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Absolutely! Fictional towns are a great way to go. An older example is Dashiell Hammett's "Poisonville" in the novel Red Harvest.

A more recent example would be Frank Miller's Sin City.

You often see this in video games, because there can be permission issues with using a certain building or architectural design. And if the player is blowing things up and killing people, the real city/location probably doesn't look kindly upon that anyway.

The benefit of creating fictional places, businesses, etc. is that you get to work in your own unique mythology, which makes your intellectual property that much stronger. Everyone can use Las Vegas as a setting, but only Frank Miller (and Robert Rodriguez) can use Sin City.

I'm all for making things up, if it would enrich the world-building of your story or I.P.


I love dreaming up fictional towns when writing short stories. You can create a town that has that certain "feel" you want your story to have.

But I also like using well-known cities, like Chicago, because it gives the story a sense of reality it may not otherwise have.

I try to use brand names when I can, again to add to the reality of the story, but I'm very carefull when using them. I think plain common sense is key with this issue.

This is a great blog! Keep up the good work!!!

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Greg Hofmann

When I first began writing my novel two years ago, I found the name Luther Flood on a gravestone in Western Cemetery in Portland. I liked the name so much that I clung to it, and the name began to write the story. Instead of applying the name to the character of a young man, I changed the main character to a zombie who wakes up in Western Cemetery and moves back into town, starting new. I have used ZERO truly biographical information, aside from the name and location of the gravestone.

Am I digging myself a hole here? Do I need to contact living family members to get permission? Am I "defaming" he and his family? The true-life Luther Flood passed away in 1855. Any feedback that you could provide on this issue would be well received. Thank you.

Crawford Kilian

I don't think you have anything to worry about, Greg. You can't defame the dead, and any number of descendants of famous people have had to deal with fictional portrayals of their ancestors.

I've got a novel on the back burner that includes the young Winston Churchill as a character, and it's never crossed my mind that his descendants might object...or that I should care if they did.


Just a quick question, starting to write a novel and was wondering can i use store names? Can I use street names for the town? what is can I legally put in a book.



To Crystal and Crawford Kilian... Crystal: certainly you can use street names. A former writing lecturer of mine emphasised the importance of showing a familiarity of the urban geography where your work is set. Giving out addresses that really exist, however, might create problems for the people who actually live there! The movie Notting Hill caused an issue like this.
Crawford: Just wanted to remark on the difficulties that can arise from using names of living people, even unintentionally: if your book is ever adapted for the screen there can be problems. The studio that made Fight Club had to pay up for potential damages to the only Marla Singer they could find in the United States. It was either that or change the charac's name.

Pattie J

I have written a fictional novel using real life organizations such as the F.B.I and the Police dept. Some of the characters have turned out to be corrupted F.B.I agents. I also named a real city that the F.B.I organization was from. Is it ok to do that?

Crawford Kilian

Hi, Pattie--

Don't worry about it.

Cheers and good luck,



Are you allowed to use well-known brand names such as Coca-Cola and PlayStation in fiction writing?

Crawford Kilian

Hi, Penny--

Sure, you can use brand names, if only to lend verisimilitude. Think of all the novels that use brand names!

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