Thursday, 19 November 2015

Authoring 101: Out Dated

Pop Culture.
Electronic devices.
Government officials.
Date on a calendar

These are all things that have an end date. In some things and some places it might take a little longer to deal, come out of fashion, but in other a year pass and your story has turned into a historical.

Let’s start in Pop Culture. This one is a big thing, mostly because it has that…timelessness to it, or at least you think it does when you’re caught up in the drama. Things could last years. Or in one they are completely gone and no one remembers who the hell that person was, which kind of turns your relevant and interesting story plot into a question of, well, Who?

One thing is certain, though a lot of people who write pop culture into their stories do it with an understanding of its time limits, or its expiration date and do it anyway, because it's needed. These types of books are needed, but you first you need to understand that.

There’s an author in the MM Romance world who uses it a lot. She’s obviously all over pop culture and she does it so well. At first I was impressed, I like the wink at what was happening in the book, that not only was it happening in the book, but wow I was singing that song too.

Then a few years later I read it again and I made the ‘huh?’ face. It honestly took me a long while to remember who the hell the person was. Because she’d…we’ll that’s what a lot of pop culture is, out of everything that comes out yearly. Out of everything that makes it big only a few get a cult following and it’s the cult following ones that will outlast the rest since there’s a reason of their popularity.

Like sparkling vampires.

There will come a time when our children have no idea where that originated from, but they will still hold onto the idea, they will still have the saying, “They aren’t sparkling vampire we’re dealing with” because it’s become that. Twilight has become its own inside joke. Has become so big that it’s created itself a saying in our everyday lives.

But it’s still fleeting. It's saying one thing that is in reference to pop culture and you’ll end up finding the next time you’re revamping it just how outdated it is. Not only that, it becomes a historical. And I understand what you’re thinking, because we all have a very solid idea of what the genre ‘historical’ means, but really anything that is ten years, probably at its max, old it has already become historic.

What was my next one? Electronic devices.

I just re-read one of my first ever finished books and in it was a line that my character pulled out her Nokia 8110….does anyone even know what the fuck that is? Do you remember that? Hell, it took me a good solid think time to remember and it was the phone I craved back in the day. It was my ideal phone the one I knew I probably would never get.

And yeah, that dates me, but it’s kinda the point.

I want to umbrella this one with everything, clothing, house wear, it’s all the same things. If you think about it, and I mean really think about it, the fashion industry changes four times a year, they make season wear, which doesn’t mean that our clothing changes that quickly. No, we tend to go into a decade cycle. Each decade you are alive you’ve stepped into a different fashion style, some more dramatically than others.

The way you dress your characters dates you. It’s not as dramatic as say, picking up a Nokia but it’s still noticeable for people who actually understand fashion. Hell, I read some books and think, “they are so luck men’s fashion has gone back to tight jeans.” Because you know how people say “I don’t understand how a guy can wear their pants around their ankles” well, that’s how it’s been worn and then you write your character into that age group but put him in waist high jeans with his shirt tucked in….

But again fashion doesn’t age you as quickly, as generally speaking, people think very little about the actual clothes they put their characters in, and if you are writing adult stuff a lot of the time the person reading is probably your age and doesn’t see the difference. It’s what they have always found attractive, and did I already say the “young people these days” speech?

Electronics’ tho. Though are the ones you need to watch out for. Try not to be specific. Call it a smart phone because I honestly doubt they are going to get dumber. Or just call it a phone, because really who the hell doesn’t have a smart phone these days? And do we believe they're going to go away any time soon?

Moving on. Government Officials, and this is another umbrella one. But we’ll start with the title names.

If you think about this in a purely American way you add in that the president is only in office for, what, 8 years total and then they are booted, right? So if you add in who your official is then your book has a life of, on the max, 8 years. Then you have to add in the idea of, well, let’s say the twin towers. Not a common topic before the collapse as they were just two buildings, but if you’ve mentioned the towers collapsing in a way of them just happening, but now your book is historical because It’s been well over the mourning stage and into a tragic event that happened in our past.

You also have the idea of things that you think are commonplace now in ten years or so might not be.

Now this isn’t saying that you can’t put in these normal things that might turn into something that doesn’t exist anymore. I’m more hinting heavily at the facts that we don’t have to put in that will allow our books to translate over generations.

Like simply putting that he/she picked up his phone and pulled up google maps, this would work, not because I believe google maps will always be around but in the sentence it’s the only aspect that can’t be changed. Though you can always go less and say “pulled up the maps” even say it’s an app, because those things won’t disappear. Okay, so they might but it’s more unlikely for apps to last longer than your iPhone. And yet, if you wish to brand (which isn’t always a smart thing to do in books as they can violate trademark) then be simple in it not as specific as a, what is it now iPhone 8 and six months later your phone will be long forgotten.
Okay, maybe not that fast, but it’s a thought to have.

This is all leading up to my last. Date are horrible. They are even more so when they just aren’t needed. I read a book that sat nowhere, could have happened any time and got to the end, they pulled out a calendar and Walla the author added the year and made a book that was still relevant ancient and it has only been 2 years since that book came out.

And what has my babbling told you? Think about what you’re putting on your page, especially when it comes to things that are fleeting. Did you really need to add the year to that date? Did you really need to add the brand? (Though again this is also a trademark problem).

What I’m getting at is that small things that you wouldn’t even think about may cause your story to grow old before it’s time. This isn’t to say that some stories don’t need these details. It just means that a lot of the time we put in details because we haven’t thought it through and that ends up making your story old and scattered when it doesn’t need to be.

Really a lot of the time you are trying for an ageless quality in your books. You want them to be relevant whenever. You want someone decides later to pick up your story and read it like it was written yesterday and when you add things, technology or dates into the mix you lose that quality your book has.

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