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Discussion Starter #1
So next question. Product name dropping??  (edited because Product Placement is NOT what I meant ^^)
Do you avoid it? Do you do it on purpose? Do you think anyone cares?

I know in the Dresden Files, Harry goes to Burger King. I always liked that. He went somewhere real, somewhere I could relate to. I think Mercy has gone to McDonalds before to feed werewolves thirty cheeseburgers.

In my story, my character has a favorite tv show. I could just make something up and not use the real life show that inspired this aspect of her character, but she basically built her career partly around skills she developed because of getting into this fandom. It's pretty important to her, she geeks out about it, and I think it says a lot about her as a character.

So is it okay to drop the name of the tv show she's into and have her geek over it?

I personally think maybe this will just interest some of the people in that fandom in the story since it's mentioned. But is that okay?

I mean, if, for example, she were into Doctor Who, and part of the reason she had gone into say... history or museum curation was because she loved Doctor Who and because of watching that, she'd picked up interest in time, history, artifacts, whatever.. I would find it organic for the character to mention the show. Is that just me?

Also, just random things like where people get burgers from or shopping at a Walmart.. All of that. IS it okay?
Are there any legalities I need to know about?
And unwritten rules?

I also imagine I might be opening a bit of a can here... but she uses an ereader for reasons. If I say it's a Kindle, is that good or bad? :D On the one hand, Amazon might appreciate that, and Kindle fans would probably enjoy it... but I don't want to alienate other markets if I decide to go wide. I wouldn't think that I'd be p*ssed if someone talked about using their iPad to read, so I don't know if it'd annoy readers who don't use Kindles?
I mean, I could avoid it, make up a name, or just not say what kind of eReader it is, but that feels inorganic to me. People don't typically say "I'll read it on my eReader." They say "I'll read it on my Kindle." or "on my iPad." etc.
 

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It's not product placement unless you're getting an endorsement from it. Otherwise it's just name dropping.

Personally for me, it depends. If it's something big, like Burger King, well, everybody eats there. I get a little less forgiving when it's certain media, like movie titles or specific books, unless they're relevant in some way. Most of the time, then it just comes off as the author superimposing their favourite movie onto the character.
 

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For me it becomes too convoluted when all of these product names start dropping. I start to feel like I'm in a commercial. I wouldn't say Kindle, I'd say tablet. I also wouldn't have them go on about a tv show or movie either...it can get eye roll inducing and it is alienating if I don't care about the television show. I think it's risky to get specific like that because the audience at large didn't buy the book to geek out over Dr Who. A quick line about her being inspired by it or whatever is one thing. But someone geeking out about it...constantly bringing it up, that gets rocky and dull and I can't think of many books that do that.
 
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Erle Stanley Gardner (Perry Mason) refused to mention specific products in his books.
He wanted his novels to be read for generations, and felt that product names would date them.
For example, he might have a character he always drove the latest red sports car.
What if he had said the character always drove the latest Studebaker car?
Etc., etc., etc.
Some writers feel that a certain brand defines a character. Like the brand of beer or whiskey he drinks.
Well, OK.
But what if Hollywood buys the book. Then makes a deal to show another brand in the movie.
Has the character been changed?
It's an interesting question.
But brands are not forever.
Your character could write using Word Perfect, travel first class on Pan Am or TWA. But will future readers know what the hell you're talking about
 

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If you want to sell internationally, be aware that people either may not know the brand/product or even dislike it. They may attribute different properties to someone using such a brand.

On the whole I dislike name-dropping and product placing. Erotica and eroms are rife with it, and it's one main reason why I will cease reading books by an author who does this a lot. Consumerism isn't erotic for me at all.
 

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Nic said:
If you want to sell internationally, be aware that people either may not know the brand/product or even dislike it. They may attribute different properties to someone using such a brand.

On the whole I dislike name-dropping and product placing. Erotica and eroms are rife with it, and it's one main reason why I will cease reading books by an author who does this a lot. Consumerism isn't erotic for me at all.
This is one of my pet peeves with Stephen king's works, they are almost like a gigantic product placement, he doesn't write dishwashing liquid he writes Brand X and the same for chocolate bars household items. As an Australian I find it incredibly infuriating, ok I'm clever enough to know that a Babe Ruth is an American candy bar but there are some product names without their use or function that baffle me. As writers we are in a time warp and as had been previously mentioned, what is here today may be obsolete or even unknown in the future, even language (look at how most people struggle to understand Shakesperian English, myself included.) Maybe the answer is to "invent" places like Burger King and let readers know it is a fast food place etc :D
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I really try to avoid giving things away about my MC... maybe silly because I know all of you aren't going to read my book, but I can't help feeling that way. I personally HATE spoilers. But I don't think this is a big deal, so I'll clarify.

The tv show in question is Sherlock (BBC). The reason I don't think it'd be a big deal is because Sherlock Holmes is a freaking CLASSIC. Even if people in other countries haven't heard of BBC's Sherlock, they have probably heard of Sherlock Holmes, so referencing it isn't really going to confuse them. The character I'm writing wouldn't have read the classic book for reasons, but she saw the show and it's modernized and has a big fandom which is a big deal for her, and it has lead her to interests she would otherwise never have had (investigation, logical thinking exercises, and certain other mental exercises that are relevant to her in the series that she learned about from the show).

I never intended her to go on and on about it, but she would *start* to gush about it to a friend and then cut herself off realizing she was geeking on them and not wanting to come off as annoying. But regardless, she'd mention that it was a show about a modern take on Sherlock Holmes, express a bit of what made it interesting to her, and she tries to get friends to watch it with her. There's some pretty relevant stuff here.

I could do it without mentioning Sherlock BBC specifically and without mentioning Benedict and Martin, but I really wonder if that wouldn't just end up being a little nod to that fandom and the show in general.


I have no qualms about leaving out "products" when it comes to restaurants and stuff.

But the TV show is one that I'm more stuck on because of the important role in the character's development that it played. I could just make something up, or vaguely explain it. But I don't want to lose it entirely.

Since it's based on a classic, is that better? Or should I just go more for "It's a show about a modern take on Sherlock Holmes." than "It's a show called Sherlock and it's about a modern Sherlock Holmes." ...?
 

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I have my MC go on about Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek and Warcraft. Classic literature also figures heavily into her back story (her imaginary friend was dressed as Captain Hook).

If it's part of the character, it's part of the character. If it works to inform the reader, then it's good.

Two point about Sherlock: a) if you just go "modern Sherlock Holmes", it could also indicate Elementary. b) Is this your lesbian character? Would she be okay with the queerbaiting in Sherlock?
 

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If there is going to be a huge overlap between your target audience and the viewers of the show, then I'd totally go for it. I don't think there'd be any problem with people not having heard of the show because it's internationally famous -- I've never watched it but I have a pretty good idea of what it's like :)

Sure you might alienate some readers who hate the show but I think you get that with anything you write about. You write about a guy called Sam and there are going to be some readers who hate guys called Sam. I even know a guy who hates bacon! He's not even a vegetarian. But you'll also get a heap of other readers who'll love you for it especially if you put some insider jokes in -- the sort of thing that won't throw readers who haven't watched the show but will be appreciated by those who do.

One book that comes to mind with heavy references to another fandom is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The MC is huge on fan fiction of a book very similar to Harry Potter but not. That book really bugged me because she then references the actual Harry Potter. I think you have to stick to one or the other or it just gets screwy.

I wouldn't worry about it dating your book either -- heck, those are the sorts of details that historical fiction writers try to use.
 

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Product placement and references to other fictional works is a double-edged sword. It can add instant familiarity with those who get/enjoy them and potentially annoy people who don't. It's a nightmare when overused. Michael Bay's Transformers movies is an excellent example of product placement gone wild.  :eek:

I think there's nothing wrong with a few pop culture references so long as you don't get carried away. I've made a Doctor Who reference or three in my own works. Use your best judgment and worry about it later. You can always chop out anything excessive in post.
 

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Reading several novels in which a product was an integral part of showing a character's interests and personality, I discovered that I really enjoyed that kind of product mention. In my YA novel, SHADE, there's a ghost who lived before cell phones and electronic games. I had a blast developing some humorous scenes in which he discovers cell phone games and becomes enamored with ANGRY BIRDS, much to the annoyance of the main character.
 
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Like others have said it depends on the amount done.

If you are mentioning one show and its mentioned once... go for it.
If every meal they are reaching for the Heinz ketchup or drinking the Nescafe coffee... it will get very old, very fast.

You also have to be careful about references that will date your work. I have read some that mention tv shows, pop songs, films and so on... but in three years time no one will be remembering that song or the shows he mentioned. Even for the ones that do remember them, it will date the work horribly.
 

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As a reader . . . . I probably mostly don't notice it.

Unless it's done very badly.

I read something once where the main character says about 50 times in the first 100 pages that he loves Dr Pepper. The author felt, I guess, that he had to keep shoving that fact down the reader's throat because very much toward the end, it becomes important in the discovery of something that helps resolve things. That wasn't the only problem with that particular book, but it does come to mind every time this topic comes up.

I do credit that book with my realization that I don't have to finish every thing I start, and I don't have to feel guilty about dropping a book that is not good. ::)
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Rin said:
I have my MC go on about Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek and Warcraft. Classic literature also figures heavily into her back story (her imaginary friend was dressed as Captain Hook).

If it's part of the character, it's part of the character. If it works to inform the reader, then it's good.

Two point about Sherlock: a) if you just go "modern Sherlock Holmes", it could also indicate Elementary. b) Is this your lesbian character? Would she be okay with the queerbaiting in Sherlock?
Awesome. Your first is on my Kindle. I bet I'm going to like it. :)

And this is another thing: As a geek, I could do with seeing more geeking in books. Maybe that's just me. But maybe it's another underserved demographic I could pick up on?
Awesome.
a. I am not familiar with Elementary.
b. It is. Queerbaiting? That word has two meanings apparently, one of which is a WOAH NO and the other of which... do you mean slashing? Like imagining that Sherlock and John have a thing? Because I think the show kinda does that all on its own and does a brilliant job of teasing itself with it. What are you getting at here?

NothingsShocking said:
I abhor the the idea of product placement, I think any writer that does it is selling out in the worst possible way. I will never do it. You won't see any of that sell-out low-end commercialism in my next book The Adventures of Mr Coca-Cola and Miss Starbucks in KFC-Land.
Apparently this thing I was talking about is called "Name-dropping". I didn't realize there was a difference between that and Product Placement.
I wasn't talking about Product Placement.

To everyone else: I'm not planning on doing this every few sentences or anything.
I think so far she has brought up this show to one person in the story and I'm halfway through it. I mentioned her wearing a "Sherlock Tshirt" in chapter 1, and then she mentions the show to a person in chapter 6, geeks briefly before she realizes she's getting stared at like the nerd she is, and puts on a cheesy grin and tries to move quickly past the faux pas of geeking the hell out at someone. :) She watches the show with that person but I don't talk about it any further, just mention that they sit down to watch the show together. Really, there's only one passage there where it's talked about at all so far. I figured she will talk about it once more possibly because she's going to have a conversation in which she explains how this show lead her toward her interest in certain topics and some of the mental exercises she caught wind of because of it. But this is not going to be a thing you can't follow if you've never watched it, and it's not going to be a constant. I think it will come up maybe 3 times total in the whole book, one of which is just a mention of a fan tshirt.

So I don't think that's excessive?

And I wasn't otherwise planning on dropping names for brand name stuff everywhere.

I toyed with the idea of mentioning that she uses a Kindle, but people seem to think that's a bad idea, so I probably won't.

And this is set in Urban Fantasy, so there are restaurants and stuff. I don't have to mention each one, but I did mention one in the early part of the book because she was in a particular city and I mentioned a particular restaurant that is there because it has character and authenticity and... I guess I just liked the name of the restaurant. *shrug*
 

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I'm not a big fan of making up every single thing in a contemporary setting.  It pulls me out of the whole concept that this could be happening in our world. 

Doubly annoying: making up everything so that it's close, but not quite the real thing.  Like characters who drink Zepsi cola and listen to Lady Gyga.  James Patterson's Wizard and Witch series did that and it was like mental fingernails down a chalk board for me. 



Oh and another vote for geeking out.  Some of my favorite passages to write have been arguments about whether Narsil or Glamdring was the better sword...or whether the Enterprise could take the Galactica etc.  Nothing wrong with having your characters be "real" in the sense that they have other interests beside making it to the end of the plot.
 

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Thirded(?) on geeking, though I actually like fictionalized fandoms (like in Fangirl, though I agree that it was weird that the bookiverse contained both Simon Snow AND Harry Potter somehow). Because while each fandom is different, they all have commonalities, and for me it's fun to mix tropes and foibles from different fandoms to create meta-fandoms that speak to a bunch of different ones.

If you say "Oh, you know, just like it was in Buffy fandom," and I wasn't in Buffy fandom, I'm going to shrug, feel uneasy and think "Well, guess I just don't get to understand this then. Maybe I'm not meant to read this book." But if you say "Oh, two people got into an enormous internet smackdown when one accused the other of plagiarizing their fanfic, and then..." - that's something that people outside that specific fandom can relate to. General outlines of how people in fandom interact with one another.

I wrote a geek rom-com for Nanowrimo a few years back that had a bunch of fake fandoms - one character was a giant fan of a CLAMP-ish supernatural romance manga that doesn't actually exist, two characters have an argument in a nonexistent MMORPG, etc. It was a blast, honestly. But the characters judged one another and related to one another based on what they liked - so I had to show the reader a little bit of what they were talking about. If I'd just said "oh, well, she's into Angel Sanctuary, so there you go", a bunch of readers wouldn't get what I'm trying to say.

On the other hand, I never cleaned it up and published it, so I don't know how the public would have reacted. I think it all depends on dose, too. My point is that fictionalized fandoms can be fun, because for those of us who didn't see the geeky thing you're talking about, we get the loud and clear message that your book is not for us. (I'm not welcome as a reader of Hypothetical Series because I love DS9 and haven't seen BSG? Oh. :( )
 

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Product name dropping seems to be a Thing in contemporary romance and chick-littish books. Apparently you can't be a chick-lit heroine without having a shoe obsession - and the writer always makes sure you know which particular brand of shoe the heroine is wearing. In the romance-a-rich-guy genre, every scarf is a Hermes. Really, every single one.

 

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Michael J Elliott said:
This is one of my pet peeves with Stephen king's works, they are almost like a gigantic product placement, he doesn't write dishwashing liquid he writes Brand X and the same for chocolate bars household items. As an Australian I find it incredibly infuriating, ok I'm clever enough to know that a Babe Ruth is an American candy bar but there are some product names without their use or function that baffle me. As writers we are in a time warp and as had been previously mentioned, what is here today may be obsolete or even unknown in the future, even language (look at how most people struggle to understand Shakesperian English, myself included.) Maybe the answer is to "invent" places like Burger King and let readers know it is a fast food place etc :D
Babe Ruth was a baseball player. Baby Ruth is the candy bar.
And your post proves that name dropping doesn't work well.
 

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I mention products all the time but I write NF and it's relevant to my books.
In fiction, I'd be careful about mentioning particular brands. Brands that are ubiquitous in the US may not be outside the US and may pull the reader out of the story too much.
Just my $0.02 :)
 
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