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Pop Culture References


Superpride

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I always had a problem with adding pop culture references to my stories since I believe these references, whether it be current celebrities or popular trends, will be outdated within a few years and only confuse readers who are not knowledgeable on the topic.  In my past writing, I usually make the pop culture reference vague, like instead of saying Facebook I'd say social media or create a satirical name of the pop culture reference, like instead of saying Twitter and tweets it would be Chirrup and chirps, kind of like what the Grand Theft Auto series does.

 

What are your thoughts about writers using pop culture references in their writing, or if you're a writer, do you use them yourself?

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Honestly I don't use them in my work much, if at all. Likely because I don't use them personally. I have zero interest and I'm not convinced they are good for us for the most part.

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I use them so much it probably drives some crazy.

 

My series is US based and relies on current events so those references are a necessity. At my age, I'm not too worried about what readers will think in 20 years. I'm not likely to be around.

 

But my use of actual locations has been extremely gratifying. From readers eating somewhere because I had my characters do the same, to someone wondering why they couldn't find something when they googled it even though every other place I mentioned in the chapter they were able to read more about.

 

No matter what we write or how we do it, sooner or later it all becomes dated. From Shakespeare to Hemingway to King, the references and the writing will one day be out of style. Sir Arthur C. Clarke references faxes in a couple of his stories, who remembers using that type of communication? I had one of my younger characters ask what a Rolodex was and it made at least one reader laugh. If your story's based in the real world, certain references are important to give a sense of time and place. You can't write about 1970s New York gay culture without Studio 54 or Fire Island references. It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

 

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i don't mind pop culture references.  they can add to the story by setting the scene.  talking about the dial up tones when booting up your computer, lets you know that it's early 1990's.  talking about sending tweets or putting something on your insta-story brings you into the 2000-teens

 

that being said, i don't think it's necessary. not using pop culture references isn't a deal breaker.  tim doesn't use them, but we still know the basic time that the story happens.  does this mean that his stories will be more timeless, less dated than Carlos'?  too early to tell really, not sure it matters. but i think  if a story deals with timeless issues, the blow to a relationship that an accident brings, like we see in Changes; or watching a young person grow into who he is to become as in the CJ stories, i think that's what makes a story timeless, and not dated.

it's the story tellers job to set the scene.  how he or she goes about it is a matter of style.  there isn't a wrong or right.

Edited by mollyhousemouse
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I think pop culture references are appropriate depending on who is telling the story and when it is set.

 

I look at my own life, family, and friends when I am writing. A few years ago when I wrote my first story on GA, I based it on real locations in and around Patchogue, N.Y.. Recently, Patchogue is undergoing a Renaissance of sorts and half the places I described are gone now.

 

I think pop culture can help set a story in a certain time. Whether you discuss Woodstock,  landing on the moon, the disco era, the big hair of the eighties, boy bands of the 90s, the change that the www created in 2000, or how recent changes in media affect everything it puts your story into a time and place. Even trying to leave them out can date a story.

 

How much or how little you include is up to each writer, but trying to ignore cell phones, media, social apps, or other cues might lead people into taking the story for a different time or alternate earth. I think that is why I prefer fantasy and science fiction. 

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