Dating Your Books – Should an Author Use Dates?

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@lkkelley1 #lkkelley

Actually, to tell you the truth, I never even thought about this, before I wrote my White Wolf Prophecy Trilogy. This is a true dilemma for authors. Should we use dates  in our books?  After much thought, I came to this conclusion – It all depends on what your are writing!

For instance, one of the first examples that jumped into my mind was, of course, 1984 by George Orwell.  A problem with these types of books is that they are written in a current year, but actually “predicting” a future time. Readers take these books to heart, and actually wait to see if the situations described within the book come true. The other problem with this? It rarely, if ever, comes to pass. Once that future date is past, though, going back to read the book – well written or acclaimed – seems almost pointless to read, again, since it is past. Now, that’s not to say one can read it for entertainment purposes, but quite frankly, those readers who actually believed that this world would be that way at that time and date are sadly disappointed.

The same could be said with movies. “2001, A Space Odyssey” filmed in 1968 from Stanley Kubrick, for instance, is another example. In this future time, humans had not only built a space station (which actually did happen), but it was so large, it was a stopping point on the way to the moon. The shuttles that carried people were elaborate, and I absolutely loved the weightless scenes in it! Those were incredible especially for the time in which it was filmed. Of course, these have yet to come to pass even in 2015. But, our society had increased to the point that the world was united, and everything was peaceful. In addition, humans had progressed to a point where they invented an incredible interplanetary ship in order to carry a few men to Mars where the strange monolith’s signal was heard.

And, again, in “2010 – The Year We Made Contact” filmed in 1984 by Peter Hyams (coincidence?) the same could be held true. Of course, we all know that none of these things came to pass. And, those who thought we would be there when these years arrived, again, were disappointed. However, the entertainment factor was, and is, still wonderful!

The other type of future date and time are those that have nothing to do with predictions at all. And, there are many to choose from for examples.  “Harry Potter” by JK Rowling is just one. “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” are another. They are completely made up in an author/writer’s head, written down, and enjoyed by millions. These types of future dates are set so far in the future that we cannot identify with them in any way, because we know we will not be alive. And, the thought that these books, if possible, will survive could easily be destroyed. Even if they did make it, we really don’t care whether or not those readers believe in them. Many of these books are not only set far in the future, but they have nothing whatsoever to do with Earth, or this solar system, so thus, these books are timeless, and reading them are a never ending joy!

One other example, and I have to say this, because it is one of my all time favorite TV series! “Stargate-SG1”!  In this example, it is all done in the current time.  A couple of the episodes also dealt with wormholes as well as the future and the past as well.  However, what makes this timeless is the fact it’s a “secret government” operation. By doing this, it doesn’t matter whether it is current or not.  Because it’s secret, and we know it, then it has no bearing at all on dating.

The problem is that future dating in either a book, or film, or other writings, will date these venues, and if the time comes, and passes, and they do not occur, people will be disappointed.

Now, let’s look at the OTHER side of the equation.

Dating a book, or show, or movie in a current year that refers to a past date is completely different. That is because the past is…well…past. It has already occurred, and we know what happened. But, as they say…mankind never learns from the past, and we are doomed to repeat it. But, we can literally identify with our past where the same cannot be said of the future.

And, then, there are those which are set completely in the past, and these are timeless. Westerns, Wars, Medieval Knights, the Beginning of Mankind, Mythology, Legends, and more are really something we cannot identify with in our current day.

All books have some form of time involved even though we really don’t realize it. Perhaps a description of a vehicle, or a current event sneaks into our writings. Some of us do this on purpose, but without a date. However, it does date the book. Others of us add it into a book, and do not realize we have done so.

Dating in a book can either be a “main character”, or it could be so minor, no one pays attention to it.

I admit it. I didn’t ask myself that question. So, I realized, after the fact, that I did date my Trilogy! The descriptions of the vehicles are one clue. Jets are another, and even the clothing that my characters wear. And, yet, Cordone’s house is completely timeless, right? While where the house is located, and that it was hewn out of solid rock with elements that couldn’t possible be done by human hands, the fact is…yes. It is dated! How? The furniture and Deck. These all date my books.

However, simply because these do date the books, the fact is that, because I did not add a time period (date), it is still vague enough that they can be read over and over again, and this type of dating is actually not important. And, this is how most books are written. We can all “date” books if there is something in them, but as not only authors, but readers, we actually don’t care! We love our books! They are what comfort us during times of trouble; make us laugh when we need one; make us cry tears over the characters; make us angry at another one, and of course, make us love them and even desire them! In most cases, authors will not use a specific date or year. To do so might compromise our intent. So, while there may be elements that allow readers to date the books, which have no dates, becomes superfluous and really unimportant to them. They read our books to escape reality, to understand history, to become excited about mythology or legend, to feel the horrors of war, to laugh uproariously, to feel love and desire, and on and on. We, as authors, must bring these emotions through our words, and must contain all the emotional elements whenever possible.

I do want to urge all writers that no matter what you write, keep dating in mind as you write. And, if you set your books in the near future, remember that it will come and go, and will be judged by people who will be alive before, during, and after that date.

But, in truth, There is no real right or wrong way to pen your books (except with spelling, sentence, structure, and punctuation).  So, every author should ask themselves a question before they begin to write. Do I want my book to be dated? Or, do I want my book to be timeless by not dating it?

All we need to remember? It is our job and responsibility to entertain our readers! If you are excited about your story, it will show in your writing, and that is our specific intention! I am going out on a limb and say this:

Write with EMOTION! If you write it, your readers will EXPERIENCE it!”

@lkkelley1  #lkkelley  #whitewolfprophecy 

The White Wolf Prophecy Trilogy Official Website

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3 thoughts on “Dating Your Books – Should an Author Use Dates?

  1. Valerie Penny August 18, 2015 / 10:17 am

    Hi LK! Sometimes, if the book is set in the present/immediate past, it may not be necessary to use dates. However, if the date is significant to the story, then, definitely. I suppose the most obvious ones are 2001 & 1984. Best to you. Val

    Liked by 1 person

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