Is Your Writing Dating You?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

In a world where the latest “in” thing changes from month to month, if not week to week do you ever wonder if you’re dating yourself when you write? After all, it takes a long time to write an 80,000 word novel. Then there’s the process of finding an agent and publisher, going through the editing phase and finally getting your book into the stores. We’re talking years here.

So when readers pick up your brand new release and read a page about the main character’s obsession with the TV show “ER” will they wrinkle their foreheads in confusion? What about a scene that takes place in spinning class when absolutely nobody spins anymore? The word ‘awesome’? Will your trendy details have readers flipping to the copyright to see when this book was first published and surprised to find that it was this year?

I used to be obssessed with removing all the trendy details. Sure, you can get away with a few dated details but will too many make what was planned as a contemporary novel feel like a leftover from the 90’s? But now, after receiving an unusual email last week, I’m rethinking my decision.

The email was about The Love Legend, a novel by Woodward Boyd released in 1922. 1922! It is being re-released by Rvive Books(not a typo—only one “e”). Set in 1920’s Chicago the book is called “a literary time capsule” in the forward by Caroline Leavitt. Imagine if all the timely references had been deleted by an author worried about her book being dated? A romance floating in an indistinguishable time period it would have been interchangeable with every other romance story. Would it have survived to 1923, let alone 87 years to 2010?

I’m now convinced that each story should be firmly rooted in a year—trendiness be d#!5ed. The timely quirks will add to a strong storyline, making the book memorable. And isn’t that what we want? A timeless story with the power to capture readers for generations?

According to the forward by Caroline Leavitt:

The Love Legend, set in Chicago in the 1920s, follows the lives of four very different sisters, each either following, struggling with or rejecting what their mother calls the love legend—a belief that somewhere out there is the perfect man who will somehow find you, and once you marry him, all will be hearts and roses. But don’t think this is the twenties version of chick lit or even a revamped Jane Austin tale, because Boyd is out to challenge the illusions of her age. She has bigger issues in mind, and the love legend only serves as a thread connecting them.

Written in four books, one for each sister, The Love Legend is really a story of four siblings with distinct personalities, each story set against the backdrop of 1920s Chicago. A literary time capsule, it wrestles with changing ideas about politics, culture, love, marriage and career. Each of the women—beautiful Ward, writer Dizzy, dancer Sari and traditionalist Nita—presents a differing argument about the right way to live, even as they all wrestle free, in one way or another, from their mother’s love legend.”

By leaving a comment you can enter to win a copy of The Love Legend by Woodward Boyd. Thanks, Rvive Books!

Do you think including fads in fiction writing dates it or makes it more interesting? Do you believe there’s a perfect partner for every person? If you had to describe your personality in one word, what would it be?

Jodi Webb is working on her first novel(ironically, historical fiction)and you can read more on her Words by Webb blog at


Jean Sarauer said...

I do think including fads dates fiction, but I don't think that's a bad thing. When I read classics, I love seeing the practices of the times included in the story, and that's how I view including fads, trends, etc.

No, I don't think there's a 'right' person for everyone. I think there are many fish in the sea of possibilities :) The real reason I feel this way is because we change and grow so much throughout our lives. the person who fit us so well in our 20s could strike a real sour note when we're 50 and have different hobbies, careers, friends, etc.

My personality . . . . Indescribable. Ha!

Jodi Webb said...

I like the sea of possibilities theory. what if there was only one person for you and you "missed" them? Like they lived in Antartica or somewhere?

Love your personality word.

Robyn Chausse said...

I think there is a difference between "fad" inclusions in a story and "timliness". Timliness helps to place the setting and values of the characters, for instance...Martinis and pink flamingoes take you where? Whereas, too much inclusion of slang or emphasis on a fleeting fad, such as some of the younger clothing styles which only last a couple months, will be difficult for readers to place. Inclusions should be timely yet classic.

Perhaps this is why we are drawn to stories such as this one. Life really hasn't changes so much that we can not relate to the sisters and their challenges. We still debate the One Love theory, careers vs family, the taboo of going against family tradition, etc... It is still our story.

Personally, I don't think there is One Great Love- I think relationships are our greatest classroom for personal growth- they aren't meant to be heavenly.

I've always been a wanderer. I've wandered through various jobs, various men and various spiritual paths. I gather what feels good for my soul to keep and then I get the itch to see what more there is to discover. I guess seeker would work to except that that denotes never finding, and I have found treasures along the way.

NJS said...

I like when a story includes details that may be part of a fad. It gives me a better sense of the setting.

I do not believe that there is a perfect person for everyone. There are many suitable people for each person. It is more a matter of when two people are ready for the commitment of a relationship and working together.

Curious is one of the best words to describe me. I drove my family nuts asking "why?" throughout my childhood. I control the impulse better now and look up my own answers.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for keeping fads in writing. Things like ER and spinning would probably still be fresh in people's minds at least a few years after "going out of style" and that look back is fun and nostalgic. The reader is also smarter than that and I think they'd be able to put two and two together and come up with whatever the new "in" thing is to substitute for the things in the book that may no longer be "with it".

As for a perfect partner for everyone - I do believe it. I have found mine and my mother found hers and my grandmother, in her new relationship after my grandfather's death has found hers. As in my grandmother's case, you may marry someone else and have to wait a bit longer, but I do believe that there is a perfect person out there waiting for those that are looking.

I can never do thispersonality in one word thing. I guess "eclectic" :)

Cathy C. Hall said...

"The Love Legend" sounds like an interesting read. Finding true love is one of those timeless topics, isn't it? But trendiness in writing is a bit trickier.

I'm all for adding expressions of the times, fads, even movie stars or TV characters into a manuscript. But the TV or movie references have to be standards of the times. John Wayne or Clint Eastwood mean something, but Orlando Bloom (and I like Orlando-he's a swell actor)is not iconic enough to mention in a novel. The reference won't add anything to the writing if the reader has no idea what the reference means. (Kinda like me trying to understand the appeal of Jersey Shore :-)

Gayle said...

This books sounds great, Jodi! Enter me in the contest. :)

Unknown said...

Interesting, Jodi!
Please enter my name too.

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