For my novel research, I deemed it necessary to purchase a series of teen magazines from 1981. Not only is the prospect of thumbing through vintage magazines incredibly appealing and the kind of thing I’d do anyway, it’s also vital to my understanding of what’s going on in terms of culture in the period about which I’m writing (I was five years old and living on the opposite coast of my setting in ‘81).
So I’ve got six issues of Seventeen and Mademoiselle coming from Canada, even as I write. (Why is Canada the repository of 80s fashion magazines? I bought from two different Canadian sellers. In both cases, the shipping was almost as much as the magazines. This pained me, because I know that if I just stumbled on the right yard sale, I could get all the magazines from 1981 that I want for a quarter a pop.)
I’m of course aware that magazines are a short focus representation of culture, but in the absence of the internet, they perhaps occupied a stronger or more vital cultural lifeline to teens than they do today. Generalizing here to a criminal degree, but often teens look at the world in binaries – so confronted with a teen fashion magazine, the choices are accept/reject. If my characters would reject the pop representation of their lives as interpreted by Triangle Communications Inc aka Seventeen, I need to see what they’re rejecting. As far as I’m aware, there wasn’t a Sassy equivalent in 1981…although that idea sparks a whole other splinter line of inquiry for research.
Research = a rabbit hole. This is why I write and research at the same time with the goal of filling in the gaps later. I’d never get anything written otherwise.
I’m reading this absurd and appealing book, by a guy a year younger than me. He says much the same thing about internet and library research, and advises finding an expert to talk with instead. This is so crazy-logical. Maybe I’ll post something on Craigslist:
WERE YOU IN HIGH SCHOOL IN 1981? DID YOU GROW UP IN BROOKLYN? Email me TODAY!
I’m totally going to do it. It’ll take less than five minutes and who knows what could come of it. It seems like an altogether simpler way of uncovering authentic details than my current methods, however entertaining I may find them (see above). If this method proves effective, I could post a similar ad to achieve another goal of mine:
DO YOU HAVE $289K to INVEST in REAL ESTATE? CALL ME!
Yeah. The farthest I’ve gotten on that one to date is to research which lottery tickets have the best odds. The answer in Arizona, in case you’re curious: the Pick 5.