When writing WOODFORD BRAVE, I wanted to show a small town in 1943. Following are a few questions I asked as I researched and wrote WOODFORD BRAVE, along with examples that appear in the book.
·What items does Cory naturally interact with in his world?
I laid my comic book on the nightstand, smoothing the bent bottom corner before turning out the light. The air was thick and my sheets were soggy with sweat in no time. I parted the blackout curtains and moved the rocks lining my windowsill so I could lift out the screen…
·What ‘things’ would a kid notice?
My next door neighbor, Mrs. Springgate sat on her porch, her white hair flopping with every flutter of the cardboard fan in her hand. She was probably getting snookered on beer again. It was hard to tell since beer cans were rationed and she had switched to drinking from glass jars…
Mom was working in her VictoryGarden, staking up the tomatoes. Growing vegetables was never going to help us win the war, no matter what Mrs. Roosevelt said. There was no way a bombardment of tomatoes and squash could stop Hitler or his evil spies.
·What music was prevalent?
The music of Glenn Miller’s Orchestra floated through the screen door, the trumpet’s brass marching over the string.
·What might be displayed in stores?
Mr. Franklin had plastered the windows with posters advertising defense saving stamps, war bonds, and the government’s price control order…Mr. Franklin looked over the drug counter at us. Ever since Aidan and I knocked down an entire display of citrate of magnesia, he always watched to make sure we weren’t goofing off when we came into his store. I was extra-careful to walk around the pyramid of God Medal Flour and Quaker Oats that he’d built by the front door.
·What fashions were indicative of the times?
A cluster of girls wearing high heels went inside. One of them had tried to draw a line down the back of her leg to make it look like she was wearing stockings, but the line was crooked…A trio of girls came in wearing cherry rouge and platform shoes. Navy boys wearing caps cocked to one side whistled through their teeth.
Details that conveyed 1943 were easy to find because so much of what I researched seemed romantically unique—especially when I talked to my mom about what it was like to come of age in the midst of World War II—and how she met that handsome young sailor that she eventually married!
But now I’m playing around with a story idea set in early 1970s, and I’m finding it more difficult to weave in details that anchor the story in time and place. I think it’s because I lived those times, so nothing seems unique at all. At least, not to me.
Maybe readers could help! It would be really groovy…far out...cool… if you told me in the comment section what you think of in response to the following five questions!
1.What early 1970s items might characters naturally interact with?
2.What ‘things’ would a 1970s teen notice?
3.What songs, musicians, and bands defined the early 1970s?
4.What hot items in the early 1970s might be displayed in stores?
5.What were the must-have fashions of the early 1970s?
While you’re at it, why not use these questions to brainstorm details for your own story in order to naturally anchor your scenes in time and place?