What I'm reading: Because of You, by Jessica Scott (Nook)
If you haven't read my weekend post, please take a minute to check it out, because there's giveaway information you don't want to miss. My Newsletter will go out on Wednesday, and while you can still get an extra entry if you sign up after that date, you won't get the newsletter until the next issue comes out in April.
Today is one of those strange days. It's January 2nd, which is usually a "normal" day. But because New Year's Day fell on a Sunday, it's a holiday. But yesterday was the "real" New Year's Day. I'm confused! There's something just not "right" about not having the Rose Parade on television, not to mention the Bowl Games. But the NFL has commandeered Sundays—or so we think. But before that, back in 1890, the Tournament of Roses organizers established the precedent that it would never be held on a Sunday. Why? Because they were afraid it might scare the horses tied up outside the church. (I'm not making this up, honest. I'm not that clever. See for yourself.)
So, I'm feeling that there are probably a lot of you out there who aren't into your normal Monday routines, either. I thank you for stopping by.
While watching so many football games (or just having them on in the background—I'm not a faithful "watcher"), the repeated commercials quickly grated. While I grasp the concept that there's no way these manufacturers could create enough commercials so they're all different, hearing the same ones over and over had me hitting the mute button. The same thing happened in a couple of books I read recently.
Which brings me to "product placement" in our novels. Most of my publishers don't like using brand names. One makes its authors list every trademarked product and the page it's on so their legal department can make sure they're not going to get sued. Another goes so far as to list every single one in a "disclaimer" at the front of the book. The temptation exists to make up or avoid brand names. However, you still have to look them up in the trademark database, because a made-up name could actually be real!
In my mind, using brand names serves a purpose. They're quickly identifiable by the reader. If I refer to a "cream-filled chocolate wafer cookie" or a "doughnut shaped toasted oat cereal", you're probably going to stop, re-read, regroup, and then convert those descriptions to Oreos and Cheerios. One editor I spoke with said she'd never let "Walmart" through. She'd change it to "mega discount store". For the above reasons, I'm glad she didn't edit my manuscript for Danger in Deer Ridge. Walmart, in addition to being the only "large discount store" where the book is set, has that immediate image.
Cars are another one. I use brand names because they also say something about the character. A snazzy red sports car doesn't say the same thing to me as 'Vette or Porsche.
In When Danger Calls, my hero came into a bar and ordered "Jack". I skirted the issue and never referred to it as "Jack Daniels", but when the heroine wanted to upgrade his drink, I did refer to Knob Creek. And I asked the company if it was okay. They thought it was cool that I wanted to use their drink in the book.
In Where Danger Hides, I set a scene at Denny's. Not because it was important that it actually take place at a Denny's, but because that one word would create the right atmosphere for most American readers. Again, I spoke to Denny's legal department and got them to send permission to the publisher. They thought it was cool, too.
One caveat. If you're using something real, Don't Have Bad Stuff Happen. You don't want to have someone get food poisoning at Denny's, or have your character get drunk on Knob Creek and kill someone in a traffic accident. And definitely watch the dead bodies in real public places.
Oh – and why I started this post to begin with. I did get bugged by constant references to brand names in a couple of books I read recently. Both were cell phones. One author's character always referred to her Blackberry, and the other to her iPhone. I have a cell phone. It happens to be a Motorola Droid 3, but if I think about it in any context, it's my cell phone. Is there something special about iPhones and Blackberrys (or is it Blackberries?) that makes their owners think of them by brand name? How do you think of your cell phone? Or your car?
Tomorrow, my first guest of 2012 is Susan Paturzo, who's talking about her writing goals for the year.
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