When Pop Culture References Attack!

Posted: March 13, 2014 in Self-publishing
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve discovered that pop culture references, no matter how dated, find their way into my work more often than Taylor Swift changes boyfriends. While I was finalizing Signal Fire mere weeks ago, I found that I’d included references to both The Simpsons and South Park in back-to-back chapters. Chapters one and two, for those of you keeping score at home. In the end, Matt Groening’s animated family was cast aside in favor of the sons of Stone and Parker. I don’t think the creator of the Life in Hell comics will lose any sleep over my decision. Besides, there’s a solid Simpsons reference in A World Gone Gray.

To this very day, obscure pop culture references infest my drafts like Michael Keaton’s cockroaches infested Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine’s dream home in Pacific Heights. Just this morning, I found myself gleefully hat-tipping Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome while working on Signal Fire‘s sequel. That was on page three. Carnac only knows how many more long-forgotten allusions will set up shop on my hard drive by the time I get to the end of the story.

The problem with including pop culture references in a novel is, of course, that by the time the novel reaches the bookshelves or your readers’ tablets (weeks, months, even years after its final edit), the majority of those references are going to have that “not-so-fresh” feeling. As writers much more talented than I have noted, it’s generally a good idea to keep Los del Rio and Balloon Boy out of your final draft as it’s likely most of your readers will have no idea who the hell you’re talking about by the time the thing’s published. It’ll make your book seem more dated than Anna Kournikova.

One of these days I might take that advice. In the meantime though, I think I’ll keep on truckin’ with the pop culture references. Replacing them now would be like replacing Jane Pauley with Deborah Norville. And nobody wants that.

  1. luciesmoker says:

    HA! My editor had to take out Max Headroom but she got a good laugh out of discovering him.

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