Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing Wednesday: Using Pop Culture References

I enjoy reading books with pop culture references--as long as they're current. Which means that most references have an expiration date. Unless you're reading a book the month or year it came out, the references can feel really dated, really fast.

If I'm reading a new release, the references feel fresh and current. I relate to the characters more. I laugh at the jokes involving current TV shows, books, celebrities, etc. And as an author, it's fun to describe exactly what show my characters are watching or what book they're reading.

If I'm reading something from a few years ago, the references can feel stale. Celebrity couples break up, shows go off the air, and instead of drawing me into the story, the references instead make me think, I forgot about that.

I noticed so many outdated references in a book I read that I started jotting them down:
  • Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt. Does anyone even remember when they were a couple? Brangelina is the only story now. Of course, if someone stumbles upon this post in a year or two, will they look at that reference and wonder Bran... who?
  • The Today Show with Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera. Maybe the author should have left out the names of the hosts? The Today Show has been around for a long time.  The book I read was only a few years old, and we're already on the second new host since Meredith left.
  • Teenage vampire movies. It's true they were wildly popular for a while, but now The Hunger Games in all rage.
  • TomKat. Again, does anyone remember this old news?
It's hard to know when to incorporate lots of details into your books and when to purposefully be vague with the idea that someone reading it years later will still appreciate the story without stumbling over outdated references.

Do you enjoy books that contain elements of pop culture?

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