Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Making References in Stories That Some People May Not Know

Those of you who have written stories, when you make references to other works, such as TV shows, books, movies, songs, etc., have you ever referenced anything that may seem obscure to some people? Or have you encountered such a reference that you needed to look up? It has occurred to me that did just this in my book I am currently working on. In fact, two obscure references in one chapter.

First, this one:

Earlier this year as I was looking through the TV Guide, I noticed a listing for a show on some cable station about dentistry. One night it said that Kim Fields, the black girl from The Facts of Life,  would be talking about braces on that night’s episode. She has been wearing them for some time now.  In real life, not just on the show. Again, I hate that show because that one girl is named Blair, so I don’t know if I would have watched this dentistry program if we had cable.  If I could go on TV like that, I’d say how much I hate having braces. 

I do not for sure know what cable channel or program it was, but I do recall seeing such a listing in TV Guide one summer night night back in the 1980s, the setting of my novel. Though I did not have cable at that time either, I do think it may have been the Cable Health Network, an early cable channel that was the precursor to the long-running cable channel Lifetime, and a program called  Dentistry Today. Both of these I do recall seeing listed in TV Guide back in the day.  If any of you had cable then, does any of this ring a bell to you? 

I found this image of a
billboard advertising the Cable Health Network.
Even if this might not be a well-known reference, the recollection of  the listing I had seen in the TV Guide just fit quite well into the story.

Then this reference:

Today I was looking through the books on my shelf in my bedroom coming across one I got from one of those book-order forms we would get at school each month.  One was called Banana Twist. I’m not sure why I ordered that one. I never looked at it much until today. As I flipped through the book, I saw that the boy in this book has braces. Well , that’s good, thought. I should love this story. 

This appears to be a hard-cover edition, but
I had the paperback edition with this
cover design.

Again, I'm not sure how many people will remember this book, but I know I did have it and did get it from those monthly book order forms we always got in grade school (I'm sure many of you remember those things). I also recalled how the main character's neighbor noted that the main character had braces. I tried searching for a reference to this line in the book but was unable to find any. But I know I saw this, and again, this recollection went well with the plot of my protagonist's anxiety over having to get braces and his subsequent adjustments to wearing them. 

On a side note, I appear to have invoked the TV Trope "Your Television Hates You," with these two references, but with a book instead of TV in one case, and seeing a listing for a TV program rather than the program itself. 


Jacqui said...

It's OK when people don't understand references to unknown books. It's when people miss references like "It's a Sophie's choice" or "Me thinks he doth protest too much" that I wonder! And they do.

Sandra Cox said...

Good point, Kali.

Jean Davis said...

As long as it's clear what the significance of the reference is in context (and both of your examples are) then I think it's fine to throw them in . Those who do remember those things will get a kick out of them. I liked facts of life, for example, but like the mention here, not because of Blair. :)

Sandra Cox said...

I'm sure a lot of kids will relate with the angst of wearing braces.