What are your best tips for using real names in novels?
Merging Fiction With Reality
In our stories, it may come across our minds to use real names in novels of companies, places, or people. While that can benefit to build on the realism and relatability of your piece, you may run into some issues if your portrayal is taken the wrong way. Here are my ideas on how to bring these aspects into your storytelling in the most professional and entertaining way.
Companies and Places
It’s easy for readers to make a connection in the story when you’re talking about something well-known like a restaurant, clothing brand, or car. But how important is it really to include this in your story? Personally, I think it’s better to leave these brand names out of a story if:
- You’re expressing information that isn’t factual.
- You’re using the brand name too much in the story.
- It isn’t relevant to the core of the story.
If one of your characters drives a Mercedes and they mention features of the car or information about the company that just isn’t true, ask yourself yourself why you’re including that. Is your character misinformed? Do you need to do a little more research on the brand? It may be easier to create your own fictional car brand and show what it represents as opposed to trying to show off an existing one.
You also don’t need to say the brand name too much especially if it’s not the focal point of the story. It’s like advertising in movies. If you see a brand name in every other scene, it might get annoying to the viewer! Mention the name in passing and then don’t say it again because you’ve already established your character drives a Mercedes.
The same principles apply to place names like cities or landmarks. It’s important to represent them the right way unless there’s a reason for the misinformation. If you’re going to include something fictional about a place, consider creating your own city from scratch with a new name. Do your research about the real life thing you’re talking about and avoid misinterpretation unless it’s for educational purposes of the character.
Names in Non-Fiction
Are you inclined to write non-fiction stories? You may be thinking about using real names of the people involved. My advice is to make up new ones completely unless you have express contest from the individual. Even in the age of open technology and social media, people do care about their privacy. If they don’t want people knowing their real identity in a book, you should respect that, especially if it’s a sensitive topic like your experience with PTSD and the doctors who helped you. It’s important to include names so readers know who you’re referring to instead of saying Doctor 1, but it’s much more beneficial to include fictitious names.
Another important thing to remember is to include honest disclaimers in the front matter of your book to explain the following:
- You changed the names to protect identities.
- The opinions described in the book are that of the author’s only.
- Any relation to real life people, places, or things are coincidental.
- To ensure that you are open with the reader about what to expect from your work.
If you need more ideas, you can Google book disclaimers or look in books of your favourite authors to make sure you’ve covered everything you need.
Writing a book is challenging, so make sure you understand the professionalism and etiquette when using real names.
Thank you so much for reading Using Real Names in Novels!
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