Thursday, January 10, 2013

You Bet Your Bieber!

by Alan

How much pop culture and/or current references do you put in your work? Do you fear dating the material versus giving the story a sense of immediacy?

This question is as groovy as the Fab Four playing Frisbee with Mick and Keith! sgt pepper

I have absolutely no hesitation about using any and all (clever) pop culture/current references I can wedge in (as long as they fit the story and the characters, of course). I believe the type of car someone drives or the kind of beverage he drinks or the TV shows a person watches says a lot about his character. A guy driving a Ford pick-up drinking Iron City who watches Justified is bound to travel in different circles than someone driving a Lexus drinking mangotinis who’s partial to PBS. (Yes, I’m including brand names in the discussion.)

To me, including pop culture references in a character’s dialogue (or interior monologue) adds verisimilitude. I mean, there are a lot of people (in the real world) enamored with pop culture (have you seen the tabloids at the supermarket checkout counters?). So why wouldn’t my fictional characters do the same? If they didn’t, they wouldn’t seem real, at least not to me.

Am I worried about my work becoming dated? Not in the least. I’d be ecstatic if people are still reading my work far enough in the future that my current references feel dated.

I do try to hedge my bets, where possible. When I do make these references, I generally try to pick an icon or very well-established brand, for two major reasons. I want as many people to “get” the reference as possible, and I believe that the more well-known someone or something is, the longer the staying power will be.

Besides, if Stephen King can get away with peppering his stories with pop culture references, why can’t I?


Meredith Cole said...

Good answer, Alan! I guess the only challenge is to make sure it's something that will last (at least for the next few years in our speedy publishing cycle...)

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I use them from time to time. You are right, it wouldn't seem normal for a story not to have them. Most of our characters don't live on an island without TV!