It had to be said. Grange Hill was totally awesome – and recently “turned forty”, so happy birthday, GH.
2. The music.
Let’s face it, the 1980s and 1990s did produce some of the best music ever. If you love it too, check out my blog, and Facebook and Twitter pages, dedicated to music from both decades.
3. Speak ‘n’ Spell and Little Professor.
You either know what I mean or you don’t. I knew more answers on one than the other. You can probably guess…
4. Rubik’s Cubes.
They’re a cliché, but they were also a very real part of the 80s, and I’ve still got my original one.
5. Care Bears.
We mainly collected the plastic ones. The cuddly toy version were super expensive. I had to include them, because Care Bears were – and are – definitely awesome.
Okay, Barbie, too – but mainly Sindy. The ballerina outfits were beyond cute.
7. Phone boxes.
Well, they were, in reality, always being vandalised. But, from a heritage and beauty point of view, they’re great, especially the older, red ones.
As in, audio cassettes. True, they were always getting screwed up in the machines, but they were pretty cool. If vinyl is being revived, why not cassettes?
That ties in with the tapes, right?
Yes, they did exist. No, they didn’t connect to the internet. But we did have Space Invaders – or the Acorn Electron’s version, which was called Arcadians. Who needs Google, Facebook or Twitter, when you could be playing Arcadians? Find me on social media.
Some would say that, if anyone is alive today who remembers a given period of time, then it’s Modern Historical. It would generally be accepted that the 1950s through to the end of the 1990s qualifies.
I should, as a side note, point out that terms other than “Modern Historical Fiction” are also in use, and really there is no official, clear genre that can be applied here. “Flashback Fiction” might be worth investigating, as a search term – along with the relevant decade or decades. For example, “1980s Flashback Fiction” or “1990s Flashback Fiction”. If you add a note about “written after the year 2000”, it might help. Maybe “current fiction with (1980s?) settings”.
And “Flashback Fiction” is not, of course, to be confused with the term “flash fiction”, which refers to very short stories.
As to anything set later than 1999, but more recently than – well, now, pretty much – as in, Contemporary…
This is a grey area, and one that it’s not easy to sell publishers or readers on. If your novel is set in 2005, it’s basically “dated” – neither Historical nor Contemporary.
If you can’t “move” the characters from 2005, then it might be a case of holding on to the manuscript until it is old enough to be considered Historical. Harsh, I know – but that’s pretty much how it is.
What defines Historical Fiction, in general?
Obviously, the story must take place in a historical period – but is that sufficient?
In my opinion, the historical setting does need to play a central role in the story.
The genre may be more specific than simply historical of course, and genres can be combined. A Historical Romance, for example, would need to meet the requirements of both Historical Fiction and Romance.
Is it easier to write Modern Historical Fiction, as opposed to stories set in more ancient times?
The obvious answer would be that it is – as, from a research point of view, it’s easier to find out about more recent time periods.
Everything has its down side, however. Mistakes will be spotted more readily.
If you weren’t alive during the period you’re writing about, try talking to people who were, as well as doing research online, and reading relevant books.
If you were born at the time, do your research anyway, as you can’t rely upon memory for every detail, particularly if you were a child, during the era in question.
Keep in mind that you may have to research aspects of life prior to the period that you actually cover, in order to relate fully to the experiences of your characters.
Classic names work well, but avoid modern, trendy ones, that may not even have existed, at the time. Replace these with “dated” names, which would have been the trendy ones.
It’s easy enough to Google the popular given names for any particular era, and remember to take the age of the characters into account, too.
I love writing Modern Historical.
It’s not significantly different from writing Contemporary Fiction, and I get to address many of the social issues that are close to my heart – but the music is better (personal opinion only), and no one has a mobile phone, or Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts.
Like many of us, I’ve seen the best and worst side of Facebook.
From personal experience, the best place to start, for a writer, when trying to grow an audience from scratch (or close), is definitely Twitter.
Facebook is much more challenging, and it’s beyond discouraging when you are posting your consistent, hopefully quality, content, and Facebook is showing some of these posts to about two people.
Literally. You can throw a “one hundred percent conversion rate” party, when a post is shown to three people, and you actually manage to get three “likes”. I know, I know – “pay to play” – but that doesn’t work for those of us who are starting out, and don’t have an advertising budget. There are strategies that help with organic growth on Facebook, but I’m not in a position to give much specific advice about these right now, because I’m honestly not there yet.
However, I’m not giving up, and I do believe that organic growth on Facebook is possible.
It takes time and effort, like everything else in life. I sometimes think it’s ironic, that I’ve watched so many You Tube videos, and read so many blog posts, about all things social media related, and yet, I don’t see to get anywhere fast. But hey, do I need to get anywhere fast? If it takes me longer, so be it. This is a journey, and I can appreciate it.
At the start of 2017, I had Vibrant Darkness, my poetry page, which I had more or less abandoned.
Other than that, only my profile page. This year, I started to update Vibrant Darkness, and also set up my author page, and 80s/90s Music page. The retro music angle, incidentally, does tie in with my writing somewhat, as well as covering an area of interest, since I write modern historical fiction, set primarily in the 1980s. And very recently, I ventured into setting up Facebook groups, Writing Forever and Music Forever, to help build more of a community, which is a major difference between Facebook pages and groups. I’m in the early stages, but hopeful.
This time last year, my approach to social media was completely random and chaotic.
I only had a few hundred followers on Twitter: now my main social media channel, where I’m currently working towards 3k, my next milestone – but, more importantly, enjoying the community, and trying to give back something of value, to the amazing people I’ve been able to connect with on there. I’m still random and chaotic, but perhaps a little less so – a work in very slow progress, just like my novel. And, yes – I have now officially updated this blog in December: consistently inconsistent, right?
Not every subject that I write about is one that I have experienced personally, although I can always relate, on some level. I have never had drug addiction issues, for instance, although I have had problems with alcohol, in the past.
When it comes to mental illness – yes, definitely, I cover that too, as a writer, but not in the usual, neatly packaged way. For myself, it’s a priority to reflect realities that are not usually represented.
Most of my characters are either not diagnosed with mental illnesses, or the diagnosis is not mentioned.
It’s idealistic to suppose that everyone who has a mental illness is diagnosed – and correctly diagnosed, at that – and also, that everyone who is diagnosed with a mental illness necessarily has a mental illness at all.
I refuse to endorse the psychiatric system by going along blindly with the “this diagnosis treated by this type of medication”, textbook version.
I have also had enough of the myth that, following a suicide attempt, people are routinely admitted to psychiatric hospital.
I have never been an inpatient in psychiatric hospital. When I have taken overdoses, for the most part, no one has actually realised at all. My parents, and others around me, have assumed that I must be sick from drinking too much.
On the few occasions when I have been treated for the physical effects – far from being admitted to psychiatric hospital afterwards, I have simply been sent straight back to full-time work, as soon as physically able. Literally. In fact, it was the same after being raped.
I have not had therapy, and any dealings with the mental health services have ended up causing more distress than if I had simply “got on with it”, and not sought help at all. And, yes, there are others in similar positions. Mine is, by no means, an isolated case.
The lack of support received is effectively then used against those of us who have been denied help, since we receive fewer “illness points” than others who have received medical attention – which, in turn, affects subsequent decisions about medical care, or lack of.
I do have a character who attempts to take her own life, and others who experience suicidal thoughts, and my characters don’t receive the “textbook” version of the NHS service, which is not the reality, for most of us.
I understand that many people have traumatic experiences within psychiatric hospitals, but this is already represented in literature. The experiences of those who are forced to “get on with it”, and offered no support whatsoever, need to be portrayed, as well.
My protagonist, Lucy, has symptoms of anxiety, which I convey in the “show don’t tell” tradition.
The subject of whether or not she has a diagnosis isn’t mentioned. She doesn’t.
Her mother, Helen, does have anxiety too, and is diagnosed – and this can be seen through the fact that she is addicted to prescription tranquillizers.
I have the benefit – the extreme privilege – of being a writer, and as such, I believe, a responsibility to speak out, on behalf of others.
I have done this, at times, through my poetry. As a writer of realistic, Contemporary Fiction and Modern Historical Fiction, I hope to achieve more, in this respect. I shall certainly try.
Writing is my therapy and my passion. It has enabled me to survive. There is no greater blessing.
First things first: Why in realistic fiction, exclusively?
Because that’s what I write myself, and the majority of what I’ve read has also been realistic fiction. I don’t feel qualified to give advice relating to speculative genres.
1. Keep descriptions brief.
This does vary, depending upon the type of story, and your own particular writing style – but, in general, modern readers don’t appreciate page upon page of descriptive writing. Mixing it up with other elements, such as dialogue, can help, as it does make it much easier to consume.
2. Use specific details.
Yes, this does come under the “show don’t tell” umbrella. If there’s a tree, is it an oak tree? Lime tree? Birch tree? It makes a difference, and makes the scene feel more authentic, if we have a little more information – and it doesn’t exactly require many additional words.
3. Use all five senses.
A sound or aroma, for example, might be the extra touch, that brings a visual image to life.
4. Be inspired by real places – but, at the same time, not confined or restricted by them.
The amazing aspect of writing fiction for me, is the blending of fact and fiction, so don’t be afraid to mix it up.
5. If you find that you don’t naturally include much description in your first draft – don’t worry.
I personally tend to write mainly dialogue, and minimal narrative, initially. It’s easy enough to add more description during rewrites, and anything that slows down your writing process should probably be avoided. My post on White Room Syndrome is particularly relevant to this point.
I hope that this short post has provided some useful suggestions, to help you with the important task of bringing your realistic, fictional settings to life.