This is based on that question, but from a tone point of view.

Let's say I have a story taking place in a near-future version of Boston, characters are meeting for coffee.

I have no issue saying the story is in Boston. However, having the characters "meet in Starbucks" sounds... wrong.

Similarly, using real locations and landmarks often seems weird, especially if it is in a place I know well (I live in Boston).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using real world brands and places? When should it or should it not be used?

(Again, I am not asking for copyright advice, as it was well covered by the above question.)

1 Answer 1


Specificity can be helpful. Just as you can characterize the protagonist by telling us that he shuffled into the courtroom in his flame-colored flip flops, you can show the characters' preferences and habits (and maybe their economic situation) through their choices of brands, locations, and their reactions to well-known landmarks. The character who grabs a burger from McDonald's may have a different lifestyle from the one who insists on shopping only at Whole Foods. In addition, people often enjoy learning about other places through fiction. A character who knows the ins and outs of Boston could be fun to follow around.

However, random name-dropping of real-life brands and locations can create a "dated" or commercial feel to a piece. I haven't seen "literary" works use them unless for a clear, specific purpose.

  • Another negative, though, is that the real brands can carry political/cultural baggage unrelated to your story.
    – Anna M
    Commented Feb 27, 2013 at 0:22

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