I’ve written two monster stories, Deep Cove and Deep Cove: The Party Crasher set in August of 1978. (SELFISH NOTE: YOU CAN BUY THESE RIGHT NOW BY CLICKING ON THE LINKS ON THE SIDEBAR) My intention is to elongate this series out with a collection of stories to include an origins account of where the monster came from, other incidents, the hunt to destroy the monster and eventually a dramatic climax. If all goes according to plan, when I am finished with the series, I will have enough to make a “collection” of Deep Cove monster stories for a printed book.
There are two challenges for me in this particular story arc. One challenge is that unlike just about everything else I’ve written, the Deep Cove stories are not theological or designed as social commentary. Its just a monster story. If anything, it is more nostalgia as I have set the story in the backdrop of my childhood in rural Texas.
The second challenge, though is the time period I put the story. In August of 1978 I was only 6 years old and was looking forward to first grade, having survived the trauma of kindergarten’s nap time and lice checks.
So how do I write about a period of time I only barely remember? There were four things I worked at.
1. Music. Music helps conjure a feeling about a time period that convinces an audience of authenticity. If am reading about the roaring 20’s I expect to have some mention of swing. If I am watching a movie about the 1950’s, at some point I need to hear some classic teeny bop. In both my stories I use music to set the mood. The fishermen listens to country music on the AM dial while the teenagers listen to Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac on the 8 track.
2. Fashion. What people wear is vital to creating imagery. What I worry most about fashion issues is that I might put something anachronistic into the text. When exactly did girls start wearing Daisy Dukes? I let a friend of mine read the most recent story and he said all it was missing was “a mood ring and a halter top.” Well, I didn’t put the mood ring in, but I did rewrite the wardrobe of one of the girls to make her wear a halter top.
3. Food. People eat different things in different time periods, especially name brand items. In the first story I used the different labels on the beer cans to set the time. One of the fishermen drank Schlitz. Schlitz doesn’t exist (that I know of?) anymore but people who were alive in the ’70’s will no doubt remember its familiar red and white label. The other story doesn’t have food or drink, but the people are smoking marijuana. Even at the age of 6, I remember marijuana. I also remember those LSD tattoos we were supposed to be afraid of. Anyone else remember those? That just might find its way into the next story.
4. Vehicles. I learned this from reading James Bond novels. What people drive not only dates the piece, it is also very interesting to male readers. There is something about shifting gears, revving engines and squealing tires that make men keep reading long after the chase is over. Of the four I’ve mentioned, vehicles are the easiest because they are so easily dated by year, make and model. One sidebar to vehicles in 1978 I haven’t mentioned yet is the CB radio. You know that is coming at some point. It is an imperative–breaker one nine.
There are other ways to capture the spirit of an age such as catch phrases (swell=1950, dude=1986) or politics (do they like Ike or are they being drafted to Vietnam) or pastimes (roller derby or skateboarding). Of course, a huge aspect of dating a piece is technology. Don’t put a cell phone in the middle of 1992 unless your character is Onassis wealthy. Of course, for 2013 that would be Buffet wealthy.