Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dating Your Book

No, I don't mean that you're going to take it out to dinner (though, which of us hasn't taken a book out to dinner before? ;))  I mean that you put things in your book that makes it obvious what time period you're writing from.  Now, dating your book may not always be a BAD thing, but it may effect the longevity.

Our book this week, No Safety in Numbers, has a lot of things in it that let you know when it's, roughly, taking place.  The characters hang out in a Apple store, playing on Macs and iPads.  They've got their cells and one of our main characters gets a very specific type of graphics card.  All of these things, in fifty years, will date it.  People reading it may not KNOW what an iPad is or laugh at the use of cell phones because EVERYONE brain chats now.

Old classics do it to.  While Alice in Wonderland is considered a great classic, it's not an easy book to read.  There are puns galore in that book, but the language and the puns are so old, that the average reader doesn't catch onto a lot of (I would consider myself and above average reader and I still had to read the footnotes for just about everything.)  Now, Carroll's ability to write makes up for a lot of that, but that doesn't change the fact that the book seems to get more unreadable the longer its been around.

So what makes a book last long?  Harry Potter is a good example of a book that doesn't need any background.  Rowling created a completely new world with its own rules and its own scenery.  It's got wands and sorting hats and staircases that move and three headed dogs, but you know what?  None of that exists, so it's never going to appear "outdated."

Austen is another good example of something that has stood the test of time.  Does it date itself?  Well, yes, because they're all about manners and the dresses and the marriage and the proper-ness.  But the story is age old, classic, and something lots of people can relate to.  Her writing doesn't date the book so much as make it seem as if you're being transported back to that era.  Not to mention, she doesn't ever specifically name where in England all of this is happening, so it makes it easier for the reader to think of it as a separate world.

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