Why the 1990’s?

Why the 1990’s?

In anticipation of the visitors who will hopefully visit this site once the Dream books are available for sale, I’ll answer a question that several people who’ve read various drafts of the books have asked.

Why are they set 20 years in the past?  “Dream Student” begins in the winter of 1989, and by the end of “Dream Family” we’re up to the summer of 1998.

There are two reasons.  First, in “Dream Student” Sara attends Crewe University in Cleveland, Ohio.  anyone who knows me personally, or who’s from Cleveland, will recognize Crewe as Case Western Reserve University with most of the building names changed.  That’s where I went to college from 1987 through to 1991.  As they say, write what you know.  Basing Sara’s world on the real places I lived in and around helps to make it more believable, more real.

The second reason is technology-related.  I often find it annoying in stories set in the present when characters don’t take advantage of the tools that are easily available to them, in order to deal with the situations they face.  In some cases, writers come up with varyingly-credible explanations why the characters can’t simply use their cellphone or find the information they need on Google, to solve their problems.  Maybe there’s bad cell service in their neighborhood.  Or their laptop battery is dead, etc.  And in other cases, the writer doesn’t bother at all, leaving readers (or viewers, as the case may be) to think that the characters just aren’t that smart, when a simple Google search would resolve everything.

I didn’t want to deal with that.  There wouldn’t be much to the final four chapters of “Dream Student” if Sara could simply pul up all of Dr. Walters’ public records in two minutes from the safety of her room.  And if she and Brian and Beth all had cell phones, there wouldn’t be much tension in the last chapter.  Setting the story before cell phones were in general use, and certainly before virtually any information imaginable was available with one click of a mouse, eliminates that problem.

“Dream Doctor” is set just a year later, so the same things apply.  It helps as well that the plot in that book is less amenable to that problem anyway.  Sara knows who all the suspects in the poisoning of her profesor are, and where they live.  Her problem is figuring out which of them hated the man enough to try and kill him, which isn’t something that’s likely to show up on a web search anyway.

“Dream Child” jumps ahead five years.  Sara still doesn’t have a cell phone (they don’t really become ubiquitious until the end of the 1990’s), and her problem again isn’t one that lends itself to easy resolution by Google.

With “Dream Family” we’re in 1998, and I wavered on the idea of giving Sara a cell phone.  But it really doesn’t matter for the story, since the main plot isn’t the mystery, but Sara’s recovery after a very traumatic experience that’s left her emotionally shattered.  It doesn’t matter here what she can look up on her computer; the answers she needs to find in this book are in her own mind and heart.


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