In college, while other students were learning skills that would help them earn a living one day, we English majors would sit around in our classes looking for anachronisms in literature.
An anachronism is something that appears in a time where it does not belong. For example, we would find a passage in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, set in 44 BC, where Cassius says, “Brutus: Peace! Count the clock,” and Cassius replies, “The clock has stricken three.”
The anachronism here? Mechanical clocks had not been invented in 44 BC but were common in Shakespeare’s time. Gotcha, Shakespeare! We lit nerds felt so clever.
Recently, an editor of Ms. Dee Ann, my novel in progress, got me. I wrote a scene where Dee Ann goes to the Kut and Kurl for a new hairstyle and tells her beautician, “Veronica, I want to look like Olivia Newton-John in the final scene of Grease.”
“Honey, I seen that movie and I know that hairdo,” Veronica replies. “I think we can do it. You know, you kinda look like her in the face too. This is gonna be fun.”
The problem here, my alert editor pointed out, is that the novel was set in 1977, a year before the movie Grease came out. She suggested either I set the entire story a year later so Dee Ann could use this reference, or choose another hairstyle.
I was fond of the Grease reference. I liked not only the hairdo part but Veronica’s comment that Dee Ann resembled Olivia Newton-John. I felt with that reference I got a lot of descriptive bang for my buck.
I moved the date of the novel ahead two years, 1979, figuring Grease probably took a while to come to the one movie theater in the little town of Narrow Creek.