shelves.
But that’s another story all together…
Want to know more about the Dying Days series? Want to win free eBooks and maybe print books of them? My contest is simple: e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with DYING DAYS in the subject line and I’ll enter you into the daily giveaway… also, post a comment here and you get another chance… follow my blog at http://armandrosamilia.com for yet another chance, and friend me on Twitter (@ArmandAuthor) and simply post DYING DAYS to me, and you’ll get another shot… nice and easy, right? If I get enough people joining in the giveaway there will be a print book given away that day!
Dying Days series information can be found here: http://armandrosamilia.com/dying-days-series/