1. Christopher Snape.
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    Christopher Snape. Member

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    Intertextuality.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Christopher Snape., Jan 20, 2015.

    I'm quite curious as to how many users try this technique. Essentially it's referencing other works that complement your own in some way. For example, Atonement has a character who is mulling over his sexual desire constantly referencing Freud's essays and Grey's Anatomy (the book) in a scene.

    A personal concern is that my use of intertextuality might seem gratuitous, to the point where my narrative ends up resembling Family Guy. At the moment I only directly reference one other work, but I'm thinking of extending this to three by the novel's end. A secondary concern that also aggravates this fear is that the works I'm referencing aren't...stereotypically...cerebral.

    All three are songs released through the 1970s. So perhaps relevant to the halcyon days of my parents, when music was supposedly 'deep' and 'insightful' unlike the 'garbage of today'.

    But in the same breath they aren't academic journals or novels. So I fear they fall into the category of 'pop culture' references. Personally I detest the trend of constantly making pop culture references for the sake of having pop culture references in modern day fiction, and would hate to realise that I myself could be adding to this morass.

    For those curious, the planned uses of intertextuality are:

    Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin: Late in the story, my protagonists will climb a tall mountain that extends past the clouds and meet a godlike character. The mountain itself will also have a temple built in the style of the Tower of Babel, otherwise known as the biblical Stairway to Heaven.

    (also, it was a complete accident but I realised that, since my MC travels west to his hometown and confronts his internal demons there, the line "there's a feeling I get, when I look to the west" is actually relevant!)

    Carry on Wayward Son by Kansas: This one was only brainstormed today (the song's relevance, not the plot point - I've had that for years). Basically, in this same hometown of my MC, there's a blacksmith bemoaning the fate of his son. The specifics aren't revealed yet, but I'm planning on having a plot twist/stinger as an epilogue where he begins singing the first four lines of the song. Right after the readership is clued into what happened to his progeny, but I'm not going to spoil that yet.

    Rasputin by Boney M: This one is interesting for me: it started off being a bit of a dumb reference in a chapter title - back before I had a dislike of them - but became more and more crucial as I developed my characters and setting. The very same town I've mentioned twice above is supposed to have a Russian aesthetic. Because of this I named three key characters after Tsar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra and Grigori Rasputin. I believe it's relevant not only because of my focus on politics and history, but also since it hints to their dynamic ('Nick' is strict, 'Gregory' is a sleazy womaniser, and 'Alexandra', while being Nick's girlfriend, is also a frivolous woman who is thought to be...ahem...adventurous).

    Also, just like Stairway to Heaven, there's an accidental link in the lyrics. Back before I even knew of the Rasputin song, I planned a scene where the MC would rescue his pet cat in this town after it went missing. Surely enough, there's a line in the song that reads "there was a cat that really was gone." Huh.


    So those were my thoughts regarding intertextuality (and a spiel on my story apparently). Another issue that popped into my mind was copyright; whether I could get in trouble for referencing other works in my own. Does anyone else have this worry, or could shed light on it?
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2015
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is not a technique I employ. My works take place in locations and times where the referencing of such material would be profoundly anachronistic or disjointed. There are several works I have read that do make use of this technique, though. Sometimes I am aware of it, as in M. John Harrison's Kefahuchi tract trilogy where several musicians are made reference in obscure ways; other times I am unaware and learn only later, as in David Gerrold's War against the Chtorr series where Gerrold pays homage to Heinlein's Starship Troopers by repurposing the citizenship training.
     
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  3. Jenurik Name
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    Jenurik Name Member

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    I'd just... not do it, especially since they're not texts, they're songs. At most, one song, definitely not three, it could be cool to have it as a theme. Any given novel in existence can relate to one of several songs, but authors don't do it exactly because of what you describe.
     
  4. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I could quite happily have a moment of comic relief where your characters are sombrely climbing the Tower of Babel and after many hours of climbing, while exhausted, one of them starts to sing "There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold. And she's buying a stairway to heaven."
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Dan Simmons has a lot of references from The Wizard of Oz in the Hyperion series including having the characters sing, "we're off to see the wizard" as they head toward the Time Tombs at the end of the first book. I thought it was hokey but it didn't ruin the story.

    I think it would work if done right and well integrated into the story. Why not try a couple chapters and have them critiqued?

    I like your new word, by the way. :)
     
  6. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Am I the only one who read the title as intersexuality?
    Had a really hard time understanding the OP until I realized my mistake :p
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    You need to be careful about copyright when quoting lines from a song. I think four lines from a song would definitely require permission from... whomever owns rights to the song.

    I think you'd be okay referring to the Stairway to Heaven, though.
     
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  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry to say, but as worded here, your attempt at intertextuality seems to me to be very gratuitous, and close to resembling Family Guy. Part of the problem you guessed. You're not referencing classic texts, like the Bible or Shakespeare. Seeing 70's music, (and I'm a Zeppelin fan) feels rather hokey to me. Worse, the way you're introducing this seems rather obvious. Finally, I fail to see why referencing these works is necessary, other than a gratuitous attempt at homage. If your novel was a rock novel, I'd get it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2015
  9. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    You are indeed not.

    I'm one on this with a syntax/text analysis textbook we worked with in university. It said intertextuality is a kind ego boost, paying tribute both to the author's and reader's knowledge.

    Another point of view is that by employing intertextuality the author can say a lot more between the lines than he's saying. So I learn that Joe Abercrombie's book The Blade Itself is a reference to Homer's "The blade itself incites to deeds of violence." (Interesting to note Jesus said the same).
     
  10. Christopher Snape.
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    Christopher Snape. Member

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    What...I've always been heterosexual!! :D Just joking, I know what you're getting at.

    If it helps my case at all, my work is not overly serious. The goddess wields an electric guitar and controls lightning from her mountain, for example! At the moment it's not overly merry either, but I'm planning to rectify this in future drafts.

    Also, there's a point early on in the story where the main character is shown a collection of 70's songs, one of which (a fictional piece) triggers a new plot point that is integral to the narrative.

    Music isn't the sole overarching theme, but it's there.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2015

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