1. Steve Day

    Steve Day Member

    Jul 6, 2013
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    A question on referencing ‘pop culture/classics’:

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Steve Day, Jul 28, 2013.

    I was recently told not to mention other published bits because the reader may not know them.

    The discussion was interrupted by Bruce Springsteen, singing in Swope’s(A vietnam vet) shirt pocket.
    Got in a little hometown jam so they put a rifle in my hand
    Sent me off to a foreign land to go and kill the yellow man.

    “Right. You do know who (President)Reagan was, don’t you?”
    “Sure. Lear’s daughter. She dies at the end, but so does the entire cast. It’s supposed to be one of his best tragedies, although I found it kind of funny.”
    Joe gave Mick a fishy look, wondered was his leg being pulled.

    “I could hear you two last night, discussing the performance of Paul Lynde in ‘Bye Bye Birdy’. L’il said it was too marvelous for words, on a level with anything Nathan Lane has done, while Big thought it was too campy.” ("you two" are gay)

    All three of these outside references are used for character development. Is it lazy shorthand to say "the sky was Van Gogh's acid green"?
  2. jazzabel

    jazzabel Agent Provocateur Contributor

    Jan 5, 2012
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    I see nothing wrong with it, as long as you describe what the piece of art makes the character feel, or you explain in a couple of words who the person was. It's sometimes tricky to fit it in naturally, but if it's a dialogue, the other person can provide information 'Van Gogh? Isn't he that Dutch guy who painted sunflowers and cut of his own ear?' kinda thing.

    One of my favourite current writers Jo Nesbo mentions songs often, and I never heard of any of those artists, I just take it as the story character's likes and dislikes and if I really want to know more, I Google it. These days, there's no excuse to be a lazy reader ;)
  3. Mr.Knight

    Mr.Knight New Member

    Jul 28, 2013
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    Northern Ireland
    I think that referencing other work in your own is absolutely fine. I do it all the time, however, you do run the risk that your audience may not understand the reference.

    I can only speak for myself, and I am far from a professional writer (in terms of selling work - I write as it is my passion) but if a reader doesn't understand the reference to Van Gogh, they are always welcome to look it up and learn something as they do.
  4. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    if you do it, make sure the reference is to something most readers will get, if the book isn't read by the general public for several years, because that's how long it can take to get it published [unless you self-pub]...

    and you cannot use song lyrics unless you have obtained permission to do so from the lyricist...

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