Writing Fiction in Different Time Periods

by Phyllis Zimbler Miller on August 29, 2015

Cogs in human brain

I’m having somewhat of an out-of-body experience these days. I’m working on several fiction projects simultaneously and the different time periods are potential traps for inaccurate depictions.

First, I’m updating a manuscript of a Rebecca Stone cozy mystery SINK LIKE A STONE — sequel to CAST THE FIRST STONE. I’m having to remind myself to update actions that now in 2015 are done by texting and other digital actions rather than by more outdated methods.

On the other hand, I’m writing the sci fi story THE UPHEAVAL, which takes place in 2029. In my attempt to be realistic about what the future might bring, I’m reading tech articles about potential discoveries.

For example, the August 28th Wall Street Journal article by Gordon Lubold “Pursuing Electronics that Bend, Pentagon Advances Partnership with Tech Firms: Defense Secretary Ash Carter to announce program to develop flexible devices with Silicon Valley companies” made me consider if this news could affect the actions of any of my characters in 2029.

Of course, THE UPHEAVAL is more complicated because it is the prequel of my 2049 sci fi dystopian story THE MOTHER SIEGE. I have to balance which futuristic elements in THE MOTHER SIEGE can actually be introduced in THE UPHEAVAL and which have to wait a few fictional years before making their appearance “on stage.”

Then I have to remember to be careful when working on my fantasy story ROAD TO ZANICA, which while fantasy has elements of the Medieval time period and there are no flush toilets!

Screenwriting vs. fiction writing

Another discrepancy that I have to keep in mind is POV (Point-of-View) — whose head are we in?

In fiction writing these days there is a definite preference for POV characters, and thus readers can only know the internal thoughts of whichever POV character is “on stage&dquo; at the moment. This is in contrast to an omniscient (all-knowing) POV where the reader can know every character’s thoughts from paragraph to paragraph.

In screenwriting it is the opposite — there is virtually no POV.

With the exception of the rare times when characters speak to themselves, the audience has no way of knowing the characters’ internal thoughts. These thoughts must be revealed through dialogue or action. (Older films frequently relied on a character lighting a cigarette to show anxiety.)

Thus when adapting fiction writing to screenplay format, as I am doing simultaneously while writing THE UPHEAVAL, I have to be careful not to confuse the two different POV requirements. I have to remember that, although there is no POV in the script. I have to be careful of character POV in the story.

In conclusion
, what all of this comes down to is creating a pleasurable entertainment experience for the reader or viewer. We have to be careful not to jar readers or viewers out of a story world because protagonists say or do something that doesn’t fit within the time period of the story (or the format of the fiction).

And after all, Medieval knights and their ladies did not have Apple watches.

© 2015 Miller Mosaic LLC

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the author of fiction and nonfiction books/ebooks, including HOW TO SUCCEED IN HIGH SCHOOL AND PREP FOR COLLEGE and the romantic suspense spy thriller CIA FALL GUY, as well as books not yet published. She can be reached at pzmiller@gmail.com

print button

Want to know when Phyllis writes a new blog post?
Sign up for email notification.



rss icon Or go here, for the blog posts to be sent to your RSS reader

Hurricane Katrina 10 Years Ago

August 26, 2015
Thumbnail image for Hurricane Katrina 10 Years Ago

While New Orleans and surrounding areas have a history of devastating hurricanes, Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005 ranks as one of the worse. This is because what started as a natural disaster was multiplied exponentially by man-made mistakes. In October of 2007, my daughter Yael K. Miller and I had a private tour of […]

Read the full article →

Sex Selection in Real Life and Fiction

August 21, 2015
Thumbnail image for Sex Selection in Real Life and Fiction

The August 17, 2015, Wall Street Journal article “Fertility Clinics Let You Select Your Baby’s Sex: Parents with two or three children of one sex may want a child of the opposite sex” by Sumathi Reddy inspired me to further contemplate the genetic and pregnancy issues featured in my serialized dystopian sci fi story THE […]

Read the full article →

Writing Books That Are More Easily Read on Smartphones

August 14, 2015
Thumbnail image for Writing Books That Are More Easily Read on Smartphones

The August 12, 2015, Wall Street Journal article by Jennifer Maloney titled “The Rise of Phone Reading: It’s not the e-reader that will be driving future books sales, it’s the phone; how publishers are rethinking books for the small screen” raises an important question for us writers: How do we write for our books to […]

Read the full article →

Experimenting With Writing Site Skrawl

July 29, 2015
Thumbnail image for Experimenting With Writing Site Skrawl

Thanks to Skrawl community manager Allie Daniel reaching out to me, I have just discovered the free online writing platform Skrawl.com After Allie answered some questions of mine (some of the answers I will be sharing below with permission from Allie), I decided to give Skrawl a tryout even though I have been using Wattpad.com […]

Read the full article →

123456789Last