The Noble Pen for Apr 5, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 5th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids


The young adult sf book A Wrinkle in Time is now a movie getting mixed reviews.   Here is a very somewhat favorable and detailed review.  Some like it, saying the wait for this classic to be a movie has been too long, but others say the special effects were overdone and they tried so hard to provide an ethnic mix that the effort is obvious.

This is one of the first sf books I ever read, and at the time I really didn’t like it.  Maybe I should read it again.


Randy’s book has eight reviews on Amazon, with a good average score.


If you as a writer are taking your reader back to historical times, you don’t need a sci-fi machine, but you do need a heavy dose of research to avoid common problems.  There are tools to fight the problems. (besides Google).

The first problem is making the earlier times seem right to readers who may not have a lot of detailed knowledge.  You need references that they will recognize, that are NOW associated with the era, not necessarily what was hot at the time.  Mention of horseless carriages will take most people back to the early 20th century.  Fallout shelters may bring the 1950’s to mind to older people, but younger ones may not recognize them. Black and white TV might work better for them because they have at least heard of it.  Party line phones (that’s several houses on the same wired phone line) may be a foreign concept.   Music that was popular in the era may help, but there are people who haven’t heard of the Beatles, much less Buddy Holly or Stan Kenton.

The second problem is avoiding anachronisms.  The people who DO know the historical period may burn your book (and your ratings) if you have a detective in 1982 Google an address on his smart phone.  Not only didn’t he have a cell phone, he is unlikely to have a home computer, and there was no Google.  Did they use forks at dinner in 1200 AD?  Research it.   Does the heroine say “okay” in your Regency romance?  Could the Civil War soldier zip his coat?  Not by decades.

Names should be chosen from those in common use at the time.  A World War II widow named Brittney or Aimee just wouldn’t be right, any more than a 2015 graduate named Agnes, Henry, Mabel,  Mildred, or Archibald.

And the characters’ language must avoid more recent jargon, slang, and common expressions.  As this article says, a reference to a person who did not fit into 1850 society would not be “What planet is he from?” A medieval peasant would not say an easy job was a piece of cake.

Characters’ attitudes and world view (there’s a modern term) may be even harder to deal with than their words, particularly when dealing with the interaction of different social classes.  And historical accuracy may not be politically acceptable now when dealing with treatment of women and minorities.  Huck Finn’s language is getting him banned even though it reflected the era.

Jude Knight has some thoughts on the problems, limits, and some very nice anachronistic pictures.  KJ Charles considers both what doesn’t fit and what may be missing.

Upcoming Schedule

Apr 5
Aime – short educational

Apr 12
Stacie S.

Apr 19
Open slots

Apr 26
Open slot

May 3
Open slots

Keep Writing,