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FOR WRITERS: I Know That Place!

cafe bar - pixabay


Today’s writer topic comes from QSFer J. Scott Coatsworth:

I’m just wrapping up my ongoing serial project, which is set here in Sacramento. I have used the names of local businesses (restaurants, stores, etc) rather liberally, but some friends have advised me against this for potential libel issues. I’m planning to release a book version of the story next year, and am wondering whether I should change the business names to something fictitious.

On the one hand, I love the local cachet the names give. On the other hand, I don’t wanna be sued.

What is your experience with this?

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1 thought on “FOR WRITERS: I Know That Place!”

  1. I use as many real names as I can so that locals of the city the book takes place in can have that moment “I’ve been there!” I wouldn’t worry about liability unless you cast a business in a bad light. The legality of artistic license is pretty lenient.

    The exception is when the location becomes a character in its own right. Where a lot of significant scenes are in it or a character owns it. In those cases I make up a name. Examples are an exclusive Lesbian Nightclub in Seattle called The Ballyhoo. It shows up in twelve separate books from three of my related series. I get readers saying all the time, “I went to Seattle and saw all the places you wrote about except the Ballyhoo.”

    Another is a bakery called, The Pike, in the Post Street Alley building at Pike Place Market. It appears in almost twenty of my books. I even have locals from time to time telling me they went looking for The Pike, because all my other location descriptions were real and they knew them.

    I think it adds realism to your stories if you include real places. People love reading places they know. If you omit business names, then following that logic you would have to omit places lie the Empire State Building. Heck even the White House. Or street names.

    So my rule of thumb is that if my characters are going to spend more than one scene at a specific place, then make up a name. Otherwise, do your research and mention real places. Again research to get it right because on the flip side, if your book has a local zoo on the wrong side of town, it may disenfranchise the readers in that town.


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