As I write this, the “May 21, 2011 Rapture” predicted by a California preacher has failed to materialize. It was all over the Internet for a week beforehand and one day after. Now? Not a word on the first page of Google, CNN, Yahoo, or MSN. The world moves so fast today that like the “Rapture moment” any hot news item may be cold and old in 24 hours.
The mystery series I’m writing takes place in the present day. I always have to make certain that I don’t have my characters talking about a fad that couldn’t hold the headlines longer than a month. We can always count on “stupid celebrity tricks” to be in the news, but beyond the expected drugs-and-rehab duet, it’s impossible to predict which celebrity will be all over the headlines by the time my next book goes to press. In addition, I’m a geek who doesn’t keep up on fashion, but fortunately I have co-workers who do.
I mention Paris Hilton in my next book, but will her name make people scratch their heads come February? Will the musician I have my characters listen to be a one-hit wonder? I’ve read recently published books that referenced an event whose fifteen minutes were over six months ago.
Writers: How do you avoid “missing the moment?” Do you keep tabs on current events in news, sports, entertainment? Do you beg your copyeditor to let you make a last-minute change? Or do you only make references to long-lasting celebrities and news—the Beatles and gas prices, for example?
Readers: Do you just chuckle when a present-day book talks about something outdated? Or does it take you out of the story altogether?
If you’ll excuse me, I need to refresh MSNBC again.
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