Monday, January 10, 2011

When A Little Becomes Too Much

So, I just finished reading the newest book in one of my favorite series. I loved it, as I've loved all the books, devoured it in a day and a half (only because I started reading it on a weekend and didn't have as many kid-free reading hours), it was as awesome as all the previous books and as all the future books will be (I'm sure).

However....

There were several instances in the book where some other books and movies were mentioned. I was amused at first, but then there was another reference (to another book), and then another one (this one to an older movie so they had to sort of explain it), and then another book  (again, with too much explanation...though I suppose kids younger than me *coughcough* might need the explanation), and another, etc, etc. There were quite a few.

Now, it wasn't the fact that these other books were mentioned that bothered me. It's kind of funny the first time a rival series is mentioned. But mentioning two or three....eh. Kind of like telling the same joke over and over.

As for the movie, it was a very popular movie that came out in the 90s. I dunno...I figure if you have to have a line after the "punch line" explaining who was in the movie or what it was about, then it kind of kills the purpose of having it in, you know? Plus, I've heard you shouldn't put specific media references in for that exact reason. Because a decade from now, a kid reading your book won't know who Brad Pitt is or what kind of show Friends was, so the reference won't make sense.

Then again, the kids reading it the day it comes out might get it.

What do you think? Should you include specific media references or drop other book's names in your novel? Pros? Cons?

8 comments:

Kristi said...

I'm with you on this one. I think you just have to be careful with it and if you do decide to be specific, KNOW that doing so is a risk you are willing to take. AND consider if not doing it will change anything. ;-)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

If your book's going to be a classic (of course you won't know if it will or not until later on), then no, don't do it.

But most books have short shelf lifes, so it probably doesn't make much difference.

However, now with ebooks, that might change my opinion again since many out of print books are now available again.

Christine Fonseca said...

I seriously avoid commerical references for the reasons you mentioned. But - maybe that's just me!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I agree with you, especially about not overdoing it. One reference to another book or author is plenty. I'm thinking of THE SHORT SECOND LIFE OF BREE TANNER when Bree goes into the bookstore to pick up 'the latest Hale novel.' In my opinion, that was perfect. For fans of Shannon Hale, it was crystal clear. For everybody else, it was a simple detail they could easily skip right over and continue to enjoy the book they were reading.

I sometimes slip pop culture references into my books, but when I'm rereading them, they always feel like red flags to me. I'm sure there's a way to leave them out and make the story that much stronger on its own.

Important things to think about. Thanks for the great post, Michelle!

Eric said...

You have to be very careful when inserting such mentions into your writing. As you say, if the reader doesn't know what you're referring to, the point is lost. And if they aren't getting the point, you've just lost the reader. Which is exactly what we DON'T want to do. I suppose if it's a very well known thing (such as saying Coke for all soft drinks, as it is in some portions of the US), it might be acceptable. But I lean towards avoidance on this one.

Matthew Rush said...

I don't do it at all, or at least I try not to. I would like to hope that my story could still be relevant even years and decades from now. One thing I loved about Harry Potter (even though I didn't realize it until later) was that it could have taken place in the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, whenever. I imagine kids will enjoy that series for years to come, without being pulled out of the story if they notice that the Weird Sisters are no longer in vogue.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I think you have to be careful with movies and songs in books. I know it can date them. Although I imagine if someone is interested in the book the song/movie wont matter. :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I wouldn't do it because having to explain punch lines surely slows down the pace of the novel as well as dating it.