Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dating Your Books

Tip of the Day: According to, you look 7 years younger if you have the person taking your photo turn off the flash and instead turn on a lamp in the room. Coolness.

So, they were right, I was wrong. Pop culture references do date your books. I love using them though! But yeah, not a good practice. And I'm going to try to stop right now. My editor has mentioned this to me before and often I get stubborn and want to keep such and such name in the book, thinking nah, this person will always be famous. But then, you know, the next thing hits and they're not famous anymore. Like Snooki. When she hit the Jersey Shore she tanked the career of the kids on The Hills.

"We thought The Hills was going to be like 90210 and we'd have another five to 10 years," Spencer says. "The ratings were consistent. But we never sawJersey Shore coming. Before, TV audiences were fine with seeing us all argue, but now they want you to punch one another in the face and hook up with three different people. Our cast was a bit boring and snoozeworthy in comparison. No wonder we got canceled."

Yeah. I was recently revising a book that I wrote a couple of years ago and guess what? I mention The Hills. Hmm. Instantly makes the book seem old. And Snooki will be on her way out eventually (let's hope) so I wouldn't want to mention her show either. So from now on I'm going to try to make it a rule to only use made-up famous people/shows etc.

Kristina, Miss See Me on the Shelves


Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

It's a great question, and you're right to be cautious. But I don't know that the answer always has to be all or nothing.

If you strip a realistically grounded book of all culture touchstones, it may feel a bit hollow.

I tend to err on the side of what's become iconic, even international as a reference point. Or, put another way, perhaps not Snooki but Sinatra. Not The Hills, but Star Wars.

It takes some framing and can't be forced. A character who's a horror buff may well cite a movie most of the audience has never heard of, but that's okay because it rings true to who she is.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I remember being shocked to read on a teen's blog that she didn't really remember 9/11, which I think of as being very current. Then I realized: it's been nine years already, which is a long time in the life of an MG or YA reader.

Anything we write today may take 1-2 years to finish and sell, and then 1-3 years after that before the publication process is complete, and it's very hard not to get obsolete.

But I think readers are somewhat forgiving of that, too--I know when I was growing up, I read older books along with current books. I was able to figure out the slang, and I didn't sneer at references to jitterbugging and sock hops and the like, even though they were long gone by then.

Kristina Springer said...

I see your point Cyn! And true Jen. In my book that came out in August I mentioned Oprah. I didn't know she was going off the air at the time I first wrote it. Think there's a chance teens in a few years will be like, Oprah who? :-)

DeenaML said...

I have one current reference in my wip that could totally be gone in a few I could just give it a fake name and detail what it is to make it more universal....