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References, Outside or Otherwise

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Stone Cold Steve Tuna

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One of the most refreshing things I’ve found as a writer is the ability to add in references to outside media, current events, etc. A well placed reference is fun to toss in, rewarding when found by the reader, and can give your ego a good pat when it’s recognized by the reader. Most of the time trivia and references are just added for extra “flavor,” though building a plot using a simple reference is not unheard of. 

However, as with everything else, it’s possible to overdo or ham up a reference. If you make it really in your face, then it fails because it becomes too obvious and self serving. Its an amateur mistake that I make far too often. It’s not the end of the world if something goes unnoticed. If they want to get the reference, they will.

With the exception of inside jokes, there aren’t often reasons to repeat references throughout the story. If the reference is important to the plot, repetition can be important.  Otherwise, repetition has roughly the same effect as making the reference too obvious.

All in all, it’s a fairly simple balance to meet, but can pack a lot of extra flavor for the story, which is nice. Just remember that less is more in most cases.

Side note: I hid one in here somewhere.

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