Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What could date your book?

A while back, women who wore curlers to the super market were smiled upon. Now, though I know some still do, it's not the norm for women to use curlers at all,  much less out in public.

It used to be women always wore nylons and slips with dresses or skirts. That doesn't happen much any more.

Also, men never wore earrings before, but now they do.

Nowadays, there are some men whose pants are almost falling off them them, they're situated so low.

What I'm getting at is if you wish to portray a certain period of time in your manuscript, pay attention to the norms of that time. Don't include something that's passe'. Also, be sure to include what's typical for your chosen period.

Can you name other examples of before or now?

Morgan Mandel


Debra St. John said...

Another thing to be watchful of is the type of phone being used: dial, push button, cordless, cell? Those have changed a lot over the years.

Or how about records, casettes, CDs, video tapes, DVDs, etc? Those things change by the's tough to keep up!

Anonymous said...

A model of a car.

Also I had to update the number of Nobel Prize winners Rhodes scholar from M.I.T. as the may have increased since I first write a particular section...

“M.I.T. is one of the most prestigious schools in the nation, having produced twenty seven Nobel Prize winners and thirty seven Rhodes Scholars."

Also, I had to make a change from 185th to 186th as time elapsed when I first started writing a few years ago ....

"As president of the 186th General Court of the Massachusetts Senate and House leader for the past nine years, most political analysts had all but voted him in as the next governor of Massachusetts.

Morgan Mandel said...

Yikes, I remember typing on an electric typewriter in high school when I was learning. It made a lot of noise and didn't even have the self-correcting feature.

Morgan Mandel

Peg Brantley said...

The phone thing is great . . . when was the last time you saw a payphone?

GPS, Yahoomaps, vs. someone having to ask for turn by turn directions.

Sunblock vs. baby oil with iodine.

One piece swimsuits vs. string bikinis.

Thongs vs. thongs. (One is now called flipflops.)

Fun post!

LJ said...

I recently read one book where the protagonist was compared in looks to a young, popular actor of today. I wasn't even familiar with that actor now, let alone would know who he was a few years from now.

Suzannah said...

Language is in my opinion a deadly book dater.

You can date a book to within a few short years depending on your usage of commonly used expressions.

For instance..."Yo--my man. What's happenin' bro?"

"Hey girlfriend."

"'sup, sistergirl."

"No shit Sherlock!"

And coloquial expressions can not only date a book, but a character as well.

For example, if a character in Australia were to say..."I wouldn't be dead for quids."

Quids in a monetary term that ceased being used in 1966 when decimal currency was introduced.

Terminology for things has been about Computer speak.

lol...for example...or rotflmao...
endless, and everchanging.

This is a fun blog. I look forward to seeing all the other responses.

Unknown said...

What a great post. I chuckled at some of the examples, but I do have to share that the "rollers in hair" is still very much alive here in Tennessee...along with wearing one's flannel PJ bottoms and fuzzy slippers to shop in Wal-Mart. It seems to be all the rage here, but I'm still holding out. :)

Also, tanning booths are everywhere. Next to the market where I shop is Captain Video and Tanning Salon. People can't afford dental work or a visit to the beauty parlor, but they sure are nice and tan year round. Go figure.

Beth Anderson said...

Another thing is what your teenage characters talk about over the Internet. I got nabbed for getting that wrong not long ago in my just-finished WIP when I had my older and fast heading for trouble teenagers discussing something other (and nicer) than who was currently ripping off which tunes illegally. I actually never even thought about it, but for a mainstream novel involving teenagers on the brink, I think one of my crit partners was correct in pointing that out.

Another one would be having your detective take snapshots of your corpse instead of digitals.

Things are changing so fast now that even when you're working straight through with a book it's possible for something to change entirely by the time you're ready to send it out. Twitter's a good example of that.

Deb Hockenberry said...

I was going to say the current slang or language but I see Soozee beat me to it!

Margaret Tanner said...

Great article. One thing I find very annoying in historical books is incoreect speech for the era.


Grace said...

In my experience slang dates a story. Shimz (or something like that) in the 1970's means the same as awesome today.

Maggie Toussaint said...

You sure couldn't write a book about today without mentioning folks with cell phones glued to their ears.

And I've been told that the younger generation of today no longer feels the need to wear a watch because they've all got cell phones.

Norms of discipline and social conduct are different for each generation and era. The disrespect, interruptions, and talking with your mouth full would not have been tolerated in our parents generation or further back.

Also clothing styles date a book. I'm old enough to remember there was a time when females didn't wear slacks. They wore skirts or dresses. Thank goodness that has changed.

I recently discovered I'd used in an older, rehabbed mystery a car model that's been out of production for awhile. I changed it to be more in vogue with the time.

Terry Odell said...

It's not just fashion. I recall when my daughter was reading a book where the character dodged a date by saying she had to wash her hair. Back then, once a week was the norm. Likewise Erma Bombeck's triumph when she got a Friday Standing appointment with her hairdresser.

Morgan Mandel said...

These are some great examples!You guys are terrific.
About the standing appointment one-
My elderly neighbor gets her hair done every week, but I don't know very many other people who go regularly, only for special occasions, haircuts or dye jobs.

Morgan Mandel

chris v said...

Hobbies or interests too - yo-yos, remmember those? Atari or computer games vs Xbox and Wii... all that's changed too!