Tag Archives: anachronisms

Writers, watch out for those troubling anachronisms

Oh, dear. Like any reader, I enjoy reading other writers’ works. But I don’t like to come across obvious anachronisms in a novel that takes place in the past.  All can be forgiven, I suppose, if the plot takes off like a rocket, throws you side to side in your seat and deposits you, breathless, at a welcome pausing point.

But, really, mentioning a place or incident that didn’t exist when the story takes place means an author didn’t do homework. Can he or she be be trusted with further suspension of disbelief? Let’s be clear, I am speaking of mysteries, crime novels, or thrillers rather than science fiction, which is a free-for-all from the start (no offense to sci-fi writers! If I’d read more, I might know where Google Glass will take us!).

For example, I write my novels set in the Rocky Mountains, about a reporter named India Katherine Banks, with a setting of pre-2001. I am careful to mention only the newsroom technology known and used at the time, even allowing for older equipment which might have been in use in a small-town news operation. There was no Twitter around then, trust me. ‘Mobile phones,’ certainly.

But I am reading another author’s work that is popular, presumably best-selling, and yet running across many oddities that jump off the page.  Such as incredibly powerful cell phones that act like iPhone5 rather than Nokias of the day.  Or, mention of a dinner that cost about the same as [insert brand-name shoes here] by a virtually unknown designer of the day.  But today, the shoes are a household name. Oops… I’m also reading mention of technology and computer equipment in popular use waay too early, well beyond the floppy disks in wide use at the time.

As a writer of mysteries, I will no doubt stumble on this creative bump from time to time. But I certainly strive to do homework to prevent it.

I owe it to my readers.