Listing actual brand names, real movie titles, referencing music groups/songs by name: Does this add to the book or limit it?
Okay… so you are reading this book and everything is going along swimmingly and then BAM! a big fat name drop. It will go something like this:
They snuggled on the couch together, hand in hand, sneaking tiny touches and exchanging giggles. They watched the Princess Bride and even splurged on a bowl of pop corn.
Now then, did knowing which movie the couple watched add to the scene in any way, shape or form? In my opinion, if you can exchange said name brand with a generic word, then it is probably not necessary to mention brand name and in fact can even date a book or worse, alienate a reader. I admit, name dropping is a major distraction to me. So, in going with my example above, the title of the movie could easily have been substituted with a brief description of the movie:
They snuggled on the couch together, hand in hand, sneaking tiny touches and exchanging giggles. They watched an old cheesy fairy tale that each had loved as a pre-teen nearly two decades ago and even splurged on a bowl of pop corn.
So, which one worked better for you? I like the second version. I am not distracted by a movie title I possibly do not know. Also, I get a better idea of what the author was trying to get across in the second version rather than the first. I think the only time mentioning a brand name really works is if the book, or movie or song or item being mentioned by brand name, title, etc is a major part in the book. Then it works. But if a book, movie, song, or item is mentioned only once by brand name/title, then it is annoying to me. It is unnecessary and I think it even takes away from the book. I feel like the author is almost trying to use that brand name to paint an image that he or she is unable or unwilling to take the time to describe. There are so many of these instances in New Adult books and romances. YA books will mention a lot of music by name, but YA books tend to make the title of the song important so it is not as distracting. But a lot of time, in NA books, a couple will be having a romantic evening and dance together at a club and the author name drops the song they danced to and it will undoubtedly be a relatively current indie rock song and then the author never goings into further detail or mentions the dance ever again. So annoying. It is like basically the author is telling me, don’t count on me to set the mood, but here listen to this song if you want to know what the characters were experiencing. I mean, if you are going to name drop songs in your books, then why even share your playlists? Now, so as not to confuse anyone, keep in mind that name dropping to me, is when an author adds a brand name to a sentence that otherwise does not need it. The characters do not remark on it much and it means little to nothing to the storyline. Colleen Hoover’s book, Slammed does use the Avett Brothers in her book and even includes some of the band’s lyrics, but this is NOT an example of name dropping in my opinion. The lyrics are mentioned before each chapter begins and their songs are a big part of Will and Lake’s story. In this case, mentioning the bands name works and even adds to the book.
I have to admit I probably haven’t noticed this being done very much. I guess most of the time unless I actually know the brand/movie/band/etc I probably miss the reference and won’t catch the meaning. I definitely think a story line shouldn’t use a name of something that has emotions attached to it, but should instead be crafted in a way for the reader to experience those emotions with the characters. I guess I can see where some writers who may not be as skilled yet might use namedropping to “cheat” and convey certain moods and feelings. I don’t think that’s the right way to go (goes against showing not telling) but it can probably work in some situations if used sparingly or as an Easter egg for the reader (so only the cool people who get the reference will feel extra special). I think no matter what tricks are used in a book to convey a meaning, the writing style, plot building, and character development need to stand on their own.