My current work in progress, A Promotion to Die For, is a mystery set in 2005. You’d hardly call that a historical mystery. I’ve seen the word vintage used for time frames 20 to 50 years ago, but my novel is only 13 years in the past. So, for now, I’ll tag my WIP as contemporary with a touch of things old-fashion.
Thirteen years ago, Blockbuster stores were everywhere, but not today. Flat Screen TVs were available, but not widespread like now. Big Screen TVs were the norm in 2005. Cell phones were little fold-up phones, nothing like the Smartphones of today. I don’t think FaceTime had made an appearance and social media had not taken off (or over) like it has today.
When writing in the past, even if not the historic past, it’s always important to write time-period appropriate. The clothes your character wears, the TV she watches, the political and social world of the time she lives in must be real.
So I am writing my second book set in 2005 while marketing my debut novel in a 2018 world heavy with social media, stumbling through blogs and forums, and wondering if I should also join Instagram and what is this Pinterest?
My lead character in my Judy Kenagy mystery series, complains in A Promotion to Die For about all the new technology, oblivious to what the future holds for her. I wonder how she would’ve fared in current time. See the excerpt below from chapter one:
I stayed ensconced in my swivel chair, hammering away on my computer until disrupted by a buzz from my beeper. My husband’s phone number lit up on the tiny screen and I reached for the desk phone but stopped when a ringing tune shrilled from my purse on the floor. I pushed the chair back, bent down and fumbled for the jingling little phone, grabbed hold and yanked it from my purse—too hard. I lost my grip and watched it sail over my head landing with a thud on the thin carpet. I dropped on all fours and crawled under the desk.
Damn! When did it happen that people could find you anywhere at any time? Cell phones, beepers, e-mails. I was pushing fifty and couldn’t react as fast as I used to. I snatched the phone off the floor and opened it. “Dan. What?”
“What took you so long?”
“I dropped the…Oouch!”
“Judy, where are you?”
“I’m under my desk where the phone fell, and I hit my head. Give me a second.”
On my knees, phone in hand, I pushed the chair away from the desk and used the seat as a prop to get to my feet. “You beeped me and then called. I’m not a juggler.”
“Sorry,” he said.
“Just me, still adjusting to all this new technology.”
Have any of you written novels set in the past where you were forced to change the world of your character to match the time frame? Or have you read books where you noticed the author making the adjustment? It’s critical to get it correct or you’ll lose your reader early on to lack of credibility.
I’ve had fun with this part of writing my work-in-progress.