80s Flashback: Mining the Past for Writers

JordanWriting. Practice.

To my surprise, the most commented on thread on my Facebook page this week was on what boys wore in the 80s. Specifically wealthy Caucasian boys, which I needed for my WIP, though asking the question opened the wardrobe doors to my own sartorial fascination, mostly with brands my family couldn’t afford: Guess and Esprit and Izod and United Colors of Benneton.

The novel I’m working on takes place in 1984, and though I lived it, I don’t remember a lot of the details (I was only 10). But with some prompting, it all came flowing back in: Izod and polo shirts with flipped collars; acidwash; Vans and day-glo colors. Lace tights and gloves, jelly bracelets, high-tops. Boys with bleached bangs and oh my, the music.

I’ve spent the weekend listening to an 80s pop station to put me back in the mood, amazed at how my body thrills to those synthesized beats and echoing male vocals, or the extra chirpy/syrupy female vocals. It’s strange how potent the trappings of the 80s is to my memory.

The irony is that the 80s were not an actual happy time in my life. I shuffled back and forth between my divorced, working parents, a latchkey kid babysat by afternoon TV. There was addiction at every turn, a lot of adults hanging on to life and livelihood by their fingernails (I’ll save the gory details for the book).

And yet the entire gestalt of that time—its gaudy fashions, its pop culture, its angsty John Hughes movies that made Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson into idols—is something I feel incredibly nostalgic about, and which has been powerfully helpful in drawing the setting for this project.

It just goes to show that even when it’s hard, it can be useful to one’s writing.

What period of time has you captive, whether you lived it, or wished you did?

Okay, Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun just came on, and I’m going to do a circuit around my house and prove her right.

Jordan80s Flashback: Mining the Past for Writers