What do you think about dating in your books?
I don't mean dating as in going out for dinner. Heck, we write romance. There should be some dinner dates or something going on in there! I'm talking about book dating -- specifically, the way some editors say not to add anything to your novel that will "date" your book, such as listening to your 8-track tapes or mentioning currently popular bands. [This doesn't apply to historical fiction, of course.]
I've been pondering this since it came up on a writing list. A writer was wondering whether to use a brand name or not because of trademark violations and dating the story. (It's not a trademark violation if you capitalize the brand name to show it's a brand name.)
But why is dating a story so horrible? Maybe I'm a bit of a rebel, but I purposely date all of my novels. I have specific time periods in mind and make sure to make references to that time. My series even has dates as chapter headings. Why is this a bad thing?
I love reading novels and being pulled back into the time frame of the story. Think of the romances of the Seventies (for those of us old enough to remember the Seventies). Didn't they have that luscious timeframe feel to them? I vividly remember being in a story where I had to take a term and put it into context because it was not applicable to the time period in which I was reading it. But that's part of the fun of reading. It puts you elsewhere. It opens your small world and makes it larger.
It may depend on the story, but with mine being largely music-based and dealing with social and cultural issues, the time periods in which they are set are important to the story. I use specific band/musician references in all of them, and generally brand names, capitalized. Am I making them short-lived that way? I don't think so.
David Copperfield is wonderfully dated. So is John Irving's The Cider House Rules. Still, they're timeless. I believe part of the timeless appeal is the wonderful real sense of the times.
My Rehearsal series is set in the 70s, moving into the 80s as the books progress. The single-mother issue wouldn't be as big an issue now as it was then. Neither would the heroine being half Native American (termed as "Indian" in the series since it was still called Indian back then). The issues raised are dated, and so, the books have to be, also. Maybe in a hundred years, if someone is reading it that far into the future (I can only hope), she won't know who Eric Clapton and The Beatles and Donny Osmond are without looking back into history. But maybe it will convince her to look back into history. Maybe it will spark an interest to help rediscover some of those bands and the era in which they ruled.
What do you think? If you run across a band or song name or product or expression you don't know, does it annoy you or does it persuade you to research a bit and check it out?
Shouldn't we, as authors, be helping to build a biography of our times to leave to the future? Fiction has always helped me see real life and times of the past better than history books. I want to do the same for future generations. And yes, I remember the Seventies well enough to catch the true flavor of the time. I think it was well worth capturing, and it's been a lot of fun revisiting that incredible rock/pop music.
Rehearsal: A Different Drummer