Friday, December 3, 2010

Dating a Story

No, I don't mean going on a date. It's not date the dried fruit or date the social event, or even date the event on the calendar. What I mean by this is using something that will show a specific time period that the story takes place, which can either help or hinder a novel for a reader.

Old Phone, lol                     (Image Link:

Is it okay to have bands, music, tv references, language or anything else that would date a story for the reader? The truth is it depends on cause of the "dating" and the type of novel.

Dialogue is one location where it can be a problem. This is one that I've had to deal with because in one of my novels I'm trying to figure out how to write future young adult speech. Which, according to a couple of readers does not involve the teen using the word "neat". It does make sense but it's not easy to figure out how teens should speak per say when writing an alternate world type of future where the characters have genetic mutations. Using terms like "rad" and "schweet" would also cause questions to arise because language will catch a readers attention. I can't have a character that uses the word man a lot. (Such as "hey, man" and "that's chill, man".) The reason for this is I immediately see a hippy-ish, pot smoking type of character because there was a guy on my college debate team like that, one I did not like at all.

There are other things besides words that do it though. Having a reference to any type of music, band, movie, tv show or anything of the sort will date the story. There was a book I was listening to through itunes that the author had podcasted. The character was interesting and his voice was perfect for him, but there as a section where the teens were listening to music and that part really stood out because it was interesting to see the types of music he was considering when writing the novel.

And I have read a section of a story where they referenced Howdy Doody. I had to blink and try to recall in my memory anything about Howdy Doody, which was much. Nothing wrong with this but if I don't know anything about it what are the chances are that a teen within the next couple of years is going to know it at all. I'm guessing not many teens do.

Part of the point here is that it's good to be aware of the potential readers, at least when doing the rewrites in order to prepare the book for others to read. First draft throw in whatever you want but if rewriting, consider how the reader will approach the story.

I'm not saying that dating a story at all shouldn't be avoided. In fact, it can add character to the story. The reason for posting this is that I have noticed some people (including me to a small degree) are unaware of what might date a story. Yes, talking about Metallica, Howdy Doody, Pretty in Pink, or anything like that will have an effect on how the reader approaches the story because believe it or not, some won't understand the reference. But it's okay.

Just be aware of the possibility.
Now time to get back figuring out my YA novel.

What are your thoughts on this topic?


Anastasia V. Pergakis said...

This is an interesting post! As I write high fantasy, I don't have to worry about this much in my own work, but you bring up a great point that I will keep in mind when it's time to write my urban fantasy and sci-fi stories. What would teens of the future sound like? Or slang in general? Great info for us to think about!

Dawn Embers said...


I don't have to worry too often except for the sci-fi ish YA mutant novel where I used the word "neat" lol. It is difficult to figure out how teens would talk in alternative futures. I even struggle with my high fantasy because I wonder if the speech I'm using is too modern like, would they say that type of questions.