November 19, 2015

Creating the New Norm

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Recent news coverage, talk shows and the like have brought to my attention the phrase "the new norm”. To think on some of the things described as the new norm or new standard can be very alarming¸ frightful even depressing. To think that if our only expectations were to think this is normal could be discouraging but if used in a positive hopeful manner could be amazing.

Then I thought how a writer may use this new standard, this “new norm”, as a tool in your writing. Something seen as unthinkable or uncommon in the past is now considered common. I first thought what if we had seen this coming and used it as a theme some years ago could our readers have wrapped their minds around it. Well why not attempt that now? Why not take a look at all the norms today, change them and make that the new norm in the future. Has that ever been done?

I would have to say yes it has many times. We recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future. A great deal of time was spent on searching for things in the movie that were farfetched 30 years ago but are common place today. Dehydrated food was one. Rehydrated pizza was enjoyed by the McFly family. At that time dehydrated food was uncommon unless you were an Astronaut and NASA had you in orbit. Today you can order a year’s supply of dehydrated food for a family from your local Costco. We have yet to have anything as complex as pizza but there are many choices.

One of the many things referred to in the movie dealt with electronics. Wireless computer games, hand held computers or pads and ones obsession with all things digital. Spot on! And of course the big item is the Hover Board. Yes, even though they are few and far between, there are hover boards today. We can’t overlook the flying car, compost fuel aka bio-gas, or performance enhancers in sports. Today performance enhancers in sports tend to be drugs and not a pitchers bionic arm as in the movie. All exist though none are common place but they served their purpose in the movie.  

We must also acknowledge things they got wrong. The Cubbies will not win a World Series by 2015 especially against a Florida MLB team. Due to her unfortunate early demise Lady Diana will not be Queen Diana. We won’t have a Female President by 2015 nor do we have Pontiac dealerships. Last but definitely not least the Fax machine is not the most efficient way to communicate today.

The point to all this? As a writer you don’t have to be correct. You don’t have to use an existing standard nor a believable standard. You can create the “new norm” that fits your story, or helps your character along the way. We all have thought of things that if existed would be useful. We all have thought of things that no longer exist and the hardship without them.. We all have thought of a new order existing that was encouraging, hopeful and peaceful. These things a writer can use.

So give it some thought, there are no limits. Bring us the next Hover Board of the Future. We are waiting.                  

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