Last month, The Huffington Post ran the piece, You’re Out: 20 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade. The list is interesting, and a little bit sad, too. Who wants to admit they’re old enough to have witnessed (perhaps with giddy anticipation) the arrival of some of these items that are already meeting an early grave? The list spans many categories, from technology (sigh, R.I.P. beloved VHS), to the less tangible like separating work and personal lives, and my favorite…forgetting — as in, never escaping the permanent nature of our sometimes inappropriate digital footmarks. (Remember when you posted that “funny” picture inspired by a bottle of tequila and a tube of Super Glue and then went home and drunk tweeted about it? So, does the rest of the world, fool.)
The article also prompted a post by Stacy Johnson called, Things Babies Born in 2011 Will Never Know, where she includes her take on the list, and adds a few items of her own. You should definitely check it out, along with its 7,000+ comments — it appears many people in the world only recognize tongue-in-cheek when it’s the kind encountered in an overly enthusiastic game of Seven Minutes in Heaven.
As a writer, as a storyteller, I found both of these posts fascinating. When writing contemporary fiction (especially for children), there’s always some question of deciding which technologies, slang phrases, and “current” trends to include. All could become out-dated, well…tomorrow, making your work sound old-fashioned, or worse, irrelevant to your reader. I mean, thank goodness (and Fonzie) “cool” still means cool!
Another point to consider is the continuing evolution of how we gain knowledge. No longer are trips to the library required when we have Smartphones and computers at the ready. Middle grade readers may not understand a story world where immediate contact is not the norm. Plot points which used to shout out, “Hey…this is suspenseful!” may seem unrealistic. Couldn’t they have just looked that up on Wiki? the young reader might ask in response to an adventure involving a couple of super-sleuthing peers. Or, Why don’t they just track them with their GPS?
Yes, times are always a-changin’, and no matter which decade has been welcomed, writers face the dilemma of how to keep our writing authentic for the current day, yet still give it staying power for the future. How do we connect with young readers whose world may be Betamax to Blu-ray different from the one we lived in?
Thankfully, some things never change. There will always be stories of family. Hardship. Love. Laughter. The delight of a good surprise, and the thrill of being taken to lands unknown will never get old.
As writers, we beg the reader to turn the page. To learn. To find out. And, we’ll keep at it for those born today, and the next year, and the year after that. Good story-telling can span the buggy to rocket centuries.
We may just have to work a little harder to ensure our readers stick around for the ride.
*Find me on Twitter @amandahoving
You may also like, Writing in a Phone Booth-free World, by Erika Marks