Wanna date?

"1066 conveys it all to an educated person. Same with "November 22, 1963".

I'm an educated person, but that date meant nothing to me. I had to google it to discover it was the dark day in history that both C.S Lewis Aldous Huxley died. (Oh - and some American politician too.)

I know this may be heretical to many, but you can be educated without knowing the exact dates of every assassination across the world in the last 80 years. (Or perhaps the idea is that educated people would know exact dates in American history but be ignorant of the rest of the world?)C'mon - admit it. How many of the following dates would instantly 'convey all' to you:
* May 10, 1838 MS: John Wilkes Booth is born
* August 21, 1983 MS: Benigno Aquino is killed in Manila
* June 1, 2001 MS: King Berenda is killed in Nepal
* May 21, 2002 MS: Abdul Ghani Lone killed in Kashmir

All of those were political assasinations which 'rocked the world' (at least as much as Kennedy's), but I suspect that without googling, most would be unrecognisable. Why should these dates be any less recognisable to an educated person than 22nd November 1963 ?Besides, if only educated people can enjoy the book, aren't you limiting sales a bit !?

This is not home Jeopardy.. This isn't even a contest, pissing or otherwise. The CONTEXT of the comment was on a SYNOPSIS you don't have to explain 1066 or 11/22/63 in lurid detail.

Overexplaining the obvious is a huge flaw in many starting out writers, and in synopses, it eats words. In case I do need to overexplain myself: some things are self explanatory.


Rick said...

Just to beat the obvious to death, it's a matter of the market. A US agent or editor will broadly know what educated Americans know, and is buying for the American market.

If you write a book for the Philippines market, and send it to an agent/editor in Manila (however the industry works there), your synopsis can shorthand events that Filipino readers will know. If you were submitting a Philippines-themed book to the US market, I imagine you'd have to spell out at least briefly - "on the same day, President Begnino Aquino is assassinated, producing nationwide shock and uncertainty ..."

Anonymous said...

And to just be as snarky as possible, I'll point out that Benigno Aquina wasn't president of the Phillipines when he was killed. He was the leader of the opposition party, returning home after exile in the US. It was his wife, Corazon Aquino, who became the first democratically elected president in the Phillipines after Marcos was overthrown.

The Gambino Crime Family said...

Wow. For the first time in my entire life, I'm going to sound like a Republican, but gosh darn it, this an American blog! Do we really have to go once more into that fatal day in Dallas, the end of Camelot (blah blah blah etc etc) just to please those among us who hail from other shores?

November 22, 1963 to Americans is akin to November 11, 1918 for the British. Or Easter 1916 for the Irish. It's historical shorthand which any editor over here should understand. :)

Bernita said...

Nov 11, 1918 wasn't only for the Brits.

Jo Bourne said...

I didn't know C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died the same day as JFK.

Tres weird.


Simon Haynes said...

Yup, CS Lewis got his from the grassy gnome.

Remodeling Repartee said...

As American editors become younger, the 11/22/63 date may well need some explaining.

It may also give us a clue to Miss Snark's identity. It was a huge event for the youth of the time, now boomers.

But I digress. The point about the lean and mean synopsis stands.

An educated GenX'er, who will vouch that most folks my age and younger, schooled or not, will fail to recognize the date.

Unknown said...

Seriously doubt that Miss Snark is a boomer. Waaaay too many clues in the other direction. But she is also likely not a 20 something; many of them would barely know who George Clooney is.

David Isaak said...

Huxley and Lewis indeed departed this mortal coil on the same day. And because of the Kennedy coverage, neither departure was much noted. Lewis, of course, was something of an invisible man at the time, but Huxley was at the height of controversy--and died with a decent dose of LSD in his bloodstream. Had it not been for JFK, I'm sure the press would have had features galore.

Charity Tahmaseb said...

What’s interesting about all this historical context talk is recently I had an editor confuse the first Gulf War with the second in a manuscript I’d submitted, even with the date and historical context clearly stated in both the partial and the synopsis. Not only is the date there, but I mention the Berlin Wall crumbling, the invasion of Kuwait, and nary a word about weapons of mass destruction or George W.

The editor wrote on the manuscript that a comment one character made to another (a father using a bit of humor re: Saddam to come to terms with the fact his daughter is going to war) would have to change because it was inaccurate. For today, it is. Back then, and in historical context, it isn’t.

But she liked the story and writing well enough to recommend it to an editor at a different imprint and that was nice. Still, I wonder how those without a military background view the two wars. For me they’re very distinct and my personal iconic date is December 7, 1990, when I learned I’d be deploying to Saudi Arabia as part of 3rd Armor Division.

Mac said...

Sheesh you let that guy get off easily. How could you pass up the irony of someon who claims to be educated, while being clearly unable to spell 'assassinations' ?

The overall gist, though, was simple - points that we regard as universal touchstones may not be as universal as we think.

And yes, I did have to google those dates. They were equally obscure to me as November 22nd, 1963.