Author Topic: What details can be used in a story  (Read 4598 times)

Offline Poggy

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What details can be used in a story
« on: May 10, 2014, 04:41:57 AM »
Hi Everyone
I am currently writing a short story using ficticous names for places in the book, As writers what can we actually include in our book, obviously we cannot use real names of real people unless permission to do so is obtained, can we use real place names such as Birmingham, USA etc and are we allowed to mention real buildings such as Ministry of Defence, Buckingham Palace, do we need permission for this ?
As an example:-

I walked down the road after just finishing work, i popped into Mc Donalds for a Big Mac and a Coca Cola, and sat awhile reading the Daily Express, there was an advert to write a story about a guy who finishes work and goes into Mc Donnells and who bought a Mighty Mac And a Cola Drink' he sat there reading a copy of the Daily Recorder,
Which one could i use, as i dont want to infringe copyright on brand names etc, yet at the same time i do want to be able to allow the reader to engage in everyday life and mention things a reader might be familiar with


Also as I supply photos to two stock agencies, one in canada and the other in the states, they are cautious to accept photos of say a building if taken within the grounds of the property concerned, but if i step outside and look through a fence they will accept them, what are the rules governing the inclusion of photos in books, i would imagine that photos of people can be used if mention is made of editorial content for crowds of people and permission granted for individuals.

I Realise this is a big ask to answer all these questions but if any member could point me in the right direction to a book based on UK and possibly international rules i would be most grateful
I want my books to be as realistic as possible but i don't wish to infringe on rights
Mike

hillwalker3000

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2014, 05:17:51 AM »
I think it's perfectly acceptable to have a novel or short story take place in a real location. Cities, towns, streets and even public buildings are fair game - the only proviso being that you don't describe somewhere specific in such a negative light that you cause offence to the residents or owners. This is especially the case when describing retail or other commercial establishments - or indeed brand names.

Many writers overcome such problems by printing a rider at the start - something along the lines of :

This novel is a work of fiction and although certain locations in Edinburgh and New York do exist, the descriptions are for the most part fictionalised as are all characters and institutions portrayed within the story.

Photographs are a different matter. If you wish to include internal shots I would assume it is simply good manners to ask the proprietor's permission beforehand.

H3K

Offline Poggy

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2014, 07:04:43 AM »
Thank you
Guess that places are ok, but my short story is actually based on a small fishing port on the Norfolk Coast, i've changed the name of this village as it is quite small to a made up name so its not quite so identifiable,

One the agencies I supply photos to send emails out saying they would like photos of this or that, one of the themes recently was textures or patterns so armed with my trusty canon i went around various places taking shots of brick walls, much to the amusement of passers by, the shots i took close up of the tudor bricks and lime mortar they accepted as they said the source was unidentifiable, but I also took other shots stepping back each time until the building was identifiable, at that point the agency said no, the other agency likewise would not accept photos of the front of the building but were happy to accept photos of the rear of the building snapped inside the formal gardens, yet the first agency would only accept front shots of the house if supported by a intellectual property release.

Lets I say I take a photo of Buckingham Palace in London, ok the copyright for the photo is mine, i would imagine that this iconic building is photographed many times in a day, but unlike tourists if I included it in lets say a travel guide to London would I need to obtain permission to reproduce the photo in the book if it was photographed some distance away and could be considered a general touristy type photo or only if i stuck my head through the fence and took a photo that way
« Last Edit: May 10, 2014, 07:06:59 AM by Poggy »

Offline 510bhan

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2014, 07:20:34 AM »
I've referenced real places in my stories to give an idea of 'where', so when my crowd go to Norfolk, several villages are mentioned and tourist attractions, but the action takes place in a fictitious street/road. The landscape was important because the RTA happens in one of the few hilly spots. Similarly in the stories set in Northern Ireland, everywhere else is real except where the mc comes from and does her killing. City Hall is there, the Law Courts, some towns and villages. In London I mention Big Ben, Whitehall and Parliament. The Metropolitan Police, The Chief Constable and the Prime Minister are referenced but not as active characters in the story.  ::)

I've seen this done by other authors and as long as there is nothing negative attached to the establishment -- carry on.

Offline junel

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2014, 09:03:13 AM »
Thank you
Guess that places are ok, but my short story is actually based on a small fishing port on the Norfolk Coast, i've changed the name of this village as it is quite small to a made up name so its not quite so identifiable,

I was once advised, unless your writing fantasy or sci-fi, and you're writing, say, romance or drama, you should always use real places, like the names of real towns and real cities. That's because readers want to know the places they are reading about exist and that the story really could happen in those places. I don't know how true that advice is, but it does make sense to me.

Offline Poggy

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2014, 09:42:36 AM »
Thank you
I can understand that in large cities and towns but would it work in say a small place, in my book the fictious name of the village is Riddington on Sea, yet the real village on which it is based upon is Wells next the Sea, I know when Ian Rankin wrote his Rebus Novels he describes  how he visited a small bar in I think Edinburgh and it was featured in one or more of his Rebus novels, some would say that Wells is a town rather than a village, the problem i have is could I say i went in a pub called The Old Black Bull, sat by the window looking out across xxxxxx street describing the scene and the shops on the opposite side of the road and mentioning the names of the shops and the type of goods sold, or would i be required to seek permission first from each of the shop owners and probably in writing.

Thank you to everyone who are taking the time to read this thread as I appreciate your input, I am finding the subject hard to grasp and your help is so very much appreciated
Mike

Offline Poggy

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2014, 09:45:29 AM »
I think Hillwalker3000 note of a typical disclaimer that you could apply in the front of the book is a good idea,

I bet Hillwalker 3000 is a munro basher or similar

Offline 510bhan

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2014, 09:53:29 AM »
Change the name of the pub -- or just to be on the safe side or refer to it as a popular local hostelry and simply look across the street without naming it. You can be specific about what is sold in the shops but you don't have to name them.

I sat by the window in The Rampant Deer, sipping a pint of the local brew and noticed how the village had changed. Of course the souvenir shops remained but now there were banks, building societies and charity shops everywhere. The village had become more of a town and coffee houses catering for visitors and residents alike occupied every third or fourth premises. Large boards advertising the day's specials littered the footpaths, competing for business. :-\

Thank you
I can understand that in large cities and towns but would it work in say a small place, in my book the fictious name of the village is Riddington on Sea, yet the real village on which it is based upon is Wells next the Sea, I know when Ian Rankin wrote his Rebus Novels he describes  how he visited a small bar in I think Edinburgh and it was featured in one or more of his Rebus novels, some would say that Wells is a town rather than a village, the problem i have is could I say i went in a pub called The Old Black Bull, sat by the window looking out across xxxxxx street describing the scene and the shops on the opposite side of the road and mentioning the names of the shops and the type of goods sold, or would i be required to seek permission first from each of the shop owners and probably in writing.

Thank you to everyone who are taking the time to read this thread as I appreciate your input, I am finding the subject hard to grasp and your help is so very much appreciated
Mike

hillwalker3000

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2014, 09:58:39 AM »
I bet Hillwalker 3000 is a munro basher or similar

'similar' - a hillwalker who climbs his favourite hills as often as he can rather than working his way through a list and doing most of them only the once.

I'm curious now - are you writing a travel guide or a novel? If it's a novel why are you listing all the shops and what they sell??

I'm close to finishing my latest YA novel set in a real village - my home village. The names of the hotel and pub have been changed but anyone who lives here will immediately know the location I had in mind. I name-check the local supermarket because one of my killer's victims works there. I'm not exactly advertising the fact that this supermarket only employs potential victims so I don't see any problem. In fact some of the 'locals' are hoping they will appear in the book. . . fotunately, they do not.

H3K

Offline junel

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2014, 10:09:33 AM »
I've referenced real places in my stories to give an idea of 'where', so when my crowd go to Norfolk, several villages are mentioned and tourist attractions, but the action takes place in a fictitious street/road. The landscape was important because the RTA happens in one of the few hilly spots. Similarly in the stories set in Northern Ireland, everywhere else is real except where the mc comes from and does her killing. City Hall is there, the Law Courts, some towns and villages. In London I mention Big Ben, Whitehall and Parliament. The Metropolitan Police, The Chief Constable and the Prime Minister are referenced but not as active characters in the story.  ::)

I've seen this done by other authors and as long as there is nothing negative attached to the establishment -- carry on.

You can use a real town or village name and embellish it with fictitious landmarks and places such as restaurants, hotels, etc, if you so wanted. Towns, cities, villages are fair game, but it can get tricky with establishments, but the general consensus seems to be, it is okay, providing you take due care.

A few links that will help you:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/693329-is-permission-needed-to-name-real-places-in-fiction-fantacy-books
http://nanowrimo.org/forums/mainstream-fiction/threads/147615
http://www.rightsofwriters.com/2010/12/can-i-mention-brand-name-products-in-my.html
https://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20130213095957AAjZWca

Rebus is notorious for his legendary pub crawls.  ;)

But that brings up an interesting point. You can imagine fans of the Rebus series wanting to visit Edinburgh and the very same drinking holes that the inspector frequents. If they were fictitious , they couldn't do that.  :-\

Another point, if you're lucky enough to find an agent and publisher, as I understand it, before seeing print, a team of lawyers will go through your manuscript with a fine tooth comb taking out anything that could invite litigation. But don't quote me on that one, as the smaller publishers may not be able to afford this.

Good luck.  :)
« Last Edit: May 10, 2014, 10:15:08 AM by junel »

Offline Gyppo

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2014, 11:16:53 AM »
Unless you want to create an entirely fictional world, such as in science fiction, then real places are great.  They anchor your work of fiction in a real world, which makes your story more believable.

Even if the reader doesn't know the location exactly you, as the writer, will be describing the place you know.  But with broad brushstrokes please, not too much detail unless absolutely relevant to the story.

But remember a story is about people and how they interact, not the backdrop.   Look at it this way... When you go to see a play and the curtain rises on an almost empty stage,with a cobbled street rising up a hill into the distance,the scene is set. You don't analyse the brush strokes of the set painter, or the possibly warped perspective needed to turn a flat sheet into a three dimensional image.  But as soon as the actors appear you focus on them, and if they strike a bum note you'll find it hard to willingly suspend your disbelief.

In our case the actors are our characters and how we make them strut and stumble.  If we get it right the exact location and backdrop becomes almost - but never entirely - irrelevant.  Readers want to know what the people are doing,  If the buildings and streets are a help or an obstacle to the characters then they're important, otherwise not that much.

If you have a hunted man running the length of a street and being utterly exhausted it needs to be believably long or uphill.  Or steeply downhill.  They're an absolute bugger to run down, despite gravity being seemingly on your side.  If the real street isn't so arduous then you can be sure some damned pedant will take delight in pointing this out.  Probably a fellow writer ;-)  Likewise if you make a feature of the church having a crooked spire, it had better be at least lopsided.

Gyppo

« Last Edit: May 11, 2014, 08:31:01 AM by Gyppo »
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Wolfe

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2014, 11:30:35 AM »
Two cautions:

1. Ask permission if you're in doubt. This is especially true for private businesses. The bonus? They like the free advertisement if you put them in a positive light. So much so, they'll even send you free stuff if they like your work.

2. Be exact. If you use New York City, for example, know some readers will nail you if you get details wrong. And they're vocal about it.

Otherwise, as the others have stated, you're good to go. Just remember to do your research for accuracy.

Artemis Quark

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2014, 04:22:12 PM »
I agree with the advice regarding names of places, etc. If you look at the front matter of most fiction books it contains verbiage about the 'coincidental' use of real names. For example:

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are a product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, religious entities, events or locales is entirely coincidence.

Since you mentioned that you use stock agencies for your photography you are no doubt familiar with property and model releases. If the purpose of use is 'editorial' such as a newspaper article, then no releases are required as far as I know. If you intend to make money by selling something (a book), that is commercial use and all private property and recognizable people must provide releases for you or the publisher to have on file.

As I mentioned to you in a separate post a few days ago, I am thinking about using images of birds, buildings,  symbols, etc. in my middle-grade/YA fantasy novella. Not unlike a picture book, albeit aimed at a slightly older reader (10-20 years old), I am hoping the images will enhance the story and help with 'suspension of disbelief' that serves to immerse the reader into the story. Especially since the story takes place within the past five years. I own the copyright on the images or they have been taken from public domain.

A bit redundant to the already good advice given by others, but hopefully helpful.

Artemis Quark

Offline Poggy

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2014, 07:38:47 AM »
Well thank you everyone for such good detailed replies, I never expected such a good response , ..Hillwalker, sorry if i gave the impression i was going to name individual brands, that was purely for the type of enquiry i had in mind....June1. thank you for the links ,iwill check those out also, so to summarise its ok to name real places providing that the names of streets or buildings which play a major part in the story/plot are fictious any any refence to a real building , town, village are shown in a positive light and seeking permission if appropriate is advised, thanks again everyone for your comments, so it looks like Riddington on Sea may become Wells next the Sea and the reedcutters arms may be simply referred to as the village pub, if i know that the name of the pub does not exist in my named town then can i continue to use it as a fictious name in the story
Mike

hillwalker3000

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Re: What details can be used in a story
« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2014, 09:43:22 AM »
to summarise its ok to name real places providing that the names of streets or buildings which play a major part in the story/plot are fictious

There's no problem keeping street names - even identifiable buildings (e.g. 'we parked outside the bank on Beach Road).

it looks like Riddington on Sea may become Wells next the Sea and the reedcutters arms may be simply referred to as the village pub, if i know that the name of the pub does not exist in my named town then can i continue to use it as a fictious name in the story

Of course you can. I'd guess if the Reedcutters Arms is on Main Street you can replace it with the Bull's Nostril on Main Street. Those readers who already know the area will figure out which pub you mean anyway. Just don't be tempted to caricature the existing barmaid or landlord.

H3K