How do I (not) include pop culture fads in a period piece?


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Thread: How do I (not) include pop culture fads in a period piece?

  1. #1

    How do I (not) include pop culture fads in a period piece?

    So I want to write a novel about the lives of various high-schoolers set in the late 2010's. The story is meant to explore the nihilistic and aimless nature of "Gen Z" in this specific point of time of American history.

    As a Gen Z'er myself, I know that an important part of the culture surrounding this generation is their interest in internet trends and whatnot. So how do I, if at all, include these aspects of the culture surrounding my people? I'm worried that my novel will end up like Ready Player One if I include references to fads of this time period. But I'm also worried that it might not be considered to historically accurate if I don't
    include them.

    What should I do?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by The-90's-Sucked View Post
    So I want to write a novel about the lives of various high-schoolers set in the late 2010's. The story is meant to explore the nihilistic and aimless nature of "Gen Z" in this specific point of time of American history.

    As a Gen Z'er myself, I know that an important part of the culture surrounding this generation is their interest in internet trends and whatnot. So how do I, if at all, include these aspects of the culture surrounding my people? I'm worried that my novel will end up like Ready Player One if I include references to fads of this time period. But I'm also worried that it might not be considered to historically accurate if I don't
    include them.

    What should I do?
    I would absolutely include them. The period trend references would be timely, even after ten years or so, because they would eventually become nostalgic. The one thing that your story will have that likely won't change in time, is the trials and tribulations that people of your age group go through. Yes, it may be a certain period of nihilistic behaviour, but it would give you an opportunity as an insider to share the motivations of your generation and what trends are drivers. Likely, other generations would have experienced their own brand of it, with other driving forces.

    As a baby boomer, this story would really interest me. I have noticed the shifting religious beliefs, and have wondered about it. I have also wondered if the use of social media has augmented this shift.

    I also think that your story could be a useful documentation piece, since you are writing it in current day. If someone were to try to capture and understand how the trends affect the essence of this culture once it has passed, it may not be as authentic. I think your story will be very popular. Good idea!

    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by The-90's-Sucked View Post
    So I want to write a novel about the lives of various high-schoolers set in the late 2010's. The story is meant to explore the nihilistic and aimless nature of "Gen Z" in this specific point of time of American history.

    As a Gen Z'er myself, I know that an important part of the culture surrounding this generation is their interest in internet trends and whatnot. So how do I, if at all, include these aspects of the culture surrounding my people? I'm worried that my novel will end up like Ready Player One if I include references to fads of this time period. But I'm also worried that it might not be considered to historically accurate if I don't
    include them.

    What should I do?
    Hey, this sounds pretty good, like a Rules of Attraction for the times. I'd say: style it out. Factor the inevitable demise of all this stuff into your arc. Embrace the fact that you're going to write about YakYak or whatever and that your characters are going to go insanely and colourfully gaga about it for one chapter, and then it will never be mentioned again except in the form of an insult.

    What's wrong with Ready Player One though?


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  4. #4
    I think you include pop-culture references and you use them to support whatever you're trying to show--- I would think. It's like how you immediately recognize 50's music when you hear it, it's got certain elements. Adding elements/pop-culture adds flavor and authenticity. I have also wondered what is the legality of that? If I mention a Coldplay song on the radio... what's the legality? I'm not sure. Otherwise, I'm not sure what the purpose of omitting would be.

    Ready Player-One goes too far to me, personally. Although in the movie with The Shining I got really excited to experience that in a different way. But the nostalgia/being into the pop-culture and feeling so cool for it is kind of the point for that author. I wasn't sure that I liked it being the point of the experience. Partially because you're almost forced to enjoy the pop-culture that the author enjoyed and since I lived through the time that he was nostalgic about I wasn't wholley (is wholey not a word? completely, then) sold on his picks. I wasn't always willing to engage in the nostalgia he wrote, but...someone else might have fully engaged. I think time pieces with pop-culture can make a time period fascinating instead of annoying. With Mad Men is was 100% fascinating to me. With The Crown it is 100% fascinating to me too. It just depends on how you write it and what you want your reader to enjoy and how much of your story is devoted to it. Does it enhance the story or detract? Does it require your audience to think it is so so cool? That's what I felt with Ready Player One is that I was expected to think it was just so cool. I was into a lot of eclectic things in the 80's and 90's and I didn't feel that my interests defined me to the point that some of these interests seem to define that book... so.... annoying... to ME, but not to others. Also, if someone showed me my interests, a story with the exact music and interests I was into... well then they had better have it wrapped into a good story that showed character dynamics. Don't make liking that music or pop-culture required for liking the book or the character. I would so so hate that... HATE that. How DARE they use my music tastes in that way! But if they just happened to have one of my 90's 4AD songs playing in the background to an already cool story and character and keep building that character into someone complex. Hmm....maybe okay... rambling here. Winding down. Done.

  5. #5
    Include them to the extent that your characters find them important or not. Use your characters reactions to them to help draw them. They are there to provide valuable context, not the overriding atmosphere.

  6. #6
    I'm too late to be the first to point this out, but yeah. Include references because they are meaningful to your characters, not your audience. If your characters quote Strongbad to one another, that's fine if it's a justifiable part of how they interact. If they drop what they're doing and say "Hey Reader, do you remember fidget spinners?" then skip it. A setting is not dated if it contains its own coherent world, and themes are not dated if they are important to the plot and character development. People still read The Great Gatsby, after all, many years after the Jazz Age.

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