Thursday, July 2, 2009

Real or Fake?

Tip of the Day: Check out this fabulous list of YA authors on Twitter.

Nah, I'm not talking about boobs. Something else has been bugging me. Something I struggle with in my writing-- and I'm trying to figure out what's the right and wrong way to handle this kind of thing. Maybe you can help.

How do you, as readers, feel when a real person, place, show etc. is mentioned in a book? Do you prefer real people not be mentioned? Take Miley Cyrus. If I want to say someone looked like Miley Cyrus should I not do that? Or is it bad if my character went to a Miley Cyrus concert? Should I say a Micky Disdale concert instead? (Micky being a made-up character). What about mixing things up and your character hanging up a poster of real celebrities (Jonas Brothers?) but getting to meet a fake group backstage at a concert (the Wayne Boys?). Should you only use real celebrities (stores, shows etc.) in your book, only fake, or can you mix the two?

I've been trying to spot this kind of thing in other YA books because it helps me to see what other authors have done. I noticed in Meg Cabot's new book, Being Nikki, she does have fake models (Lulu and her MC, Nikki) and briefly mentions a real model (Giselle), and talks about a fake product (Stark underwear) and a real product (Victoria Secret underwear). So I'm leaning toward this kind of mix thing being okay. I can see where editors might not like it, however, because it could seem like you're endorsing a product or company or that you're dissing a company (and we don't want to do that). I said something not-so-nice about the quality of another coffee company's coffee in my book and I had to change the name of the company to a fictional one. Looking back, this was probably a smart move. I don't want to insult an entire company right?

And mentioning real products/people etc. could date your book. So then we're making judgments a to whether or not something will still be popular years down the road. Say Twitter. If I have a character using twitter in my book is twitter going to suddenly fizzle out in 2011 and readers are going to say, "OMG, I can't believe her character is on Twitter. No one tweets anymore!"

See what I mean? Thinking about this stuff makes my head hurt. Weigh in-- what's your opinion?

Kristina, Miss Delighted to Debut


Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

I completely understand your worries about dating your book, but the examples you've given are pretty solid. I think it depends on the context and the presentation. If you read some of Stephen King's classics, you see a lot of product references and nods to real people.

I would say as long as your audience gets it, go for it!

Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

And good luck with your upcoming coffee klatch and book signing!!

Anonymous said...

I usually try to go fake, because the world changes so fast that by the time the book comes out, that celebrity could be disgraced or dead, that landmark may have been torn down, that product may be renamed or off the market.

Kate Fall said...

AUDREY WAIT is a great example of the mix. The bands she loves like AFI are real, but when she kisses the lead singer of a "real" band, it's actually a fictional person and band. And she works at a fictional ice cream chain. But I don't think the book would've worked as well if most of the music references weren't genuine.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Sarah Dessen has made everything up, I believe, and uses it consistently in her books. I like that.

I have done both. My books aren't very literary, and I don't see them being on the shelves 20 years from now, so I haven't worried about it that much. I think if you're writing something really literary, it's best to try and not date the book.

DeenaML said...

I like fake references. Sometimes made up ones are even better than the real ones out there! But at the same time, there are some references that have and will stand the test of time. Like Starbucks. I mean, when SB is no longer around, I bet the books that reference it will still make sense in the time period context. I think... :)

Emily Marshall said...

I think it depends on the book and the instance. Sometimes you have to use pop-culture references that are real, otherwise it won't make any sense. And it's probably best to stick with stuff that you are pretty confident will stand the test of time, or atleast be remembered for awhile. I think for more comic-lighter books it's more acceptable to use real products/celebrities, etc.