Cracking certain aspects of The Forgotten Son is proving to be quite a challenge. Mostly it’s the time period — 1969 may as well be a hundred years for all the changes we’ve seen over the decades since. Indeed, in some ways it’s almost like visiting an alien world. It does make me wonder what would happen should one of us travel back to March 1969, just how well would we manage to blend in? I suspect not very well at all.
Today I’ll be, largely, working (or rather re-working) on the second scene of chapter one. Much like the prologue it is so very important to get the first chapter right. It sets the tone for the book (and in some ways for the entire series of novels), as well as introduces readers to the characters they’ll spend many hours with (if not years in the case of at least two characters — although in some regards it’ll almost be a re-introduction for some readers). Characters, however, are not the issue. I pride myself on being able to create a cast of characters who become as real to the readers as the people they know in their personal lives. Even using a previously created (and well-established) character will not be an issue for me, since the lead of this series is a character I have known for many many years. No, the biggest issue is, as mentioned above, establishing the period in which the book is set. 1969!
The trick now is to ‘add flavour’, little props and background details that tell the reader what year they’re in. I’m fortunate in that for the most part The Forgotten Son is set in a small Cornish town and is, thusly, not overly influenced by the popular culture of 1969. However this doesn’t mean I can ignore the ephemera of the time. Indeed, it’s such ephemera that will help set the period. Old cars, grubby children playing on the streets and not stuck in doors playing computer games, the pocket transistor radio, old red phone boxes, large house phones that can only go as far as the cord stretches… Many little things that make the period. Things that are, for us now, so obsolete that teenagers would barely recognise them. Like 8-tracks — who remembers them? A popular way of listening to pre-recorded music while travelling in cars, before the rise of cassette tapes and, much later, compact discs. Popular music was on the rise in the ’60s, especially for teenagers, and so they were very open to new ways of listening to music with greater availability. Which brings me to the scene I’ll be heavily re-working today.
I’ve already created a new teenage character called Charles Watts, who will serve as a direct link to the happenings in London and, by extension, helps to encourage my wannabe skinhead character, Louis, who covets the London life he reads and hears so much about in the papers and television news reports. These two will be the direct link, and main reference point, for the popular teen culture of the time. To add flavour and remind the readers that they’re in 1969. To this end I’ve even gone against type (well, for me) and researched the football of the time. Which is something I never thought I’d do. Football is not now, and nor will it ever be, a passion of mine. Indeed, I can barely tolerate it, but it does seem to be a popular thing for most men, teenagers in particular. This all ties in to my earlier remark about the transistor radio, and having my teen characters listening to a real football match on the ‘tranny’, as it was often called (a word that also illustrates how much times have changed since 1969). Everybody, even me, knows of the World Cup of 1966, alas that’s three years too early for my purposes. Pity, as I wouldn’t actually need to research that — such is the historical importance of that event (I may not like football, but I can’t deny it). The match I’ve chosen does specifically date the book, literally to the day, and I’m expecting lots of boos and hisses from a large section of fandom, but alas an executive choice on dating was needed and it has been made.
How is this all going to work out? Splendidly is how. 😉