1. Welshboy

    Welshboy New Member

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    Do i update my old story? Setting

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Welshboy, Oct 1, 2022.

    Hey everyone!
    Hoping to get some feedback Basically started writing novel about 15 years ago on and off. Life got in the way. Finally happy with it, however since starting modern technology has moved on and not sure how best to tackle this. For example main character uses payphones, tries tracking people down pre social media, has a basic phone with no internet, celebrity references that are old now, nowadays most people have smart phones, google maps, social media, online banking (theres a few bits where character is waiting for cheques to clear, uses banks) and so i either set in say around 2000 or a bit later (but that might seem weird and put potential publishers off), update all those things (which might mess with certain obstacles the character faces as a reader might say why doesnt he just google it? Or how is he lost when he can get locations on app) .. or was thinking I could have a reason why the character doesn't use modern technology and so wont have to alter too much other than update the popular culture references which arent a big deal. I want to keep it contemporary, and feel if i leave it, it either doesnt work in parts but also can't see the benefit of making it clear its set in 2000-2005 in terms of getting a modern audience or agent to look at it. Its not like its say oh an 80s novel.. or a 90s novel.. its just in that weird space pre smartphones time where its basicially modern except for the smartphone and how its made life easier, which isn't necessarily good for the character who's sort of flailing around trying to find/contact someone from his past, and also connect with other people who used to be in his life. And like ive said other examples throughout where a smartphone would solve problems.
    Im toying with making the character technology averse as he is stuck in the past a lot and uncomfortable about the modern world, so it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say he'd be someone who hates social media and modern tech.. or a reason he has no phone ie he wants to go off grid as part of the plot is he just wants to escape somewhere and disappear, so it kind of fits the character in the way. Age might be an issue as hes in his mid 20s and most people that age have a smartphone. Sorry for a long post!
    Appreciate any advise!
     
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  2. Rad Scribbler

    Rad Scribbler Contributor Contributor

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    I would suggest that you include the technology available / used during the time setting of the story.
     
  3. ps102

    ps102 Active Member

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    Novels set in older times exist and there are plenty of them, so I don't see why you can't do it. That of course also depends on who you are trying to market this for. If it's for a young audience, they won't be able to relate to it, and they might find it very confusing. But if it's for an older audience that's lived through that era, then it'd be a lot easier for you to work it out. In fact, you might even be able to make this a selling point. People love to reminiscence older times.

    But I do agree that you should at least adapt it so the narrative shows awareness that it is set in a passed era. The above post has a viable suggestion.
     
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  4. Welshboy

    Welshboy New Member

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    Thank you so much for the replies. I have toyed with the idea of making it clear its set in 2005 ish.. however in terms of potentially publishing Im not sure it will be a selling point as its not far enough in the past ie 80s or 90s for that nostalgia appeal, its basically modern, it just happens to be that time before smartphones. The character does have a basic mobile for texting that were around at the time i wrote it.

    In terms of audience id say anything from late teens, 20s upwards, the last person i showed it too was 55 and she loved it. However teens, 20s nowadays might find a book set in 2000s a bit alien.

    Im thinking it might be best to try and update it in terms of this is happening now but change bits to show a reason why the main character isnt using a smartohone ie tech averse (which fits his character) or simply wanting to go off grid, so i can still have minor characters using smartphones etc so it feels contemporary but doesnt alter the main struggle of the protagonist.

    And setting it in say 2000s might make selling it more difficult and more niche.
     
  5. Jlivy3

    Jlivy3 Member

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    Just anecdotally...
    I had a story idea where I needed the characters to be unable to instantly research genealogy on the internet. So I spun the dial on the wayback machine.
    I decided on the '70's and found the draft for the Viet Nam war became a great subplot and an example of the main character's privilege, which made a great source for conflict with his fiance and her family. (And I learned a lot. They had a draft lottery where they drew out numbered pingpong balls from a hopper. AND THEY PUT IT ON TV! Like it was a freakin' game show. Absolutely dystopian.)
    Anyway, just the idea that there was a time when, if you weren't at home or in your office, you were out of touch unless you found a payphone, and had coins, is tailor made for building suspense. I do remember back in the day, my car breaking down and sprinting in a panic to find a payphone because I was missing an interview that would determine my future.
    And I think young people will get it. I mean I don't read a story set in the US Civil War and wonder "Why doesn't he just take an Uber?"
     
  6. Mogador

    Mogador Senior Member

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    Publishers not my specialist subject. Nonetheless I would bet its not off putting at all. Most of the True Crime stories are set around late 90s to early 2000s right now. And I don't think we, as readers, have really caught up with the narrative consequences of ubiquitous computing and Internet. Its uncomfortable for the reasons you say. How can you be lost? Why don't you just text them? Don't you know there's an app for that?

    As you watch and read modern popular culture you'll see a lot of writers and audiences suspending disbelief and just ignoring smartphones, because they can't work out how to keep suspense with these dull information hosing attention sponges in everyone's hands. It can be done, narratively, but it is still a culture wide WIP.

    So having stories set at a time that feels modern but neatly avoids having to deal with that is probably an advantage.
     
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  7. ps102

    ps102 Active Member

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    This is very true, I just realized that not many books I've come across mention smartphones. One that did was Matt Haig's Midnight Library, and it was mostly to measure how rich the MC was across her possible lives.

    You said your audience was 20s and upwards, so they would all be born in the early 2000s and even before that, and so maybe it wouldn't be all that confusing. I'm 22 myself, and have read books that are in the early or late 2000s and I understand them. I know what cheques are, I know what flip-phones are, I know what CDs are, I know what VHS tapes are, I know what the fatty CRTs are and I know what the Internet was like at the time too.

    It's not as niche as you think, but it's probably not a selling point either. It is, however, a familiar time period both for you and your audience.

    You said that you are aiming to give this to an agent, so why not whip up a draft and just send it to see what feedback you get? Most likely, you'll be rejected anyway on your first try (as is the case for the vast majority), so might as well make the most out of it.
     
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  8. Welshboy

    Welshboy New Member

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    Thank you for the great replies! Made me think! And some really good points.

    So at the moment because it was written in 2005 ish the character does have an old phone that was around at the time, pre smartphones, that is useful only because another character gets in touch with them via text when there wouldnt be a way otherwise, however there's barely any modern technology which is good, and what im toying with it either making it explicit that its set 20 years ago, or not mentioning a year and stating a reason that the main character has an old phone, which should be easy enough.

    I guess i didnt want to submit it and have it queried as to why there was no modern tech, why doesnt the character google map it etc and have the reason being well its taken me 15 years to write the story! 90 per cent of the story youd have no idea it wasnt set now anyway, its just things like no google map, social media.

    As stated in the comments by others, im not a fan of smartphones in modern stories either and i think i can tweak it so its still modern, non year specific and just include a reason why the main character has no smartphone ie tech averse, lost, sold, paranoia about being tracked.
     

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