Friday, October 20, 2017

Sink into the Past, Prefer the Present, or Fancy the Future?

Our topic for this blog is to discuss what time period we prefer to set our stories – past, present, or future?

Okay, I have never really set a story in the future, but I have used bleeding edge software in my stories that will only. exist in the future: software agents, info war and facial recognition software.  Of course we are now in a period of Information Warfare, and "agents" are used all the time.  Facial recognition software is becoming more and more sophisticated.  Speculating about technology can be tricky, and so far I have been lucky to stay ahead of the curve, but I've actually stopped writing about technology, because it changes so fast that by the time the novel is written, edited and published, well, you could be talking about yesterday's latest and greatest.  That is a problem with the PRESENT.
My last published novel dealt with facial recognition technology, but this software identified whole groups of people. Not sure if this is available yet, but you can bet that it will be.

Festival Madness, A Burning Man Novel 

And the past?  Ah yes, the past.  I wrote a historical women's fiction novel, as yet unpublished, set in 1928 Southern California.  Prohibition, graft, corruption, get-rich-quick schemes.  Everybody on the make. Well, almost, everyone.  This was such fun to write about because there was such a wealth of material with built in conflicts and characters, both good and bad with their own conflicts.  The research?  I had a whole bookshelf and letters and photographs, even scrapbooks.  By the time the novel was finished, I felt like an expert on the 1920's.  It was fun. But the past always presents some challenges.  For example, I knew there was a hospital in Mexicali in 1928. But try to find a photo of it, or even a drawing.  Googled until my fingers were stubs.  I did find the nurses uniforms, a boon and made the hospital look kind of like the Mexicali schools.   So I like the past.  Just so long as it's not too distant.
Proposed cover of my California book

Currently, I trying something tricky, as least tricky for me.  I've started a novel set in 1953 Kansas, and also set in 2017 Kansas.  The main characters are grandmother and granddaughter who never knew each other.   I'm writing the past and present in alternate chapters.  This is going to be a real challenge,  and I hope I'm up to it.  It's fun, and 1953 is not that long ago, is it?  Maybe it is.    The novel is set north of Wichita in a Mennonite community, and I drawing on some family stuff as I did in the California book.  

So, I like to construct stories set in the  past and the present.  The future? Not so much.

Here are some bloggers who will give. you other perspectives on stories set in the past, present and future.  

Marie Laval
Anne de Gruchy
Skye Taylor
Dr. Bob Rich
Anne Stenhouse
A.J. Maguire
Victoria Chatham
Beverley Bateman
Heidi M. Thomas
Marci Baun
Helena Fairfax
Diane Bator
Rhobin L Courtright


  1. Judith, I have edited a number of books that used the device of alternating accounts from two different time periods. Some have worked very well, while others were confusing and difficult to follow. Good luck with this project!

  2. Often, I find it harder to find information about the not so distant past than the more distant past. Unless it was an important, big event, the not to distant past is often ignored. That's where the challenge lies.

    Your current WIP sounds challenging to write. I'm on the same page as Bob. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Good luck!

  3. Judith
    My historical was set way too far back. Now I know the problem :)
    I think the grandmother - granddaughter sounds very interesting. Good writing!

  4. Your "Burning Man" novel sounds intriguing!

  5. I am so hopeless with current technology, even devices such as sat navs and mobile phones, ipads and the like, that I would never attempt to set a novel in the future! But that's me and I know I am going to have to come to grips with technology one of these days, if only to keep up with my children! Good luck with your current wip.

  6. Hi Judy, dual timeline, mnm. I know I'd find that really hard. good luck with it. I too was very frustrated trying to find out about a building for my first Scottish regency. I went along to the Edinburgh room of the library where one of the wonderful assistants found the correct reference for me in under 15 mins. Amazing places, libraries. Anne

  7. I struggle with technology and including any but the most trivial of details about it in the present is beyond me so I have to agree that future settings would be a huge challenge. But there's also the challenge with writing in the not so distant past. Readers don't always stop to remember that cell phones have only been around for 20 years or so and so many other inventions of the last 10 or 20 years. Even the personal computer. And it's often hard to make sure the reader isn't missing this piece. I guess there are always challenges.

  8. I enjoyed your blog, especially about writing about future technology and the details. Great imagination. I have a heard time visualizing what our future will be.


  9. I love the proposed cover for your California book. It really nails the period. I have a tough time with technology which is why I'm happier with writing in the past.


Your comments are always welcome!