Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What's Your Favorite Decade for Your Story's Setting? by Christine Locke

Twitter friend @SeanCampbell got me thinking about this with a wistful little tweet today.  My response ("The 80s were AWEsome!") was unthinking.  Then I remembered something: the eighties really are awesome--for writers.  Here's why:

The eighties were modern, but not super-connected.
It's fun when stories play with our hyper-aware information age.  Watching the gals on "Pretty Little Liars" get synchronized texts from the diabolical "A" is an unparalleled thrill.  Yet, there was a magic to waiting by the phone for a call, an agony to the forgotten phone number, and a dread longing for the random "run in" with that high school nemesis that my children will never understand.  They've got Facebook and Foursquare; we had word of mouth and force of habit.  Writers get to remember--and build suspense around--how it used to feel to WAIT for information, for the next move, for the next glimpse of your true love.

The eighties took themselves way too seriously and not seriously enough.
There is so much material here for writers, it's unreal.  Let me take perhaps the lightest and least serious topic that comes to mind: eighties fashion.  You could write whole comedy bits on what we thought was "good hair" alone, not to mention shoulder pads and earrings so large they deformed our ears (although I think those are making a comeback).  It took major time and effort to get that hair 'way up there--take it from one who knows--but did we ever consider what our kids would think of those Polaroids?  Heck, no!  There's lots to play with here for the writer: humor in the lack of foresight--tragedy, too

The eighties may have been the last decade in human history when isolation was truly possible--baring dystopia or disaster.
This is why I set my story, Open Door, in the eighties.  Well, it's one of many reasons.  If the bad guy cut your phone line and drained your fuel tank, you were screwed.  Easy-peasy.  Set your story in the not-so-distant past, and you can isolate those hapless characters faster than the Pevensies get booted off to Uncle's country house.  And then...and THEN...your story can play out with no distractions, nothing but the words, looks, mannerisms we writers so love to observe, steal, toy with and employ to our own ends.  And THAT is why, for me, the eighties ARE awesome!

What's your favorite decade for story settings?
Happy Writing!

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