Saturday, August 24, 2013
"Flight-or-fight instincts welled up. She jerked her arm loose, retreating to the far corner near the only window. In the dull glow from the fire in the iron stove, his towering form wavered and stretched. His costume was straight out of the Matrix, right down to the long leather coat and black boots. An enormous sword, sheathed in black leather, rested on the rough table near the door." © Faery Sword by Anny Cook 2013
When I wrote the paragraph above, I made a classic mistake with my reference to the Matrix. Such references are known as pop culture references. Generally, they are short-lived. Every generation has a set of references familiar only to them.
"Sock it to me!"
"Kilroy was here!"
"The truth is out there..."
Using a popular reference can be tricky. In this day of global availability of reading material, such a reference might be puzzling--or outright offensive--to folks in other cultures.
In the example cited above, I'll keep it, only because it's from my heroine's viewpoint. In the following two or three paragraphs I'll expand the image in such a way the reader will have a clear picture of the stranger.
But! Clarification can sometimes lead to unnecessary redundancy. How important is the reference to the story? For the average reader, describing a bag as a Coach bag is so much noise. What color is it? Leather? Size? Shape? If the point is to convey it's cost, say an expensive bag, or perhaps indicate it's out of the reach of the heroine's budget.
Not every woman lusts after stiletto heels. Some prefer hiking boots or Doc Martens. Choose your popular references wisely.