Edit: This blog post is the first one I wrote with WordPress’ new formatting style. If something is off in the formatting of this blog, odds are it’s because I messed something up with the new format, so bear with me.
I have a weird habit of trying to make my stories mean more than they do. I turned a dumb coming-of-age story that was so full of tropes that I really can’t read it today, into some weird complex story of morals where practically every character involved went through an arc. For some reason, I included a reference to The Aeneid in it. A fully context-heavy reference. I was re-reading Being More Social to cross-check the timeline of another story I’m working on, and I practically rolled my eyes at myself when I came upon the reference (it’s the line in Latin that Nicole gives at the election, for those curious).
Who in the sam hell was that for? Which sex story reader was going to stop, give a sensible chuckle and go, “Ah, much like Persephone, Nicole is justifying her use of power to a seemingly over-powered force”? Nobody. The answer is nobody.
Fun fact, the names in Teacher’s Threat aren’t picked willy-nilly – they’re a reference to Dracula. Mina, Lucy, even Johnny etc, they’re all references to characters in that story, and attempting to further highlight Ms. Wagner’s influence over her students, as well as her predatory position of power. Does that sort of stuff matter? Not really. Does referencing them make the story “smarter”? In no way. Stories become smarter by understanding more complex themes, conveying ideas more effortlessly, and inspiring more ideas to more people. Throwing in a Dracula reference didn’t make my story, or its author, smarter. So what does it do?
Something about the reference is oddly comforting to me. It’s like it better defines my story’s purpose. It’s like I’m paying homage to the stories and history that made my stories possible. If Dracula was never written, history would be entirely different, as would literature. With certain stories, if they were never written, their exact dynamics and themes might have gone undiscovered for a while longer. Maybe someday my stories will inspire others to write something similar. I find myself constantly inspired by good & bad sex stories alike, along with other stories. I want to recognize that inspiration in ways I can, and I guess the more primal part of my ape brain goes, “Me like Story A. Me write Story B. Me clearly quote Story A in Story B to show how me like Story A.”
I see other writers referencing older pieces too, and smugly tell me, “Did you catch my reference to <famous literary work>? I threw it in for my more clever readers. Perhaps if they’re truly smart they’ll understand the symbolism of my reference. ;)”
Fuck off. Reading shouldn’t be this Gatekeeping of the Smart Ones so that only the people who have read more famous literature can truly ‘appreciate the brilliance’ of going “hey look this dynamic is like Dracula haha isn’t that neat”. Doing it to make yourself feel better about your level of intellect is the wrong way to go about things. Doing it to remind yourself where you came from is a good way to remind you where you came from, and what you aspire to. In writing, music, sports, filmmaking, anything creative one can do. We’re all working off of inspirations – are we using that fact to boost our own status, or to truly understand and better ourselves? It’s worth thinking about. I’ll talk to you all next week.
One thought on “References & Inspirations”
In David Edding’s book “Regina’s Song,” he posits that all fiction is inspired by other fiction, and that in essence it is all a form of “fan fiction.” He then references Milton’s “Paradise Lost” as a retelling of 2 characters from another source with a “what if” scenario. (I don’t remember the other sources or the characters, and I don’t have it handy to check, but it was an interesting theory.)
I love when little references get thrown in like that. I didn’t recognize the source of Nicole’s remarks from the Aeneid, but I recognized that you had pulled them from an outside source that you found interesting and cool. Sometimes, those types of references absolutely send me to look at source material. I picked up Shakespeare’s Tempest because of reference made in an HP fanfic many years ago. A good story doesn’t rely upon it’s references to other works, but references like that can absolutely enrich an experience for those who recognize them.
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