I’ve taken Dogs, Cats, and Allergies off the shelf. It was my NaNoWriMo 2010 novel…my first NaNo, though not my first novel. It’s actually three novellas at the moment (Dogs is one, Cats is the next, and Allergies is the third.) I will be rewriting these as full length novels.
Right now, I’m reading through them and making notes. In particular, I keep seeing 21st century, and even 20th century sensibilities creeping in. Like watching a SciFi movie from the sixties, and even though the woman is dressed in a skin-tight space suit waving a ray gun around, after the battle is over she makes the hero a sandwich.
Polyamory offers so many great complications for romance. In Cats, I begin with a married pair, both women. They married young, but although they always knew they wanted a larger, more traditional family someday, after several years it just doesn’t seem to be happening.
The romance centers on their hunt for one or more husbands. But that’s when I run into sensibility issues… today, ‘husband hunting’ is a derogatory term. I don’t want it to be in my fictional, future timeline. But it’s not easy. I can’t just stay “But it wasn’t a bad thing and nobody looked down on them…” It’s a challenge to make sure the reader knows how society at large functions without hopping into the head of a random bystander.
There is a real-life trend I deeply despise: Feeling that one must pretend that one is not looking for a relationship and doesn’t want to ever get married, or if they do, that it’s a long way off in some distant possible future. People do this because they think their prospective romantic partners expect it. Unfortunately, in many cases it’s true. People (men and women) might be scared off by someone who states simply that they want to find a life partner. People want to believe that their romantic partner became interested in them, specifically them, in spite of the fact that they weren’t looking for a relationship and marriage was the farthest thing from their minds.
My main characters want to have a large, traditional marriage with husbands and wives raising their kids together in one happy household. That’s a wonderful dream. There is a very real possibility that their prospective partners will feel that they don’t just want to be some filler for a future that is already imagined. Yet… these characters would never feel compelled to lie and say that they don’t care if they never find a husband.
This culture is very family-centered. Looking back through Earth history and at different Earth cultures, that is a very normal, human thing. It’s a plausible society, even though the trend in the US today is for fewer marriages, or waiting until later in life to marry.
So, my challenge: paint the society so my readers understand why my characters act and react as they do. Make it clear that this is not 21st century America. It’s more than flying cars and ray guns. Sensibilities are all completely different as well.