Time research – The Grass is Greener

There have been discussions in various writers’ group about whether it is morally correct to include references to Covid in books recently released. Opinions from readers are divided; some slate authors for ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ and infer it is somehow immoral to use a disaster as a publicity tool. Others have said it is wrong of authors not to include something which has become part of everyday life.

Admittedly, some writers churn out a new book every month, but what many people don’t realise is there could be a gap of one or two years from the first idea until the book finally hits the shelves. As recently as this past winter, life was ‘normal’ and unless you had a crystal ball, you would have had no idea how much things could change in a few short months.

Looking back on old black and white films, it might strike you as odd to see everyone smoking. Even during a romantic scene, the protagonist often blew smoke near the face of the lady he was trying to woo. (What a delightful word, which is now seldom heard.

Will the virus blow over as quickly as it arrived, or will it become accepted as part of normal everyday life? We are living history, and as such it’s likely that in 50 years’ time, books released now will be studied in the same way authors research the restrictions and living in say the Victorian era, for a book set during that time period.

Getting facts straight is vital to the authenticity of any story, and will soon be picked up by eagle-eyed reviewers if something is incorrect. It’s easy to forget something we take for granted today might not have been around even when I was young, (which admittedly was a few years ago.)
Consider the scenario; The heroine needs to contact someone urgently. What does she do?
The easy answer would be to pick up her cell phone and call them. But what if it’s a family saga and the lady in question is a young girl, who is now the grandmother of the present-day main character?

Question? When did mobile phones become popular in the UK?
Of such things are plot holes made.
Thank you, Google. (It was the mid-80s, in case you were wondering.)

You might think Sci-Fi or Dystopian novels would have it easier. Perhaps, but then you have to consider how much time to spend explaining something commonplace in your futuristic world. Can they teleport from say, London to Birmingham in five seconds? Or do you look up the time it would take by train, and then halve it on the basis transport would have improved?

An interesting fact is that before the introduction of the motor car, there was concern that within ten years the streets would be impassable due to the amount of horse droppings. Now with so many cars on the road it’s often quicker to walk in urban built up areas, that’s if you’re not obliged to self-isolate of course.

I was delighted to be a guest on the blog of Chantelle Atkins for her feature ‘Dreaming of another World.’ She was originally inspired by the restrictions of lockdown, and I think many of us can relate to the feeling of wanting to escape, either for a holiday or to enjoy a better life.

You can read my short story ‘The Grass is Greener,’ here. Please let me know what you think of it. Thanks.

The Grass is Always Greener

See you next week, unless I’ve discovered time travel and can report back how much things have actually changed.

© Val Portelli October 2020

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