Tuesday 16 July 2013

Time Periods - The Creative Process

Time Periods

You've got the plot sorted, you know you know what genre you'll be putting your story into. You've even chosen a location. Now you just have to decide what time period this story will happen in. I'm talking about what time period. The past? Present? Future? Are you going to be delving into areas that you can find information about easily? Are you going to be making it up as you go along? I don't need to tell you that research is key to things like this. If you're choosing a time period that has already happened, you'll need to be sure that you don't have them discovering DNA or using facial recognition or even cameras in colour before they have been invented. You don't want to have star-crossed lovers flying over countries in planes while mankind is pretty much stuck on the ground. So, you need to make the decision about where you're going to set your story, but also when it's going to happen.

I know that the easy idea is to set it in present day, but that comes with it's own difficulties which I'll discuss another time. I'll focus on the past and future parts of when for now. I have written a story set in present day that involves some time travel to the not so distance past - well one hundred years in the past, so not too close to the time it's set in. I learnt pretty early on that while I love reading about history and stuff like that, you have to research well and think long and hard before you just start saying stuff.

The story in question was a crime and mystery novel. It involved dealing with solving a crime in 1910. Not an easy task, even when the person solving the crime was in the future and therefore had access to present day crime solving techniques. The problem was that to solve the crime and make sure the right person paid for that crime, she had to use old school methods and I mean *really* old school. It was all well and good her solving the crime with twenty-first century DNA and fingerprints, but in 1910, fingerprinting was in it's infancy and DNA? Not even an option. The first forensic crime lab opened in France around that time and it wasn't something that the local police would be able to, or want to ship over for their help. It wasn't a national scale case by any means. So, I had to be careful and look at other ways for them to solve that particular crime.

So that's the past, lots of research and being sure about dates, depending on what is actually happening in the past. It's one of the reasons that a lot of people stick to writing an area that they have experience in, or at least a good amount of knowledge or contacts that can't always be found with Google or Wikipedia. But what about the future?

Well, that comes with a little more creative license. You can make up your own facts about the future, depending on how far into it you go. If you decide to set it only a decade or so from now, you'll need to have some kind of explanation for why we're all living on Mars, but the further forward you go, the more slack you have in what you say. Again, some research will need to be done, but because the future is pretty much unknown, you can say what you like. Like I said, there does need to be some explanation or at least clarification as to why things are the way they are, but that's true of pretty much anything set past what we can predict.

It's something that needs to be researched and depending on which direction you choose to take your characters in, that will dictate how much knowledge you need to have of the time period. I discovered that because of the time I chose, I would need to acknowledge that a king had just died and the next in line would be having a coronation shortly. So, plan and research, but other than that, step into the time machine and go where you please!

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