Future-Proofing Your Book

Future-Proofing Your Book

Have you ever read a popular book (say from the 90s or early 2000s) that seems to have just aged poorly?

It used to be a big trend for writers to showcase the technology and pop culture of their era to seem trendy. While that may have worked short-term, it unfortunately keeps the story in a time-box that can’t continue to grow further than that point.

Of course, there are many stories written with the purpose of nostalgia, where authors over-exaggerate past trends to really show the setting. But if this isn’t your intention, here are some things you might want to omit from your story in fear of making it seem dated.

1. Cliche storytelling

Sometimes the way a story is written can be a clear indicator of an over-done era in the time the book was published. While some cliches are great for quick ideas when people mass self-publish, most can be deemed childish or uninventive for future readers. This of course is determined by the way the cliche is implemented, as many good writers can find a way to make them work through subtlety. After all, the reason why cliches are so popular is because they do (or did) work.

However, if your main goal is to lengthen the life expectancy of your novel, you really need to focus on subtlety or just avoiding the cliche / overdone trope altogether. Most people don't like reading the same plot several times over, and years into the future it can seem more irritating than boring.

2. Slang

Slang and catch-phrases are important to our culture, especially when it comes to descriptivist language. The way we talk brings perspective into our education, where we grew up and our hobbies or interests. This also means the use of a few words can tie you to an era or location that you might not want to be tied to, creating a geographical limit as well as outdating the story. Just because a phrase might be popular in the writer's home city, if they are writing about a different location it will seem out of place.

3. Over-use of technology

When it comes to technology, you have to be really careful about how you describe whatever you’re referring to. For example, nowadays when a character 'hangs up the phone and flips it shut', readers automatically think it’s an outdated action. Sure, there are plenty of older flip phones lying around the place - but unless it’s part of your character’s vintage quirk, they probably don’t use them. Another common issue is showing the readers texting threads, which most writers seem to all do differently.

Even if you were to describe current technology, there often isn’t a need to talk about the functions of the item. The less detail on such items, the better. If your characters are texting, just write it as regular dialogue and use 'they sent' instead of 'they said'.

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