What if you’re writing a story set in the far out 1970’sMichael Poeltl
So, usually, my books take place in the present-day or the near future, so as far as creating authentic period language, it hasn’t been an issue. If people use a bizarre term in the future, who’s to say that’s wrong? The present is the present and I live in the present, so… I get my queues from the news and music and television shows. Also friends and family and work peers and kids. There is no limit to the language you can pick up from the present to include in a book. But what if you’re writing a story set in the far-out 1970s or the 1700s?
I’ve done just that. In fact, my latest novel, due out in 2021, moves through multiple eras beginning in the 1970’s and ending in the present. For the sake of authenticity, I researched popular phrases on Google and found a few helpful pages with some great terms (some of which I remember). As I wrote, I researched and placed circa appropriate terms and slang into characters dialogue to further imbed the time period to the reader.
It wasn’t something I had initially considered, but one day it just hit me, you should research that and see if people were using that term in the 70’s. So I did, and sure enough they weren’t, and so I went back into all of my dialogue and played this game. It was honestly a lot of fun. I plugged in “popular terms in the 1970’s” and it popped up for me! Then it was all about matching relevant terms and phrases to the dialogue.
What I also discovered is that there are no reference tools for authors when looking for period dialogue. I looked everywhere. What there are though, are threads in places like Reddit where they’ll tell you to read period books (actually written within the period you’re writing for). Read through period plays, letters, even movies to some extent. All good advice. Even great sites like Indies Unlimited and Kindlepreneur gave nothing up on this query. So, in my opinion, there is a need out there for someone (a historian?) to build out a website with helpful period dialogue to assist authors in their quest to write the perfect book! Until then, research, research, research.