Expansion Pack: Changing times

Hi gang, Craig here once more with another Expansion Pack. This one has to do with setting, but it’s as much a mental setting as a physical one. It’s based upon the stress that changing times bring.

I’ve lived long enough to remember bashing the side of the black & white television to make the signal come in. This probably pales in comparison to some of you who are older than I am, but I’ve seen a lot of change.

Change has always been there, and always will be. It can be looked upon from a couple of perspectives, gaining of something or loss of something. It’s a stressful time, and stress is good for fiction.

Think about the Romans reinventing warfare. Good for some, bad for others. World War II ended with a nuclear blast. Good for some, bad for others. Warfare is easy to see, but there are stress points in everyday life, too.

Paddle wheelers get surpassed by river barges, shipping lines get usurped by airlines. On a smaller scale, Windows 10 and iOS 12. Marriage, divorce, elections, loss of employment, everyone has experienced something that changed their lifestyle completely. Reflect for a moment upon what Amazon has done to the book industry, and the retail industry.

I grew up, and earned my first paychecks, as a pen & ink draftsman. Computers do all that today. If I decide to write about robots taking all our jobs away, I have a place I can pull from to add some depth to my characters. You can, too.

As a speculative author, anything related to an apocalypse is simple enough. The rules of civilized society don’t apply any more. This can also be projected onto antagonists along with your main characters. Pretty easy to understand.

You have the opportunity to use changing times to your advantage. How will we function in a world without crude oil? What happens to society when robots take over all of our farming. How would this change life at the John Deere dealership? What about the migrant workers? How about the college students who are millimeters from an agricultural degree, but have no desire for a job in computers or robotics? What can you project about all the databases that exist today? How might our facial features, thumbprints, and shopping habits be turned against us?

History is easy enough. You’re either with Edison or you’re about to inherit a whale oil empire that made your father rich. Tall ships or ironclads? Chariots or cavalry?

Fantasy can work this way, too. Military history and those changing times can shoehorn right into fantasy. Maybe you want to write about human logging activity from the perspective of the forest dwellers. The fairies aren’t going to be very happy. How will they adapt?

For paranormal stories, maybe the key to ridding the castle of ghosts is to use technology from their era. A main character who is obsessed with electronic gadgets might struggle with this backward reflection. Are vampires affected by solar power? Maybe they can’t function where lightbulbs are powered by the sun.

I often refer to the daydreaming phase of writing. This is before I make my first notes about a story. Changing times are a good place to focus.

Let’s hear from you? Do you think changing times could bring some value to your stories? Have you considered this angle? Maybe you could use it as a peripheral part of your story?

30 thoughts on “Expansion Pack: Changing times

  1. You bring up some very good food for thought, Craig. YES, I definitely believe we can use “changing times” to create, enhance or drive our stories. The Great Depression-era has always drawn me and probably because my parents started out as a young married couple during that time. They had absolutely nothing to build a life on. And yet, when Roosevelt created the New Deal, it changed their times and they eventually provided a stable home for their family. So, yes, changing times can open so many doors, whether it be going backward or forward. Great topic!

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  2. I’m having some fun going back and forward in time in my WIP. So many things have changed. I was thinking that when writing a 1958 scene. 1958 was my junior year in high school and I thought everything that was going to be invented already had been. In my story, I grab onto John McCarthy who wrote the LISP computer language that gave rise to AI. He did that in 1958 when the world was quite primitive computer wise. (The mainframe IBM 305 was capable of 200 instructions per second in 1958. Our current smart phones can do 3.36 billion instructions per second) So to try and talk in 1958 like we do today just won’t work.Back to the research mill. Super post, Craig.

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  3. There was a woman on the news the other night who’d just celebrated her 104th birthday- 104! Can you imagine the changes she’s lived through? It boggles my mind. You’re right, Craig. Writing about change can be exhilarating, but also important for future generations to read. (Let’s hope THAT never changes!)

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  4. I was just looking through some old writings of mine the other day. One of my published works mentions Donald Trump in a throw-away line. It had to do with being rich.This was before he was President, I kind of cringed at that line now.
    Then there’s a trunk novel I’m thinking of reworking. A key scene hinges on a thief stealing zip disks. Remember those?

    Technology changes at lightning speed and can easily date a book. Sometimes, I think it’s almost safer to set my story in a past decade, but then I wonder if readers will be interested. I might have to turn that into an SE post!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Absolutely change provides story fodder. Not long ago, I reread a book that was published in 1975. I had to pause when I read about a character using a floor switch to dim the headlights in a car. In mystery and thriller books, the villain would often cut a phone line so the victim couldn’t call for help. That went by the wayside with cell phones. I’m currently writing a short story that has a couple of flashback scenes set in the late sixties. Talk about change! Good post today, and I enjoyed the video.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. You are so right these changing and crazy times offer wirters a ton my material. I remember hitting the black and white TV with rabbit ears to clear the picture.

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