Re: RARA-AVIS: Product Placement

Fred Willard (
Sun, 10 Jan 1999 11:30:49 -0500 At 08:18 AM 1/9/99 -0500, you wrote:
>Recently Bill noted that:
>"To "fill" a story with products, however, would "fix" it in a definite place
>and time, even give it a sort of planned obsolescence. If it was good
>enough to
>be reprinted often, I guess, at a certain point, it would need footnotes.I
>guess... What do the writers think?"

It seems like we are talking about two different things. One is product
descriptions for verisimilitude, the other is product placement for money.
(Or a lifetime of free shirts.)

I just finished a novel I call : Princess Naughty and the Voodoo Cadillac.
There's this character, Ray Justus, who buys a Cadillac on the cheap
because it's supposed to carry a curse of death. To me, Ray was the sort of
guy who would like Eldo's and not care much one way or the other about a
curse of death. No Problem... I'm also not driving a free Cadillac (sigh).

Just imagine by some strange, surreal twist of fate that I was offered
money to change the name of the book to Princess Naughty and the Voodoo
Toyota Corolla. It wouldn't have quite the same ring.

So the point I was trying to make earlier in this conversation is that I
think products should only be included in service to the story. That is the
unspoken contract between the writer and reader. (I'll tell a good story.
In exchange, please buy this book.)

I don't think a reader needs to be led to wonder if a scene was included
because you were trying to sell mouthwash. It messes with the suspension of

After someone has contributed as much as Elmore Leonard, I think the rules
can be bent. I also know something about the financial realities of making
films and don't have any problems with background product placement in
films as long as it doesn't interfere in any way with what the main
business of getting on with the meaning. There's a big difference between
visual and written language.

In written language, once you bring something out of the background by
describing it, it has meaning - intended or not.


Down on Ponce a novel by Fred Willard
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