History is far more than newspaper headlines. The characters in our stories breathe lives that reflect humanism of specific ages. The poster in the picture was on the wall of a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Restaurant. It reflects human life of 1953. For $2.00, yes $2.00, on January 1, 1953, at the Ryman Auditorium, in Nashville, one could see six singers; to include Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Loretta Lynn. At present, the lives of our readers are far removed from the days of $2.00 tickets for six singers. Can our readers relate to the value of $2.00 in 1953? How do we, as writers, place this relationship in perspective. Oh,at the Ryman Auditorium on September 15, 2017, to see Little Big Town at the Mother Church, main floor seats go for $597 to $996!
While I am not suggesting you eat at a Cracker Barrel, you may want to give their human history wall décor a second look…a ‘how can I use what I am seeing to put my character’s life in perspective’.
Here are some other ‘perspective inducing’ ideas you may have overlooked:
The show Seinfeld (1989 to 1998) is still on television reruns. On Jerry’s apartment wall is a picture of a Good Humor ice cream truck large 5¢ sign on the back. In 1933, during the Great Depression, Good Humor introduced a bar for 5¢, half the price of a normal bar. Pop cycles were still 5¢ in the 1950s.
When you walk within your place of worship, have you stopped to really look at items on the walls, and think about how the lives of your characters were at the time. For example, what clothes are they wearing to worship? Is there someone who is not in conformity? At my church there is a suit and tie ‘dress code’ at the 8 am service; a relaxed ‘dress code’ at the 9:15 am; and a ‘mixed code’ at the 11:00 am. What was it like 25, 50, or 100 years ago? Is a desired or unknown statement being made by the character in your story?
Why not do Google imagery searches of advertising, be it clothes to toys, and grasp what was available and the costs. Gee willikers, a pair of “finely knit, full fashioned, ringless silk stockings” were advertised in 1940 at 49¢ a pair (3 for $1.42); “quality features you’ll find at 69¢”.
Even in your neighborhood you have probably passed items that are ‘perspective inducing’. What would prompt a character to put up a white picket fence in 1910 versus today? Picket fences are particularly popular in the United States, and the style used since America’s earliest colonial era and remains popular. Today a white picket fence has iconic status as Americana, symbolizing the ideal middle-class suburban life, with a family and children, a large house, and peaceful living. However, in recent years, some people have associated picket fences with what they regard as the more negative aspects of family lifestyle.
Think about your ‘building blocks’; we can not write without them.