06-18 Sarah Raplee – WHY PSYCHIC AGENTS?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What happens when an historical author writes a contemporary story…

What happens when an historical author writes a contemporary story? It’s like that old fable about stone soup.

A stranger comes to town and starts heating up a large pot of water with a stone in it. The townspeople gather around, curious about what the old guy is doing. He tells them he is making stone soup and makes a show of tasting the water as it heats, adding a bit of salt and pepper.

As a crowd gathers, he offers to share his meal. “But,” he says. “It would taste better with a carrot in it.” One housewife hurries home to get a carrot, which he then cuts up and adds to the pot. “And maybe an onion,” he suggests. Another gal runs home to get an onion.

By the time the stone soup is finished, every person in the village has contributed one item, and the resulting and abundant stew fills them all with a deliciously warm supper.

And how, you are certainly asking yourself, does that apply to a story?

If you are a reader of historicals, then you know that only period-appropriate words, references, and locations can be used if the manuscript is to be authentic. For example: mesmerized. Franz Anton Mesmer died in 1815, and in 1830 his technique using relaxation and suggestion made its way to America. The first time mesmerized was used to describe a general state of being enthralled, however, was in the 1860s.

Up until now, that word has been off-limits to me—not anymore! In it goes.

What else? Computers. The internet. Google. Smart phones. Cable television. Flat screen TVs. DVRs. Microwaves.

All of it goes in. I’m positively giddy!

Online dating services. Reality TV. Social media. Cult classics.

I’m out of control…

YouTube and cameras everywhere: night vision cameras, thermal imaging cameras, motion detection cameras. Even a “rufie” assisted crime.

And it doesn’t stop there—the story takes place in Phoenix, my home town. So local hotels, restaurants, and attractions get thrown in as well.

I can use contractions! Text-speak! Cultural references from the 20th and 21st centuries!

And slang! Are you picking up what I’m throwing down? J

The stew of my story is being spiced by all sorts of ingredients that I have never been able to use, and I’m having a blast. Random information that I pick up along the way makes it in. Why not? It’s contemporary!


As much fun as this has been, I won’t stay here for long. Once this trilogy is finished, my next stories will be set either in the 1840s or the 1940s, depending on which I write first—so I’ll be back to Googling, “When was blah-blah-blah invented?” and checking Etymology Online for the earliest use of a questionable word. That’s okay. It’s what we historical writers do.

But for now, I’m going to pull in another popular television genre. And the Arizona Renaissance Faire. And The Rocky Horror Picture Show.


1 comment:

Judith Ashley said...

Very cool, Kris! I can see you are very excited about this trilogy.

What I learned writing my contemporary series set in the early 21st century is there are a lot of it depends. Are your characters into techie stuff? (My best friend does not have a smart phone, text, seldom does email - she does have a cordless landline phone). Income: I've one character who would have to choose between feeding her three children and a cell phone for each of them. And since my characters travel to Ireland and Italy as well as around the US, after 9/11 there were massive changes to flying and traveling internationally.

Depending on what's going on in our stories, we still have to do some research.