In reading some of my Amazon reviews (I know I shouldn’t, but they’re still very good), I noticed that two people commented on the specificity to which I wrote about certain brand names in SOMETHING MISSING, wondering if I received money from the companies mentioned as a form of product placement.
Certainly a fascinating idea, and one that I wouldn’t mind pursuing in the future, but the reason behind my specificity is two-fold:
Martin, the protagonist in SOMETHING MISSING, is more detail-oriented than anyone I know, and though he doesn’t tell the story first-person, I attempted to imbue the omniscient narrator of the story (me, I guess) with his characteristic obsession for detail as a means of enhancing and infusing the story with his character. My friend, Shep, referred to it as Martin-speak, and he heartily approved of the decision. So the use of brand names (Subaru Outback instead of station wagon, for example) was an attempt to do just this.
Also, I like to think that the reference to a Subaru Outback paints a different and far more specific picture in the reader’s mind than the word station wagon. Having grown up in the 1980s in the “way back” of a long, wide, wood-paneled station wagon, the word station wagon paints a very different picture than a station wagon of today.
But the idea of product placement in a novel is an interesting one. Would advertisers be intrigued by this idea at all? Unlike commercials, the references to specific products in a book could not be skipped over, but then again, if taken to the extreme, stories might become a morass of brand names and commercialism.
But it might be something worth exploring. For example, in my current manuscript, my protagonist, Wyatt, will eventually be driving a car. Probably a pick-up truck. If Ford would like to pay me to make that truck an F-150, with at least six specific references to it in the book, why not? As long as it fit the context and original intent of the story, would this be bad?
The businessman in me says no, but the writer and artist in me is beginning to wonder…