Posted in Writing

Product/Pop Culture References in Writing

The work in progress that’s been getting the bulk of my attention lately is contemporary. Or should I say “roughly contemporary.” I don’t plan on explicitly stating what the year is, but I do date it unintentionally because I describe events that took place recently as having taken place “last year.” I also drop product names like I would in everyday conversation whenever I feel it’s appropriate. I even mention celebrity names.

It’s a strange feeling for me. My finished manuscript is fantasy (yay for making up a world from scratch!) and my other WIP doesn’t feel like it needs any particular setting other than “roughly about whenever you’re reading it,” so there aren’t any product or pop culture references. In this one, I just felt like the characters needed to discuss things like a real person would. But then again, whenever I read these things in other books, I can’t help but feel like the book is dated.

When I take a look at my other stab at contemporary YA fiction (part of the mess that eventually morphed into the finished manuscript, which I love–and there’s no contemporary in the final product), I cringe for more reasons than one, but one passage in particular stood out. I had the narrator commenting on a iPhone like it was a brand-new thing. Now it’s several years old, and the character’s response to it seems outdated. By the time this WIP sees the light of day (which I hope it does!), will I be left with a similar feeling?

Do you think peppering a contemporary manuscript with product names or pop culture references is acceptable or distracting? Do you think it dates the action too much?


Author of YA speculative fiction and cozy paranormal mysteries.


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