Writing Wednesday: Newbie Pitfalls: Wrong Time Period

In my writing files I have a story I first drafted in 1993. Why isn’t it finished? Well, life and raising children intervened. I saved it, faithfully converting the document type from version to version of Word.

Now, releasing that story would require a complete overhaul. I’d have to alter some of the tropes in it, probably change up the language used by a couple of characters, and update the style in which the story is told.


Fantasy written for the 1980s and 1990s isn’t fantasy written for today’s market.

There are a host of things you could do 30 years ago that you better have some caution in doing now. Social norms have shifted quite a bit. For example, I can think of several fantasy novels from that time where a desert tribe/kingdom was hostile, warlike, killed indiscriminately, and were religious fanatics.

Remind you of the way any group of people have been seen? Sound racist? Well, you’re right, but at the time it was the way things were done. It doesn’t make it “right.” It does mean we can say “This was the way things happened at that time,” as a fact, not an acceptance.

Would we do that in today’s world where we’ve seen propaganda that gets Muslim people killed? Not if we have any social awareness. Painting the “evil people” as Bedouin or thinly veiled Muslims is racist, inflammatory, and generally not okay. Why was it done before? Because society considered it acceptable.

We’ve learned better, so now we do better. (Or should.)

Likewise, I wouldn’t write like Tolkien, even though I love his stories and world. He wrote for an audience and culture of 100 years ago. In some cases, we don’t even use the same words as he did. His works are classics because the message is timeless (whether you enjoy reading them or not). Even so, he wrote for the people of that era. If he wrote today, I’m sure he’d write for the people of this era and we’d have similarly important messages woven through the story, but they’d read quite differently.

It doesn’t matter if you’re releasing as an indie author or going trad pub. You have to write to the audience. That held true in high school, when your English teacher told you about needing to write for the audience you’re addressing. It’s still true.

When you sit down to write, ask yourself, does your writing fit the things readers want to see in today’s stories? Are you ignoring the state of the world, social issues, and the desires of your potential readers?

I’ll also add one other thing. I’ve heard LOTS of authors say “I’m doing it MY way! You can’t stop my creativity!” It’s a defensive response, and a sure sign that a writer lacks confidence in their ability to tell a story and is probably new. They may well be unpublished.

To anyone who wants to comment to this post with a similar message, I will give you a challenge first.

Tell your story so it will draw in the most readers. If you’re good enough, you can tell your story, your way, for today’s world.

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