I'm about to self-pub my first novel, a domestic thriller with a time-travel twist, and in the story, one of my main characters abducts a child (he's not a pedophile).

He owns a 1970 Barracuda--the car that he uses in the abduction--and I'm wondering if I'll run into any libel/legal issues with that. I don't mention the make (Plymouth).

Similarly, my other character, a charismatic pediatrician and all-around good guy drives a Tesla. From what I've researched, that shouldn't be a problem, nor should the fact that my MC drives a "beat-up, dependable old Civic".

Hoping for some definitive advice on this subject!

  • 2
    Welcome to Writing.SE! You've said your character isn't a paedophile, but I think it's still worth you mentioning why he actually did abduct the child. If his intentions are good in some way, you may find yourself with more leeway than if he intends to murder the child and throw his dismembered corpse into a river.
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 23, 2020 at 21:23
  • Thanks for the nice welcome, F1Krazy, and for the great feedback.The child abductor’s intentions are never actually revealed, apart from the fact that he vows not to touch his captor sexually until she turns 18; however, he is murdered before that day comes. He does beat and torture her during the 7 years prior to that, though. Hmm...it sounds like I’ll have to come up with a fake car brand after all. I hope I can find one that’s as bad-ass as Barracuda.
    – MJ Mumford
    Sep 24, 2020 at 23:38
  • Why does the car brand matter at all? Why mention it?
    – Laurel
    Sep 25, 2020 at 0:54
  • Hi Laurel...it’s how the abductor is linked to the kidnapping. It plays a huge part. In fact, the car itself is almost another character.
    – MJ Mumford
    Sep 25, 2020 at 1:01

2 Answers 2


My usual response to this kind of question is that you shouldnt worry about it, and let your publishers lawyers handle it. But you state you are self publishing, so here we go:

When a car manufacturer sells a car they can no longer control what the purchaser does with it. If they use it to commit a crime, that does not in any way reflect on the manufacturer. Therefore, suggesting that this may happen does not damage the reputation of the manufacturer, so they have no legitimate cause for illegal action.

Things may be different if your story suggests that the model of car was specifically more useful for this purpose than others and the manufacturer knew or should have known this, or if they were aware it would be used like this and did nothing to prevent it.

Of course there is nothing to prevent a company launching a baseless legal suit against you, but this seems unlikely. At least where I live you can get insurance against legal costs relatively cheaply, which is something it may be worth investing in. I would suggest this for all small business owners, and self publishing is no different.

(I'm not a lawyer, but have researched this subject to be confident that this is what most lawyers would say about it - but obviously this is not legal advice and you should probably confirm this with a specialist in your jurisdiction)


CAN he? Yes.

Should he? Depends what your IP lawyer tells you about your chances of being sued if he does; and your tolerance for risk of losing your entire bank account.

So May he? Should you? Depends on what your lawyer says after looking at the mss.

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