Writing a contemporary novel is dangerous. The time between when you write it, when it’s published, and when someone reads the story can bring about many changes. With historical novels, the settings, weaponry, devices, language, mores are pretty well set. A writer might fudge a little, have a heroine more modernistic than normal for the times, but most of the story will adhere to the norm. With SciFi and Fantasy, as long as the writer creates a setting and society that makes sense to the reader, all is fine.
But what about a story set in the here and now?
What if you use real settings? Maybe even real people.
Writers today are confronted with what to do about Covid-19. Many writers will be including this in their stories, but many others (myself included) will not want to, at least not for a while. Not until I have some idea of what the “New Norm” will be like in a couple years.
I like writing stories that are considered contemporary, but so many things have happened over the span of my writing career, it’s hard for me to say my books are contemporary. My last Loveswept came out in 1998 and the plot line involved the creation of a hydrogen motor. Today, that’s historical information.
I’ve had to make decisions when turning some of my early romance novels into e-books. Do I put a message at the beginning of the story indicating the year the story takes place? (I did that with Lyon’s Pride) Or do I update parts of the story? I’ve done that with several of the e-books, especially since the use of the cell phone has basically replaced the land line and finding a phone booth would be impossible.
I’ve had new writers ask if it’s good to use a real location/town in their stories. My answer is, unless it’s a large city (New York, Chicago, L.A.), the writer should use a fictitious setting. Thank goodness I took my own advice when I started writing my P.J. Benson Mysteries (Known as the “Crow” books). I created Zenith, Michigan. Since, when I started that series, I lived close to Climax, Michigan, I used that town as the model for Zenith, and when the first book, THE CROWS, came out, residents of Climax often mentioned they knew exactly what town I’d used for Zenith. However, since that first book was published, Climax, Michigan has undergone several changes that haven’t occurred in my Zenith, Michigan. For example: the bar on the corner of the two main streets burned down. There’s now an empty lot at that location. The grocery store about a half-mile out is now a restaurant and meat market. And, I’ve added a few businesses to Zenith that aren’t in or around Climax.
There’s going to be about a 15-year span between the year THE CROWS was published and the 4th book in the series is published; however, the 4 books and 1 short story (Eye of the Crow) barely cover 1 year in P.J. Benson’s life. What is contemporary for her is no longer contemporary for me. Thank goodness, she doesn’t have to contend with this virus. She has enough problems in her life.
What about you? How do you as a reader or as a writer handle contemporary stories?