Recently I have noticed an annoying trend I call ‘branding’ – that is using product names to suggest character traits – and it seems to be catching on across the media.
|Guggenheim Museum – Bilbao|
I suppose some of it comes from the social media attempts to market everything. And perhaps television is more responsible for this trend, but now branding is showing up in fiction frequently.
I have seen a fair amount of it in workshops, writing groups and a couple of novels over the past couple of years.
For example, a writer might wish to suggest that a character in a story is rich and shallow, so the character immediately sports a Rolex watch and drives a Mercedes, and readers are reminded of this fact often. While this might be sufficient for some characters with ‘walk-on parts’ – this begs the question of whether such a character is even needed if this is all we get as readers.
Repeating these facts to reinforce and remind does little to draw readers into the story, and in fact serves to insult readers who bring quite a lot to the written page. Complexity is bypassed for a quick product placement. Readers deserve more than this.
And while the car a character owns, drives, steals or leases, as well as the scotch they drink or the jewelry they wear, suggests a range of possibilities about individuals and their choices, it does not do enough to provide satisfying character development.
Writers who get caught up ‘literally’ in the “show-don’t-tell-school” of writing rules can find themselves grabbing the first glittery material object at hand to show something about character, but this odd habit of writing can undercut the depth and quality of the work.
About Jan Bowman