My story mainly takes place in the present, however, it begins and ends about 20 years into the future. (The main character is reflecting on events in their youth.) Given that this is not science fiction, how "futuristic" should these beginning and ending scenes be? Also, as the main character narrates the story, should they refer to present day technologies as if they're antiquated, and should new technologies be mentioned? In other words, how can I show that twenty years have passed?

*The only relevance of the future in my story is to show that the character has aged and to emphasize how important certain people/events were to them.

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    Although lots probably will change in 20 years It is your world - you can choose what does change. Also, even if the world does change, you could ignore that and just write about your character sitting in a garden reminiscing over the past. Jun 9, 2020 at 7:43
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    Let's double confirm that the future has no relevance to the main plot and not bringing up any twists. The main character is not saving the world, not marrying or killing someone we know from the "present", etc...
    – Alexander
    Jun 9, 2020 at 18:39

3 Answers 3


how can I show that twenty years have past?

Since you're only intending on using the +20 years time period as a framing device to show the importance of the story to the character keep the "future" segments focussed as much as possible on the character rather than the future setting itself. Ideally you'd show only that which is explicitly necessary or anything you want to foreshadow - for example if the character ends up in prison as a result of the events of the main story you could show them in their cell, or just being released, or if they lose a limb you could show that. In general you can show the passage of time more internally - they could feel some typical old-age symptoms, or you could have them see themselves in a mirror and see grey hair. That sort of thing coupled with a simple mention of the timeshift back to the main story is more than sufficient.

You can have them telling the story to a third party but this isn't strictly necessary - you could just as easily have them narrating the story to the reader, if anything I'd suggest doing the latter unless you have a reason why the third party is relevant to the story in someway (such as recounting important events to pass them on to a descendant).

how "futuristic" should these beginning and ending scenes be?

Taking the approach outlined above means that this question becomes largely moot - you shouldn't need to show enough of the setting for it matter, and if you are then it's probably a sign that the beginning/ending scenes are becoming too overblown and straying from their purpose.

If you find yourself running in to that it's time to take a step back and ask if you really need to be showing what you try to describe, whether doing so actually serves the story you are trying to tell. If it doesn't then cut it - otherwise it will only serve as a distraction to the reader, and on the extreme end of things only serve to leave the story horribly open to feeling dated, try looking at anything set in 2020 that was written 20 years ago and you'll see what I mean.

should they refer to present day technologies as if they're antiquated, and should new technologies be mentioned?

No - there's some argument for doing so if they are telling the story to a third party that would view them that way, and in that case a handful of references early on just to establish it can work but honestly I'm not a fan, because even in that situation the third party is essentially an audience surrogate and talking to a contemporary audience about their "antiquated" iPhones etc is just plain irritating. Instead have the main narration in what is essentially contemporary past tense, it's easier to create and maintain immersion in the main story that way. You want the context of +20 years at the beginning and end for the perspective but other than that let the main story fly.

  • This was quite helpful; thank you!
    – user44629
    Jun 9, 2020 at 16:52

I would suggest looking at shows like "The Wonder Years," "How I Met Your Mother," and similar series where the main character is telling the story from a point in the future but the main story is set in the show's "present." The primary difference in the series is that "Wonder Years" was made in the 80s and set in the 60s, while "How I Met Your Mother" was set in the late 2000s early 2010s, but the narrator (Future!Ted) was telling the story to his teenage kids who presumably are teenagers dating the narrative portions to some point in the future (The gimik means the narrator is telling a long story in the year 2030).

How I Met Your Mother used Future!Ted to not comment on on "old" technology but rather on "old" trends and would regularly discuss trends and concepts that were current, through the lens of "how am I going to explain this to my kid." The one time a future technology was used, it was something like a holographic vido phone which was deliberitly way too futuristic for a period that was supposedly post 2013, but pre-2030, since it was told as a brief flash forward to the narrator's story to the kids, thus had to occur after prior to the story in 2030. The narrator also relied on exageration and embelishment ("Now kids, I wasn't there for this, but your Uncle Marshal swears this really happened..." *cue rediculously impractical thing occuring on screen).

To make your story work, find a popular pop culture trend (i.e. the latest hit dance song) and treat it as if your parent was explaining their favorite musician or music genre to you and how it's better than your music of today.


This is risky. Nothing ages faster than the near future. Imagine having written a story in the year 2019, but set in the year 2021. Could you have pictured any of the intervening events that actually happened?

For that reason, given that you're not actually interested in the future timeline or setting, I'd make it as minimal as possible. You could actually cover this in a sentence.

"Forty years ago, in the year 2020, when I was fifteen years old, I..."

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