Is not every story set in its own century?

Is the century in which a novel is to be set not obvious? You might think I am asking a silly question. However, many stories have been updated into different periods. I have just seen a BBC production  of King Lear (and a little while ago Hamlet) set in the present. Opinions vary as to how well each adaptation worked. You have probably heard Bible stories retold in modern settings. Some people say a good story is independent of its time.

Why adapt a story to the present century?

Some writers believe that modern readers prefer books with present day settings. They think people can’t relate to the culture of another century. Others say they find it difficult to avoid anachronisms, which can distract readers. It is especially difficult to write in a style which does not seem old-fashioned, yet also not too gratingly modern. I agree these are challenges, but I find they make the writing process enjoyable.

A quill pen. How modern would you make a story?

A quill pen. How modern would you make a story?

How to choose your century?

Some writers choose the period they are most familiar with, or where they feel most comfortable. Sometimes you have to keep the story in the original setting because it includes actual historical events. The Jacobite Rebellions of the early eighteenth century provide the background for the Highwaypersons trilogy. The stories would not transfer easily to any other time. I like weaving my fictitious stories into real history, but some stories appear to be independent of any period.

Highwaypersons Book II is as anchored in the 18th Century as Book I

Highwaypersons Book II is as anchored in the 18th Century as Book I

The newly published Book II, The King’s Justice is now available on Amazon.

How does the content affect the century for the setting?

Apart from major events, stories often contain features which limit your choice of setting. Swordfights, chases on horseback and voyages on sailing ships all occur in Highwaypersons. They could happen in the 21st century, but would tend to seem out of place. Perhaps I could have rewritten them as gunfights, car chases and airline travel. Or left them out? Some writers say they have successfully made such adaptations to old stories. Readers may have their opinions as to the extent of the success.

What else affects the century in which to set a novel?

The important question is ‘What happens’ in the story. I will explain this in a future blog.