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Writing Books/Use of School's Name in Fiction


QUESTION: I would appreciate your help in understanding whether I can use the name of a state school in my novel. For example, would it be illegal to write about a fictitious incident at the University of Alaska or a real junior college? Thanks for your help!

ANSWER: Carol:

No problem doing that at all.  Real schools are used all the time in fiction.

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QUESTION: I really appreciate your response to my question. Is there any way possible that you can give me a few examples of authors using real schools in fiction? Any book titles would be great. Once again, thanks  for your help!

Well, I recall Philip Roth's protagonist in Goodbye, Columbus had attended Penn State.  This sticks out, I think, because that's where I went to school.  There are many  more, but I'm drawing a blank right now.

I'd like to add a caveat to my previous reply.  

While featuring an actual school is perfectly legal, you  might want to ask yourself why you need to.  If the event you're planning to portray is a bad one (say, a school shooting, or some sort of scandal), you might be better off using a fictional school.  This way, you'd be able to do without worrying if people would be upset in any way by it.

If, however, you're just planning to mention a school that a character attends, using a real one can add a layer of realism to your fiction.

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Vincent M. Wales


I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.


For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

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