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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Time Period Settings

Agent Mary Kole has a great post today on choosing your time period in YA fiction, and it's well worth reading. There's so much to like in it, especially Kole's urging that we not put books into the past just because we want to "write what we know" to the point of alienating the reader. This hits close to home, because don't we all want to spend some time waxing rhapsodic about whatever time period we grew up in? But unless a story has a darn good reason for taking place in the 80s, my high school story needs to happen today.

She also spends some time on the need to reference current technology, no matter how much it messes up your plot:
Here’s the reality: Kids today are attached to their cell phones and their computers. There are fewer and fewer places on this planet where we are cut off from communication, achieving that total isolation that lets evil characters and conspiracies and mysterious plot twists work their machinations. But technology and connectedness are, for better or worse, how kids relate to the world today. While this is at odds with a lot of good and suspenseful fiction, writers are going to have to adapt, especially in the future, as information becomes more and more accessible. You have to figure out your own solutions to cutting characters off from information, because in 20 years, all of our mystery novels just can’t be set in the 80s to take the shortcut around it. That’s not realistic.
What Kole is referring to here is something all writers have to deal with: a lot of thrillers of past decades work they way they do because the main characters don't have access to Google, much less their cell phones. Writers have to take these new capabilities into account; otherwise the reader will constantly be asking, "wait, why didn't she just look that up?"

Check it out.

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