On Writing: Unasked Questions
If a book is to have a sequel, obviously you don’t want to give up all the information in the first installment. There should always be questions unanswered, mysteries to be solved, plot lines that need continuing. That is, after all, the point of a series. I’ve no problem with that.
What I take issue with is questions that are unasked.
“How did her parents know to hide from the supposedly-benevolent government?”
“Why are all these kids being experimented on?”
“Who the hell thought factions would actually work?”
It is fine if the answers to these questions are left for a later book. As long as the questions are posed, I know that they’ll be addressed later, I know that the author is aware that there is a question there. If these questions are ignored, what assurance do I have that they’ll be solved later? How do I know that it’s not going to remain a plot hole?
There are two things to keep in mind in this regard: every reader’s time is limited and perception is reality. I can’t read every book out there, so I’m not (usually) going to going to spend it on sequels when the first novel feels lacking. And, since I can’t read your mind and see that you plan to answer all my questions in a brilliant fashion, you have to let me know this is going to happen in the book I’m reading. If I perceive the book to be full of plot holes, then it doesn’t matter if they’re going to be filled in later, because right now all I’ve got are plot holes and no hope.
Have your characters wonder about things. Have them ask questions. Turn your plot holes into mysteries. Curious characters are your friend.
Signs Your Books Isn’t Ready for Submission
It’s really difficult to know whether or not your book is ready for submission. Even after you’ve revised it a dozen times and had beta readers pore over it, there’s still that lingering doubt that your book isn’t ready.
Some authors spend years trying to get one book that is submission ready, because, more often than not, their first books aren’t going to be the books that receive contracts. However, there are a few things you can look at in your book after all is said and done to make certain it is submission ready.
- Long prose. I remember in middle school we had to write a descriptive essay about something we thought was important. I wrote about my visit to Savannah, and the teacher wanted long, prose-y description. I wanted this story to be entered so badly in a writing contest, but the girl whose story ended up being chosen was chosen because she had the best, flowy prose. I failed this assignment because my descriptions weren’t flowery enough. I also remember in the eighth grade working on our descriptions for some writing test we all had to take and pass. I was describing ice cream, using ridiculously long words to do so. My teachers all praised me then, but that kind of prose isn’t acceptable in a novel. That kind of prose never should have been acceptable in school to begin with, especially for aspiring authors.
- Vague references. Some writers love to show off their literary knowledge by plugging in vague quotes of stellar literary writers your average reader may not have even heard of. They often do this at the beginning of chapters. Sometimes this can be meaningful, especially if your readers can connect the quotes to that particular chapter. But if there is no connection, they’re often annoying. Some writers will even use famous literary characters as a contrast to their own, but it can become so overbearing, especially if this character is constantly mentioning this literary character.
- Episodic storytelling. You need to at least have a basic idea of what the plot of your book is going to be, or else you’re going to fall into the trap of making each chapter seem like the episode of a television series instead of each chapter flowing smoothly into the next—even when you’re switching POVs. Did I tell you beta readers aren’t perfect? Sometimes they don’t catch this, especially if these episodic arcs are entertaining. But publishers and agents and the like want you to have a cohesive plot. So your chapter does not need to read like a single episode. It needs to read like it’s part of a much bigger plot—and it should be.
- Trite openings. Again, beta readers are imperfect and probably won’t always catch trite openings, especially if they’re not familiar with what trite openings may be. Publishing professionals, on the other hand, are familiar with trite openings because they’ve pored through hundreds of thousands of manuscripts, trying to find the perfect, publishable one. Some trite openings I can recall are ones that open with the weather or a character waking up from a dream. Those are probably the most common ones publishing professionals come across. Sometimes they can be effective, but they’re often not.
- 'You' plug-ins. Sometimes it’s obvious when you’ve put your opinion about a certain issue in a book. This takes away from the story itself, and the reader may even grow to dislike you, especially if it’s obvious the entire book is about you and your opinions on certain matters. For example, if you’re a gay writer and you’re writing about the gay experience, readers don’t want to read a character ranting about straight people, because then it becomes obvious that you’re the one ranting about straight people and not your character.
- Dialogue info dumps. Info dumps are too much information that is being delivered upfront. Newer writers can be guilty of this in exposition, and are especially guilty of this in dialogue. For example, if your character is talking to another character about how the world runs, you don’t want your character spending paragraphs upon paragraphs developing the world through dialogue instead of you developing the world through the characters’ experiences.
- Tom Swifties. You know that thing going around the internet that says ‘said is dead?’ Well, it’s really not dead at all. I don’t care what other writers tell you. It’s fine to use words other than ‘said’ once in a while, but as an editor of a lit mag, I can promise you that if you use a bunch of other tags other than ‘said,’ it becomes incredibly annoying and is something I would reject right away. So don’t listen to the naysayers who claim said is dead. Said is your best word, and I rarely use any word other than ‘said’ in my own stories. Sometimes I don’t even use dialogue tags at all, especially if the action is enough to convey the tone of the dialogue.
- Mary Sues. Mary Sues are perfect characters with no flaws. Nothing bad ever happens to them. Every character in the book loves them. And they always save the day. These characters are downright boring and are to be avoided at all costs.
- Word usage. If you’re unsure of a particular word’s meaning, or if you’re using a word correctly, you need to look it up. Just because Word gives you a bunch of synonyms for a particular word doesn’t mean those synonyms mean the same thing as the word you’re looking to replace.
- Spelling and grammar. Poor spelling and grammar is a guaranteed rejection. In fact, when I used to choose fiction pieces for my lit mag, if the pieces required more editing than a short story should need, I rejected them. If there are too many commas being used incorrectly, I’m not going to bother with that piece. I want a short story that doesn’t need too much editing. Of course, with novels, they’re still going to need a lot more editing by publishing professionals than short stories will, but a book littered with spelling and grammar mistakes—blatant ones—is going to be rejected from the first page.
You know my Ask Box is always open!
Writing Your Book and Finishing It
Recently I’ve been going on a writing binge with the current novel I’m working on. I’m about 43,000 words in, and I expect my book to clock out at about 65,000-70,000 words. I’ve been doing two chapters a day (some are short, like 6-7 pages, and some are 9-10 pages, but it’s been about 3,000-4,000 words a day). I am determined to have the draft finished by next week because I know that it is absolutely necessary that I begin content edits for the sequel to When Stars Die, currently titled The Stars Are Infinite. It’s crunch time for me, but this draft is my priority, because if I put it away unfinished, it’s going to be slow going getting back into it.
That’s how I function as a writer. I can’t do two projects at the same time, but I now know I can binge write, and I now know I can binge write at any time during the day. I am determined to try and get two chapters in today, even though I have a speech to deliver, some time to write before work at 4:30, and I won’t get home until 8:30. I’ll probably stay up until midnight, but I can’t stay up any later than that because I have work at 10:00 tomorrow. And then Saturday is going to be fun (both sarcasm and meaning it). That’s going to be a long, eight-hour day for me at work. And of course don’t even talk about Sundays. I do 12-5, and I HATE working Sundays, the dullest day of the week to work. Not to mention I have school work that needs to be done.
But I’m cramming, and I’m going to give you some advice on starting your book and finishing it.
A lot of writers suffer from starting a book and then quitting it. If you constantly do this, you’ll never meet your dream of being a professionally published writer—if that is your goal.
- Dream. We all dream of finishing our novels. I know I do. I dream of getting the draft done, taking a week or two off from it, and then coming back with renewed energy to revise every single page—and I LOVE revisions. Once you finish that book, you’re going to feel great about yourself. A fantastic day for me is being able to meet my writing goals—which is often doing a chapter a day. That means I’m getting one step closer to finishing the draft.
- Mix it up. I am an incredibly detailed planner. I write detailed summaries of everything I want to include in my chapters so that way I can draft a single chapter in about an hour with no issues what-so-ever. The only thing that will slow me is possible research that I need to do. I don’t get bored when I write. Sometimes I write things that aren’t on the outline. However, if you are using an outline and are getting bored, break away from that outline and write by the seat of your pants. Not everyone can adhere to an outline and make it through to the end.
- Discipline, discipline, discipline! You are the only one who can make yourself write that book. No one else can. For me, I sometimes dread the getting-to-the-writing part, but once I begin writing, I realize it’s not bad at all. I don’t know why I dread this. I can’t explain it, because it’s always great when I do begin writing. But once I’ve found my flow, you can’t stop me unless I have to stop. I think it’s just the sitting at the computer part that I kind of hate. I’m an active person, so being sedentary is something I dread. But if you have a goal—and you do need a goal—plant your butt down, dig your heels and hands in, and write in an attempt to meet that goal. Even if you don’t meet it, at least you wrote in your novel. Any writing, even if it’s just a paragraph, means there is that potential of finishing a book.
- Let the story speak for itself. Of course I’m following my outline, but if my character wants to talk about something relating to what’s happening, something that wasn’t even planned in the outline, I go for it. Gene was essentially telling me that he wanted readers to know more about him before this huge, awful thing happened to him. It’s little things, but it makes him more rounded, more human, more empathetic. So even if you have an outline, allow yourself to deviate from that outline if the story demands it.
- Take a break. Breaks are crucial. Even though I’m on a writing binge, I write one chapter, and I take a break for an hour to mess around on the internet, like watching ballets on Youtube. Or you can do another creative thing. I should probably do some painting after that one chapter. This will help you refresh yourself so that way you can get back to writing to meet whatever your goal of that day is. You can even take a few days off, probably no more than three, though. That’s okay. And I say no more than three, because you don’t want to become so distanced from the story that it becomes hard to get back to and finish. It was very difficult to get back to the current book I’m writing, because I only spent time doing edits for The Stars Are Infinite when I started school again, barely touching this current novel. But now I’m not giving myself any excuses to not write. I’m determined to write a chapter every day to complete this draft.
Ask Box is always open, and you can enter the giveaway just by going to my page and looking at the post below this one! It’s an autographed copy of my book and a 10 dollar Amazon gift card.
Body Language: Eyes
So I stumbled across this really useful thing which I use for writing and wanted to share it with you all.
The eyes are often called, with some justification, ‘the windows of the soul’ as they can send many different non-verbal signals. For reading body language this is quite useful as looking at people’s eyes are a normal part of communication (whilst gazing at other parts of the body can be seen as rather rude). When a person wears dark glasses, especially indoors, this prevents others from reading their eye signals. It is consequently rather disconcerting, which is why ‘gangsters’ and those seeking to appear powerful sometimes wear them.
- When a person looks upwards they are often thinking. In particular they are probably making pictures in their head and thus may well be an indicator of a visual thinker.
- When they are delivering a speech or presentation, looking up may be their recalling their prepared words.
- Looking upwards and to the left can indicate recalling a memory. Looking upwards and the right can indicate imaginative construction of a picture (which can hence betray a liar). Be careful with this: sometimes the directions are reversed — if in doubt, test the person by asking them to recall known facts or imagine something.
- Looking up may also be a signal of boredom as the person examines the surroundings in search of something more interesting.
- Head lowered and eyes looking back up at the other person is a coy and suggestive action as it combines the head down of submission with eye contact of attraction. It can also be judgemental, especially when combined with a frown.
- Looking at a person can be an act of power and domination. Looking down involves not looking at the other person, which hence may be a sign of submission (‘I am not a threat, really; please do not hurt me. You are so glorious I would be dazzled if I looked at you.’)
- Looking down can thus be a signal of submission. It can also indicate that the person is feeling guilty.
- A notable way that a lower person looks down at a higher person is by tilting their head back. Even taller people may do this.
- Looking down and to the left can indicate that they are talking to themselves (look for slight movement of the lips). Looking down and to the right can indicate that they are attending to internal emotions.
- In many cultures where eye contact is a rude or dominant signal, people will look down when talking with others in order to show respect.
- Much of our field of vision is in the horizontal plane, so when a person looks sideways, they are either looking away from what is in front of them or looking towards something that has taken their interest.
- A quick glance sideways can just be checking the source of a distraction to assess for threat or interest. It can also be done to show irritation (‘I didn’t appreciate that comment!’).
- Looking to the left can indicate a person recalling a sound. Looking to the right can indicate that they are imagining the sound. As with visual and other movements, this can be reversed and may need checking against known truth and fabrication.
- Eyes moving from side-to-side can indicate shiftiness and lying, as if the person is looking for an escape route in case they are found out.
- Lateral movement can also happen when the person is being conspiratorial, as if they are checking that nobody else is listening.
- Eyes may also move back and forth sideways (and sometimes up and down) when the person is visualizing a big picture and is literally looking it over.
- Looking at something shows an interest in it, whether it is a painting, a table or a person. When you look at something, then others who look at your eyes will feel compelled to follow your gaze to see what you are looking at. This is a remarkable skill as we are able to follow a gaze very accurately.
- When looking at a person normally, the gaze is usually at eye level or above (see eye contact, below). The gaze can also be a defocused looking at the general person.
- Looking at a person’s mouth can indicate that you would like to kiss them. Looking at sexual regions indicates a desire to have sexual relations with them.
- Looking up and down at a whole person is usually sizing them up, either as a potential threat or as a sexual partner (notice where the gaze lingers). This can be quite insulting and hence indicate a position of presumed dominance, as the person effectively says ‘I am more powerful than you, your feelings are unimportant to me and you will submit to my gaze’.
- Looking at their forehead or not at them indicates disinterest. This may also be shown by defocused eyes where the person is ‘inside their head’ thinking about other things.
- The power gaze is a short but intense gaze that is used to impose one’s will on another, showing power without aggression.
- It is difficult to conceal a gaze as we are particularly adept at identifying exactly where other people are looking. This is one reason why we have larger eye whites than animals, as it aids complex communication.
- People who are lying may look away more often as they feel guilty when looking at others. However, when they know this, they may over-compensate by looking at you for longer than usual. This also helps them watch your body language for signs of detection.
- The acceptable duration of a gaze varies with culture and sometimes even a slight glance is unacceptable, such as between genders or by a lower status person.
- Non-visual gaze patterns (NVGPs) involve rapid movements (saccades) and fixations while we are ‘inside our heads’, thinking. Rapid movements happen more when we are accessing long-term memory and fixations more when we are accessing working memory. This is useful to detect whether people are thinking about older events or recent events (or old events that are already brought to working memory).
- Glancing at something can betray a desire for that thing, for example glancing at the door can indicate a desire to leave.
- Glancing at a person can indicate a desire to talk with them. It can also indicate a concern for that person’s feeling when something is said that might upset them.
- Glancing may indicate a desire to gaze at something or someone where it is forbidden to look for a prolonged period.
- Glancing sideways at a person with raised eyebrows can be a sign of attraction. Without the raised eyebrow it is more likely to be disapproval.
- Eye contact between two people is a powerful act of communication and may show interest, affection or dominance.
- A softening of the eyes, with relaxing of muscles around the eye and a slight defocusing as the person tries to take in the whole person is sometimes called doe eyes, as it often indicates sexual desire, particularly if the gaze is prolonged and the pupils are dilated (see below). The eyes may also appear shiny.
Making Eye Contact
- Looking at a person acknowledges them and shows that you are interested in them, particularly if you look in their eyes.
- Looking at a person’s eyes also lets you know where they are looking. We are amazingly good at detecting what they are looking at and can detect even a brief glance at parts of our body, for example.
- If a person says something when you are looking away and then you make eye contact, then this indicates they have grabbed your attention.
Breaking eye contact
- Prolonged eye contact can be threatening, so in conversation we frequently look away and back again.
- Breaking eye contact can indicate that something that has just been said that makes the person not want to sustain eye contact, for example that they are insulted, they have been found out, they feel threatened, etc. This can also happen when the person thinks something that causes the same internal discomfort. Of course, a break in eye contact can also be caused by something as simple as dried out contacts or any new stimulus in one’s immediate area, so it’s important to watch for other signals.
- Looking at a person, breaking eye contact and then looking immediately back at them is a classic flirting action, particularly with the head held coyly low in suggested submission.
- Long eye contact
- Eye contact longer than normal can have several different meanings.
- Eye contact often increases significantly when we are listening, and especially when we are paying close attention to what the other person is saying. Less eye contact is used when talking, particularly by people who are visual thinkers as they stare into the distance or upwards as they ‘see’ what they are talking about.
- We also look more at people we like and like people who look at us more. When done with doe eyes and smiles, it is a sign of attraction. Lovers will stare into each others eyes for a long period. Attraction is also indicated by looking back and forth between the two eyes, as if we are desperately trying to determine if they are interested in us too.
- An attraction signal that is more commonly used by women is to hold the other person’s gaze for about three seconds, Then look down for a second or two and then look back up again (to see if they have taken the bait). If the other person is still looking at them, they are rewarded with a coy smile or a slight widening of the eyes (‘Yes, this message is for you!’).
- When done without blinking, contracted pupils and an immobile face, this can indicate domination, aggression and use of power. In such circumstances a staring competition can ensue, with the first person to look away admitting defeat.
- Prolonged eye contact can be disconcerting. A trick to reduce stress from this is to look at the bridge of their nose. They will think you are still looking in their eyes.
- Sometimes liars, knowing that low eye contact is a sign of lying, will over-compensate and look at you for a longer than usual period. Often this is done without blinking as they force themselves into this act. They may smile with the mouth, but not with the eyes as this is more difficult.
Limited eye contact
- When a person makes very little eye contact, they may be feeling insecure. They may also be lying and not want to be detected.
- Eye contact is very important for persuasion. If you look at the other person and they do not look back at you, then their attention is likely elsewhere. Even if they hear you, the lack of eye contact reduces the personal connection.
- If you want to persuade or change minds, then the first step is to gain eye contact and then sustain it with regular reconnection.
- Staring is generally done with eyes wider than usual, prolonged attention to something and with reduced blinking. It generally indicates particular interest in something or someone.
- Staring at a person can indicate shock and disbelief, particularly after hearing unexpected news.
- When the eyes are defocused, the person’s attention may be inside their head and what they are staring at may be of no significance. (Without care, this can become quite embarrassing for them).
- Prolonged eye contact can be aggressive, affectionate or deceptive and is discussed further above. Staring at another’s eyes is usually more associated with aggressive action.
- A short stare, with eyes wide open and then back to normal indicates surprise. The correction back to normal implies that the person would like to stare more, but knows it is impolite (this may be accompanied with some apologetic text).
- When a person stares at another, then the second person may be embarrassed and look away. If they decide to stare back, then the people ‘lock eyes’ and this may become a competition with the loser being the person who looks away first.
- The length of an acceptable stare varies across cultures, as does who is allowed to stare, and at what. Babies and young children stare more, until they have learned the cultural rules.
- The eyes will naturally follow movement of any kind. If the person is looking at something of interest then they will naturally keep looking at this. They also follow neutral or feared things in case the movement turns into a threat.
- This is used when sales people move something like a pen or finger up and down, guiding where the customer looks, including to eye contact and to parts of the product being sold.
- Narrowing of a person’s eyes can indicate evaluation, perhaps considering that something told to them is not true (or at least not fully so).
- Squinting can also indicate uncertainty (‘I cannot quite see what is meant here.’)
- Narrowing eyes has a similar effect to constricted pupils in creating a greater depth of field so you can see more detail. This is used by animals when determining distance to their prey and can have a similar aggressive purpose.
- Squinting can be used by liars who do not want the other person to detect their deception.
- When a person thinks about something and does not want to look at the internal image, they may involuntarily squint.
- Squinting can also happen when lights or the sun are bright.
- Lowering of eyelids is not really a squint but can have a similar meaning. It can also indicate tiredness.
- Lowering eyelids whilst still looking at the other person can be a part of a romantic and suggestive cluster, and may be accompanied with tossing back the head and slightly puckering the lips in a kiss.
- Blinking is a neat natural process whereby the eyelids wipe the eyes clean, much as a windscreen wiper on a car.
- Blink rate tends to increase when people are thinking more or are feeling stressed. This can be an indication of lying as the liar has to keep thinking about what they are saying. Realizing this, they may also force their eyes open and appear to stare.
- Blinking can also indicate rapport, and people who are connected may blink at the same rate. Someone who is listening carefully to you is more likely to blink when you pause (keeping eyes open to watch everything you say).
- Beyond natural random blinking, a single blink can signal surprise that the person does not quite believe what they see (‘I’ll wipe my eyes clean to better see’).
- Rapid blinking blocks vision and can be an arrogant signal, saying ‘I am so important, I do not need to see you’.
- Rapid blinking also flutters the eyelashes and can be a coy romantic invitation.
- Reduced blinking increases the power of a stare, whether it is romantic or dominant in purpose.
- Closing one eye in a wink is a deliberate gesture that often suggests conspiratorial (‘You and I both understand, though others do not’).
- Winking can also be a slightly suggestive greeting and is reminiscent of a small wave of the hand (‘Hello there, gorgeous!’).
- Closing the eyes shuts out the world. This can mean ‘I do not want to see what is in front of me, it is so terrible’.
- Sometimes when people are talking they close their eyes. This is an equivalent to turning away so eye contact can be avoided and any implied request for the other person to speak is effectively ignored.
- Visual thinkers may also close their eyes, sometimes when talking, so they can better see the internal images without external distraction.
- The tear ducts provide moisture to the eyes, both for washing them and for tears.
- Damp eyes can be suppressed weeping, indicating anxiety, fear or sadness. It can also indicate that the person has been crying recently.
- Dampness can also occur when the person is tired (this may be accompanied by redness of the eyes.
- Actual tears that roll down the cheeks are often a symptom of extreme fear or sadness, although paradoxically you can also weep tears of joy.
- Weeping can be silent, with little expression other than the tears (indicating a certain amount of control). It also typically involves screwing up of the face and, when emotions are extreme, can be accompanied by uncontrollable, convulsive sobs.
- Men in many culture are not expected to cry and learn to suppress this response, not even being able to cry when alone. Even if their eyes feel damp they may turn away.
- Tears and sadness may be transformed into anger, which may be direct at whoever is available.
- A subtle signal that is sometimes detected only subconsciously and is seldom realized by the sender is where the pupil gets larger (dilates) or contracts.
- Sexual desire is a common cause of pupil dilation, and is sometimes called ‘doe eyes’ or ‘bedroom eyes’ (magazine pictures sometimes have deliberately doctored eyes to make a model look more attractive). When another person’s eyes dilate we may be attracted further to them and our eyes dilate in return. Likewise, when their pupils are small, ours may well contract also.
- A fundamental cause of eye dilation is cognitive effort. When we are thinking more, our eyes dilate. This helps explain ‘doe eyes’ as when we like others people, looking at them leads to significant thinking about how we may gain and sustain their attention.
- Pupils dilate also when it is darker to let in more light. Perhaps this is why clubs, bars, restaurants and other romantic venues are so dingy.
- People with dark irises (the colored circle around the pupil) can look attractive because it is difficult to distinguish the iris from the pupil, with the effect is that their dark pupils look larger than they are. People with light irises make the pupils easier to see, so when their pupils actually do dilate then the signal is clearer to detect, making them more attractive ‘at the right time’.
- The reverse of this is that pupils contract when we do not like the other person, perhaps in an echo of squint-like narrowing of the eyes. People with small pupils can hence appear threatening or just unpleasant.
- When a person is feeling uncomfortable, the eyes may water a little. To cover this and try to restore an appropriate dryness, they person may rub their eye and maybe even feign tiredness or having something in the eye. This also gives the opportunity to turn the head away.
- The rubbing may be with one finger, with a finger and thumb (for two eyes) or with both hands. The more the coverage, the more the person is trying to hide behind the hands.
thesilverhand asked: What are your guidelines concerning profanity, graphic content, etc? Do you generally look for more G rated submissions?
We are fine with profanity, graphic content, sex, violence, etc. as long as they’re important to the story. If they aid the plot of character development, they’re fine. What we’re not okay with is using it gratuitously or for titillation.
The fact is teenagers swear, have sex, are exposed to violence, etc. We’re not going to shy away from those things in our stories. We just ask that they’re not used sensationally.
Legit Tip #98
Be careful of pop culture references. They become dated far too fast, and can take the reader out of the world that you’ve built. It’s best to use them when the genre you’re writing calls for it, and even then it can be a good idea to go for fictionalized versions of the “real” thing (like a fake boy band or magazine).
Be careful of classic literary references. All too often, people use them to boost their own supposed impressiveness. Literary references are great storytelling tools, but be sure they’re really, really relevant (and really, really accurate). [Note: If it’s a character making the reference it can be inaccurate, but only if this is deliberate and generally only if you point it out in some way.]
Be careful of obscure cultural references, like little-known bands or films. For about a decade there this became the easiest (read: most Indie) way of showing that a character was Not Like Other Girls or Not Like Other Guys. As such, it’s been cheapened a bit. Be sure that if you make these references, they really are an important part of a character’s personality.
Though Valhalla has so many references and in-jokes we could publish an annotated edition (hint hint @harmonyinkpress) none of them are remotely critical to reading the novel, and most are obscured to a ridiculous degree.
This seems to be about characters referencing the material in the book rather than the author making an allusion, the former of which I think Valhalla only does three times, to music by Prodigy and Therion and to Star Trek/Moby Dick. In all cases though, I made sure to write the material in such a way that if one has never heard of the original, it still makes clear sense. Readers are welcome to tell me if I failed, because if you don’t I’m gonna do it again in the next book.
I think the really important thing is not “Don’t make references” but “Don’t rely on references.” At least I hope that’s the important thing because Valhalla averages 2 references to metal bands, video games, tv shows or myths. I wrote it to be timeless and culture-independent as possible but couldn’t resist a few Dethklok jokes.
"If you can’t cram your novel full of Dethklok jokes, what’s the point of writing a novel in the first place?" -Mark Twain
Absolutely. References are great to use… in moderation, with care.