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Quossum
06-26-2008, 09:56 PM
I have a character in a WIP who's a seamstress and a bit of a TV junkie, so I have mentioned some shows that she watches by name, including Survivor, Hell's Kitchen, and of course Project Runway. I've mentioned specifc major events from the program, too.

It certainly gives a sense of realism to the story, but on the other hand, I'm having second thoughts about it. Should I instead make up a sewing competition show, give it a fictional name like Sew Smarts or something? Everyone reading the story I'm sure will "know" that I'm referring to Project Runway, but it won't date the story as much.

Any thoughts on this or similar issues?

--Q

Maryn
06-26-2008, 10:25 PM
I think there's a serious risk of dating the work, since it could be years before somebody buys your novel at a book store. What if those shows are off the air, or worse, have gone down in flames over some scandal?

I like your idea of creating similar shows, which to the savvy reader are clearly real shows, but which won't detract from the work like a real show that's off the air could.

Maryn, who liked Sew Smart

maestrowork
06-26-2008, 10:39 PM
You can mention anything you want in fiction -- just not use the content of the book, song, show, screenplay, etc. without permission.

Maryn is right -- you run the risk of dating your work. Then again, if it works for Stephen King (he has tons of pop culture references in his books), it could work for you, too.

ReneC
06-26-2008, 10:42 PM
Titles are not copywrited so you can use the names of shows, movies, songs, books, et cetera with impunity.

Quossum
06-27-2008, 06:21 PM
LOL--Stephen King was *exactly* who I was thinking of. His books have such a sense of immediacy and reality due to all those references...but then they do date the books. Which in a way is okay, if the stories are "supposed" to take place during a certain year, but if you want your story to be "timeless," then I guess you wouldn't want that.

What about mentioning real websites? If I have a cynical-type character mention snopes.com, is that kosher? I suppose the same warnings about the place imploding would apply. Could a character who's an author mention AbsoluteWrite?

Thank you for the thoughtful replies!
--Q

Danger Jane
06-27-2008, 09:14 PM
LOL--Stephen King was *exactly* who I was thinking of. His books have such a sense of immediacy and reality due to all those references...but then they do date the books. Which in a way is okay, if the stories are "supposed" to take place during a certain year, but if you want your story to be "timeless," then I guess you wouldn't want that.

What about mentioning real websites? If I have a cynical-type character mention snopes.com, is that kosher? I suppose the same warnings about the place imploding would apply. Could a character who's an author mention AbsoluteWrite?

Thank you for the thoughtful replies!
--Q

Well, the problem with all those pop culture references King makes is that his younger readers, like me, don't get them. So I get that it's something from before I was born and usually I don't sit there pondering, but sometimes the head-scratching gets in the way of the "This Is Genuine 1985".

Websites...I'd be careful. They historically haven't seemed to have the name recognition of a very popular TV show, like Project Runway. Plus even a reader who didn't know Project Runway would get the idea of a reality sewing competition show pretty easily. That's just IMO, though.

DamaNegra
06-27-2008, 10:04 PM
Yes, the risk of making references to pop culture in your books is not only that it will 'date' them, but there is also a chance that your readers are not going to understand the reference or even know what the hell you're talking about. So now you have a very confused reader that's maybe not going to get the point of your passage and you run the risk that this sudden jerk of reality will snap the reader our of your book.

If you want to keep the references, then do so. But don't just say "he watched Hell's Kitchen", but add a little something to explain exactly what Hell's Kitchen is about and why it's important in mainstream culture. That way, you tackle both the 'dating' and the 'audience not understanding' problems.

StephanieFox
06-27-2008, 10:20 PM
I think it would work if you set the story a bit in the past. Let's say that the book is supposed to be set in 1985 or 1965 or something else, the referrence would add authenticity.

I'm not sure if I agree with Danger Jane. Perhaps the younger set 'wouldn't get' what the show was about, but I can read stories set in a time before I was born and I certainly 'get it.' I can read about taking a trolley car and although I've never ridden on one, I get the idea. I can read about people sitting around the radio, listening to 'Nick Carter, Private Eye' and although I've never heard the show, I get the idea of what it might be about.

Perhaps kids are different today. I don't know about that.

willietheshakes
06-27-2008, 10:20 PM
If you want to keep the references, then do so. But don't just say "he watched Hell's Kitchen", but add a little something to explain exactly what Hell's Kitchen is about and why it's important in mainstream culture. That way, you tackle both the 'dating' and the 'audience not understanding' problems.

I disagree pretty fundamentally with this.
References work as part of the world of the work. If they're there, they should be integrated into the fabric (like other things in that fabric which we don't notice -- the presence or absence of computers, cell phones, torches, etc) of the work itself. Stopping to explain the reference and its importance can only jerk the reader out of the story and out of the world that the references are being used to create.

IMNSHO.

Gynn
06-28-2008, 03:52 AM
Go ahead and put them in. If I'm reading your book, I'll probably get the gist of what the show is by its name. If not, and it badly bothers me for whatever reason, I'll google it later!

Danger Jane
06-28-2008, 04:05 AM
I think it would work if you set the story a bit in the past. Let's say that the book is supposed to be set in 1985 or 1965 or something else, the referrence would add authenticity.

I'm not sure if I agree with Danger Jane. Perhaps the younger set 'wouldn't get' what the show was about, but I can read stories set in a time before I was born and I certainly 'get it.' I can read about taking a trolley car and although I've never ridden on one, I get the idea. I can read about people sitting around the radio, listening to 'Nick Carter, Private Eye' and although I've never heard the show, I get the idea of what it might be about.

Perhaps kids are different today. I don't know about that.

Sure. I'm all for references that make a story feel more comprehensive. I've just noticed occasionally (sorry, can't remember any specifics...) that a reference doesn't make sense to me, it probably would to someone a few years older, and it actually does throw me a bit out of the story. Usually this is when it's just plain not clear that the character/author is making a pop culture reference--not when the family's listening to "Nick Carter, Private Eye" on the radio. Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there.

DamaNegra
06-28-2008, 07:38 AM
I disagree pretty fundamentally with this.
References work as part of the world of the work. If they're there, they should be integrated into the fabric (like other things in that fabric which we don't notice -- the presence or absence of computers, cell phones, torches, etc) of the work itself. Stopping to explain the reference and its importance can only jerk the reader out of the story and out of the world that the references are being used to create.

IMNSHO.

Well, that's where writerly skills come into play, isn't it? Make the reference subtle, just enough so that the reader will get the idea what you're talking about, but not enough so it will stick out.

I'll stick to the Hell's Kitchen example. It's not the same to write:

"I turned the TV on, hoping they were playing Hell's Kitchen, a reality show about aspiring cooks."

as writing:

"I was in the mood for a reality show, so I turned the TV on to catch Hell's Kitchen."

See the difference? (aside from the fact that my examples suck?)

Quossum
06-28-2008, 11:36 PM
You guys are good. I love this place for making me think about lil' bitty ol' issues in my writing in ways I haven't considered before.

Thank you all so much!

--Q