The novella I’m writing at the moment (which actually has a chance of turning into a short novel) is set in London in December 1979.
I know what events were dominating the news in that month.
I know what was in the charts, music-wise.
I can even find out what was on BBC1, BBC2 and ITV in the run-up to Christmas that year.
But my quandary is, how much of this stuff do I need to include?
The story has to be about realistic characters, it has to have an interesting and gripping plot. If it doesn’t have those then the story is a failure anyway. Everything else is just window dressing.
But if I am setting it in this period (and there is a proper plot reason why it’s set in this period; not just a crazy whim) then I should really try to engage with the period to some level.
One of the many things I loved about the tv series, MAD MEN, was its ability to drop in – what are now – fairly obscure 1960s references to make the period seem much more real.
But then that was something like seventy hours of television, I’m talking about 150 to 200 pages of fiction.
I know I want to engage with it somehow, but I don’t want to seem like I’m showing off how much I’ve learnt about the year and the month.
Nor do I want to feel like it could be set anytime.
It’s a head scratcher. A balance I’m trying to strike.
And all I can hope is that when I’ve finished it and published it – which will hopefully be by the end of the year – I’m happy with where I’ve ended up.
A glamourous looking London, 1979