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Invoking Nostalgia


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Invoking Nostalgia

Our lives, more often than not, come down to our ability to connect our current selves to our previous selves from the past. Being younger, more naive, more eager and energetic...remembering the lessons that we’ve learned, and the sometimes tragic mistakes we made that we’ve learned them from. Whenever you look at a younger photograph of yourself...you have to replay a ‘story’ in your head that will somehow cause you feel as though you and that person in the photograph are actually the same human being. (How crazy would it be if you couldn’t?) There is a myriad of different stories and and major events that has taken you from that image in the picture to the person that you see now when you look in the mirror, and the same goes for all of us. There’s just something magical about it, you know? At least to me, there is. And when I’m writing, it’s that deep sense of nostalgia that creates such a deep connection to my own content and making it work out the way that I want it to. Hopefully, it does the same for my readers as well. That’s my goal for every last story that I create, no matter what the genre or story might be as a whole. Just to make something that ‘connects’.

There really are times that I wish I could go back and give my younger self some much needed advice when it came to navigating my way through the life that I was living at the time. Finding a certain sense of pride within myself, and figure out how to stop being so scared and doubtful in my own mind all the time, so that I could maybe erase some of the many MANY mistakes that I made growing up. I wish I could show myself what video games look like nowadays, or what movies I’d be able to dive into...and the idea that I’d be able to write stories online about the boys that I was going to school with at that time would probably blow my poor little MIND! LOL! Anyway, I’d like to think that it might be fun to visit that time again, just because. And despite what anybody tells you, I’m willing to bet that there is a tiny bit of that craving for their past nostalgia lurking within your audience somewhere too. A fun little tale or secret from their own personal history that they’ve been dying to tell someone else and maybe never had the opportunity to have that conversation or allow that memory to really rise up to the surface in a way where it can be shared and appreciated in the way that it was meant to be. I mean, let’s be honest...isn’t that what writing and storytelling is all about anyway? Bringing pieces of your past to life for those who take the time to sit back and listen.

Everybody has a story to tell. I truly believe that. If you talk to the older members of your family...take a moment to really zoom in and listen to what they have to say. They may repeat some of the same stories over and over again, but don’t treat them with any level of discount. That’s a piece of somebody’s life. And bringing those amazing moments back to them while comparing them to some of your own is a blessing that you can’t even imagine. You just have to know how to do it with your own writing as well. You’d be amazed at how effective it is when it comes to drawing your readers in and captivating their thoughts and memories that truly engages them with your story, and adds elements of enjoyment and familiarity to every single word.

Sounds vague, doesn’t it? Hehehe, it’s not. So pay attention. Let’s get our methods together and make this magic happen, shall we?

It doesn’t matter how old or how young you may be...that pinch of nostalgia is still there. Most authors approach it in a favorably, but not all. There are some of us that have led difficult lives in the past, so your view of nostalgia may be viewed in a completely different way. But even that can create the kind of attachment that you’re looking to make with your audience, so don’t be afraid to use that to your advantage if that’s the direction that you want to go with it.

All you have to do is trade places with the person in that picture that I mentioned earlier. Go back and submerge yourselves in the era where some of your absolute favorite memories lie. People will often latch onto things the same way that you do once you get them hooked, and it creates a feeling of familiarity that existed only in what we may look at as ‘the good old days’. Now, has the world become a completely different place in this day and age? No. Not really. Some new technologies, some new popular trends and fashions, sure...but the world is pretty much the same. What creates the illusion is the idea that you were different back then, and therefore so was your perspective of the world around you.

I’m always talking about finding the core elements of your writing through emotion and motivations, and that also applies here as well. Being embarrassed, falling in love, getting angry, seeing new places, having your heart broken in two...these are feelings that almost everybody can identify in some shape or form. If you can focus on telling that story with honesty and insight...then the era that you place your story in or the ages of your characters won’t really matter all that much. A kid in the 80’s and a kid during the 2020 pandemic can share the same goosebumps over a gay love story as anyone else. A high school Froshman, a divorced manager of a computer company, and a widowed gentleman in a nursing home, all get nervous and blush when it comes to really being infatuated with someone that they care about and want to ask out on a date for the first time. The core feelings are the same, the nostalgia element exists there in a greater degree than anywhere else. However, it’s always fun to put that extra bit of polish on it by adding a fun bit of what I like to call ‘era porn’! Hehehe! And this is where the devil is in the details. It’s something that I sort of want to play around with in my writing more often.

What is era porn? It’s usually something that you can add to your stories by decade, but seeing as everything is speeding up these days, even five years ago might feel like a different era altogether. For example I wrote a short story called “Special Delivery” (https://gayauthors.org/story/comicality/special-delivery/) that takes place just two years ago during the pandemic, and already that seems to have a feeling of nostalgia for a world that doesn’t really exist anymore. Thankfully. So, if you wanted to recreate that time period for your story...think about what it was like for you to grow up and go through it. What were the trends of that particular time? What did you wear? What movies or TV shows were you watching and being influenced by? Who were your friends and what were they like at that time? The further you go back, the more you’ll begin to realize how much you’ve changed since then. And with a just few mentions of certain gizmos or music that was inescapable in that era, you can create shades of the period that builds that world for your audience. Little things to make them say to themselves, “Oh yeah...I remember that!”

Now, I was an 80’s kid, and starting my teens in the 90’s, so something as simple as mentioning a video rental store or an arcade is already beginning to paint a nostalgic picture that a lot of my younger readers have no idea about. Even movies like “The Ring” have my cousins looking at the TV and wondering what that noise is. Hehehe, they don’t really know what ‘static’ is...so I imagine it looks weird to them. This is why I always keep my era porn Easter eggs on the outside edges of the rest of the story, so as not to come off as cheesy or heavy handed with it, as well as confusing to those who haven’t experienced it for themselves. You don’t want to overdo it. You want the references to be present, but not overpowering.

As for people close to my age or older? They see it. They remember it. Connect to it. And can now be submerged in that world all over again. Congrats! Nostalgia achieved!

It’s not like we haven’t been targeted with this particular method before, while having someone write about a bunch of experiences that they had growing up in any one particular era...

 

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Whether it’s from “The Wonder Years” or the fluttering frames of the old Grindhouse movies...the idea is to place your characters, and therefore your readers, in an older time and to trigger all of the feelings and memories that comes along with them. Remember, the characters are still the ones driving the story forward and taking center stage...the nostalgia is just a polish. It adds a different palette of colors and a different flavor to your story if used correctly. It affects how they look, how they speak, how they solve problems, and what tools they have at their disposal to accomplish their goals. Maybe they don’t have cell phones yet, or they’re not as widely used or as common. No immediate Google or internet access. Maybe the politics of the era were different. Maybe seeing a twelve year old working in a factory ten hours a day without going to school isn’t all that shocking. Maybe hitch hiking was a common thing. Or maybe this is an era where being gay is not ok...or maybe even illegal. No matter what shade of nostalgia that you’re painting your vivid pictures with...all of these things matter. And you don’t want to brak the illusion by putting something in your story that doesn’t belong there or doesn’t fit. Like I said, the devil is in the details.

This is something that I have to practice more myself so that I can get a natural feel for it. I will let you know what I find if I get any better at it. Hehehe! Especially since I started another story a long time ago and it has a lot to do with a video rental store, and I would love to finish it. So, instead of trying to figure out to rearrange and write that element out of it...I’m just going to go completely ‘retro’ with it and see how it turns out. You’ll have to wish me luck on that one!

I hope this helps to generate some ideas for you guys. If you ever feel like you’re writing the same story over and over again, or you want to give it a little extra flare that a lot of other stories don’t have...try switching up the era and invoking some welcome nostalgia change your writing style a bit. Couldn’t hurt to try, right?

Talk to you all soon! And stay beautiful!

 

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