Yes, grammar is important. So is sentence structure and punctuation and all that great stuff. But it’s also important to know some of the tools of the writing trade, and today’s tool is the anachronism.

geico-caveman-airport

An anachronism is basically an event, a character, or an object that is inconsistent with the time period of your work, or, in other words, the entire premise of that ridiculous Geico cavemen TV show from a few years back.

Seriously. Who wants to watch a show based on a commercial? You don’t want to watch a half hour of the adventures of that E*Trade baby.

Anachronisms, when implemented well, are most often found in works of humor. Any film by Mel Brooks is a good example of this concept. In Robin Hood: Men In Tights (which takes place during the Crusades), there is a scene where one of the characters, in an attempt to spur the villagers to battle, pulls out his best Malcolm X impression. Obviously, King Richard the Lion-Hearted and Malcolm X are not contemporaries. Thus, we have an anachronism.

Anachronisms might also be found in works of fantasy or science fiction, or any other genre where there can be some liberties taken with the universe that the characters exist in. Generally, any fiction that takes place in a contemporary setting, on our earth, should be free of anachronism.

If you’re writing the next Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, let the anachronisms fly.

PRACTICE

Pick a famous real or fictional personality from history or literature, and put them in the middle of an anachronism stew. King Arthur discovering cell phones, Katniss Everdeen trekking the Oregon Trail, Julius Caesar learning to skateboard.

Write for fifteen minutes and post your practice in the comments. Don’t forget to leave comments for your fellow writers too!

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).