Megan Mitcham · writing advice

Dating Your Novel


We’d love to date some of our novels. Spend hours gazing into their deep vanilla pages, drinking in their character and whit over the candle light. Pay thirty bucks to sit near them in a dark theatre, sharing a drink and popcorn, hoping beyond hope your fingers graze their cover. Then contact is made and your heart skitters. Threads of delight unspool through you, until you’re left a goopy heap on the floor. Some we’re so smitten with, we’d like to introduce to the parents, a.k.a. editor and/or agent. Then again, others we’d like to break their hearts…like they broke ours. Such promise from the start, only to end with rolling tears and curses.

carBut…that’s not what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about dating (in time) novels. I’m not talking purposefully dated historicals. You know the ones when you’re reading along, hit a line, and an exact year pops into mind.

Totally Made Up Examples:

Tasha pulled on her Ugg boots… And you scream, “2011!”

Dylan snatched the iphone from his pocket, slid a finger across the screen, then set it on the passenger seat. Since Siri didn’t understand growls, he took several calming breaths. “Call Felicia.” And you scream, “2010!”

Scrunchies… 1990’s

Sex & The City… 2000’s

Bellbottoms… 1960’s and early 2000’s

As an author, I strive to keep my work classic, ageless in its beauty. My characters wear the basics, unless they are an odd bird, then I let them strut. I don’t go into detail on electronics. That is an ever changing field. Sure, one day phones won’t be phones anymore, but I’m not placing the make and serial number my character uses in a scene.

What about you? As a reader, does it bother you when authors blatantly date their works? Do you care about dating your novels? If you do, how do you avoid it?

Creative Commons Thanks to Gabriela Pinto (Bookheart) and Joe Haupt (Car-Pinto). By the way, my maiden name is Pinto!!!

Megan Mitcham, Author

Words Excite. Imagination Thrills.

7 thoughts on “Dating Your Novel

  1. Yes, it’s hard to keep your story from being dated. Writers walk a fine line in setting the scene and identifying the players/resources at hand. Personally, it doesn’t bother me when I read dated technology or pop culture references (90s Nora still holds my interest despite the lack of cell phones) as much as dated social attitudes (recently stopped re-reading a classic Judith Krantz due sexual aggresion and excess misogyny).

  2. I’ve been known to date more than one of my stories at the same time. *gasp* I mean…no. It doesn’t really bother me when people date their novels. I don’t purposely try to avoid it, either. But I also don’t strive to find ways of incorporating the ‘now’ items into my stories. If they slip in, so be it. Also, I know this girl who still wears bell bottoms (and toe socks)….

    1. I like pre-cell phone love stories!! Reminds me of a simpler time. 🙂 And it’s a good thing we were born in the era we were, otherwise society would have had a couple of anarchists on its hands! Two ladies with no patience for excess misogyny!

  3. I agree. Nothing “sets” a story in time like a reference to electronics, pop culture, and/or fashion. I don’t write contemporaries but, if I did, I’d really have to think about how I handled that. Great post, Megan!

    1. Good to “see” you, Jill! In fantasy you build your own world and aren’t constrained by societal/cultural trapping. How fun!! Makes me a tiny but jealous, but definitely brings about its own set of issues like remembering all the fun things you create.

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