Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oh My Golly, Did You Just See That?

During a scene on a bus in Stranger Than Fiction, the narration informs the viewer that the MC is stopped at the intersection of Euclid Avenue and Born Boulevard. In case those names don't sound connected, I should tell you that Love Interest Girl's name is Miss Pascal. Euclid, Born, and Pascal. Those are all the names of famous mathematicians. Euclid wrote a book about geometry. Yes, that is the Pascal of triangular fame. I didn't know about Born until I googled him, but he was a famous German mathematician.

Now, you're probably wondering why I found this all so amusing. Well, the MC works for the IRS and is very good at mathematics. So, the names of all the mathematicians are sort of a joke. (Either that or the writers just chose the darnedest names. Which, I guess, they could have done. I've not real proof for my suppositions here. It's not like I know them personally.)

Sometimes, people sprinkle little jokes like that throughout the text. Minor references to things related to the subject at hand. I find them funny, and I think they indicate a certain level of thought and consideration in a text, which is always nice.

True, these are only funny if the reader understands what you are doing. For example, if the person watching Stranger Than Fiction didn't know anything about geometry, they probably would have missed some of the math jokes. But, if you got the joke, it was rather cute. So, these referential jokes are only funny if they're references to things people will understand.

Actually, in one of my shelved works, all of the school teachers have the surname of a person who attempted to assassinate a US president. I don't really know why I did that, except that I was listening to the musical Assassins a lot around the time I started, so when I reached for a name, I grabbed Fromme. Well, the pattern formed. I'll probably have to remove the pattern if I hope to do something with that book, but for the moment, it amuses me.

Do you leave patterns and little motifs in your work? Were there any such motifs in books or movies that have amused you in the past? Do you like this idea, or do you think it's odd.


  1. I LOVE this idea and did do it in MASQUERADE but then I took it out. I didn't want to but something came up and I thought the better part of valor would be to discard it. Although, I might just put it back in when I send it out. I really like it.

    BRIDGET JONES DIARY comes to mind immediately with the whole Mark Darcy thing. And of course all the old AIRPLANE movies.

    I think it's cute and funny, especially when the funny is more witty.

  2. I find it amusing too. I have a motif like that in my ms, but I'm sure I'll be changing it. My readers haven't said anything so I'm guessing they didn't catch on, but it did amuse me while I was writing.

  3. Sesame Street when it first came out did this all the time, thus enchanting adults who got the jokes and were watching it along with their little kids. My kids enjoyed Sesame Street up into their teen years because of this. They'd say, "Oh, now I get it!" Haven't seen it for years, so I don't know if they still do this or even if it's still any good, but I always appreciated how they made it interesting for all ages.

  4. Ah, we call these Easter Eggs in my circle of writers. Little hidden things that a small number of readers will pick up on and smile when they see them. I love it!

    I do this with my books, too, and sometimes it's just fun for the author but doesn't hurt the novel at all. Cool about the names in STF! I didn't realize that before. :)

  5. Piedmont -- If you really like it, maybe you should put it back in. The important question I guess is whether it's too much of an 'in joke.' Could the reader reasonably be expected to get the joke or is it too obscure?

    Susan -- That seems like a tricky barometer, because maybe they got it and thought it was okay to leave in, or they didn't get it, which wasn't what you'd hoped for but could be worse.

    Karen -- I admit, it's been a while since I've seen Sesame Street, so I cannot comment on their ability to make jokes good for adults as well; however, I do know that's something the old Disney classics were very good at doing.

    Glamis -- Easter Eggs! Excellent. That's what they call those little mini-treats in cinema. I guess these would be a literary equivalent.