Actual places

by Krista Fenstad
(Bothell, WA)

Question: Is it ever OK to mention the names of actual places in a fictional novel? Such as a theatre on Broadway or a small bar in a small town as long as it is positive and not derogatory?

Answer: Of course. I couldn't count the number of times the Eiffel Tower has been mentioned in fiction, or the Empire State Building, or St. Paul's Cathedral. Famous places are fair game.

I am not a lawyer, so don't take this as gospel, but as far as I know, the only time you run into trouble is if something you write harms someone's business by damaging their reputation. If you make someone famous in a good way, why would they object?

I remember a science fiction novel by Spider Robinson that included a character based on a well-known Toronto restauranteur who had a unique gift for remembering what his customers' favourite meals were. If anything, the book only increased the man's business.

Of course, I believe Spider did change the name of the character and the restaurant, which is often a safer course of action if you're at all concerned how someone will interpret your description of them. But in this case, those who had been to the restaurant knew instantly who the character was based on.

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