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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Characters and Current Events

I thought I'd make this a three post blog topic and talk about characters and current events. While I have waded in with technology or things like music/movies in my books, I've shied away from news-type references. At least I'm pretty sure I have. The thing is that current events never stay current and even if something feels too big to fade, it will recede in people's memories.

Take Hurricane Katrina as an example. At that time, it was a huge news story. The outrage over the lack of government response, the people trapped at the dome, homes flattened, debris everywhere, and rooftop rescues were in the news constantly in the aftermath of the storm. It might be tempting to think that this would never leave public consciousness and that having a character reference it would still resonate years later.

IMO, not so much. Quick, what year was Katrina?

If you or someone you love wasn't directly impacted by the storm, the details become less distinct. It's the way humans are-something happens and we eventually put it behind us and move on. As more years pass, the memories will become even more vague.

And because the immediacy fades, characters referencing an event like this dates the book. Fast.

I think-and this is my opinion only-that if a character has a backstory that includes surviving a bad hurricane, that the writer make it a fictional hurricane. It can have Katrina-like elements to it, but made-up storms don't get dated. And of course, this would apply to any major current event. Make it up.

Probably I spend too much time thinking about stuff like this, but the pop culture and technology issues are still unanswered for me. I guess figuring out 1 out of 3 isn't bad, but I'd love to decide where I stand on all the topics.