Determining Time Period

by CJ Forbes
(New York, New York, USA)

Question: How can I decide what time period to use for my novel? The names of most of the characters have been decided upon, but I don't know if the story should be during the 1920s, 1950s, or even more recent times.

Answer: The way to decide is to do some research on the different periods you have in mind and see which one opens up more interesting ideas and possibilities for the story you want to tell.

Some issues you might consider...

Find out what big events were happening in each period, what concerns were on people's minds at the time. Do any of these topics lend themselves to the themes you have in mind? For instance, would the story be more interesting if set during the Great Depression or WWII or the civil rights campaign?

How might gender, racial, or other social issues differ in each period and affect your story? For instance, would the story be different in a time when divorce or birth control was rare and socially frowned on? How was life different for gay people or other minorities in each period?

How might changing technologies affect your story? For instance, would a world without cellphones create dramatic possibilities? What about a world without personal computers or television?

You want to find a period that interests you as well--for whatever reason. It's much easier to write about subject matter that appeals to you, so don't choose a period you find boring.

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