Writing Millennial Characters: A Look Back on 2011

Writing contemporary fiction feels like it shouldn't require a lot of research. My current novel takes place in 2011--a year I remember pretty well, since it was only six years ago! On the other hand, as I've been editing Every Last Minute, little questions keep popping up:

  • When did people start using smart phones instead of flip phones?
  • When did people start texting more than instant messaging?
  • Who invented the term #YOLO? And why'd we all start saying it, anyway?

Here's some of the research I dug up on my little trip down memory lane. Enjoy!

Writing Millennial Characters: A Look Back on 2011 || www.ellensmithwrites.com

Top Ten Songs of 2011:

  1. Rolling in the Deep- Adele
  2. Party Rock Anthem- LMFAO
  3. Firework- Katy Perry
  4. E.T.- Katy Perry
  5. Give Me Everything- Pitbull
  6. Grenade- Bruno Mars
  7. F**ck You (Forget You)- Cee Lo Green
  8. Super Bass- Nicki Minaj
  9. Moves Like Jagger- Maroon 5
  10. Just Can't Get Enough- The Black Eyed Peas

Most Popular Movies Released in 2011:

  1. Fast Five
  2. Thor
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  4. X-Men: First Class
  5. Sucker Punch
  6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  7. Drive
  8. Captain America: The First Avenger
  9. The Help
  10. I Am Number Four

Bestselling Adult Fiction Books in 2011:

  1. “The Help” Kathryn Stockett
  2. “The Help” (Movie Tie-In Edition) Kathryn Stockett
  3. “Water For Elephants” Sara Gruen
  4. “Cutting For Stone” Abraham Verghese
  5. “A Dance With Dragons” George R. R. Martin
  6. “The Confession” John Grisham
  7. “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” Stieg Larsson
  8. “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” Stieg Larsson
  9. “The Litigators” John Grisham
  10. “Room” Emma Donoghue

Trends and Current Events in 2011:

  1. Top 10 Twitter Trends of 2011 by Mashable
  2. Top 10 Fashion Trends of 2011 by LA Times
  3. Technology Trends of 2011 by the Telegraph
  4. What Was Your Top News Story of 2011? by CNN

Wow. Life in 2011 wasn't so far removed than life now on 2017. I say this as someone who typically types on a tablet, still watches the Duchess of Cambridge for fashion trends, and remembers watching the last Harry Potter movie as if it was just yesterday. 

At the same time, 2011 was very different from the year we're living in now. Obama was halfway through his first term as President. The Occupy Wall Street movement was just beginning, but it was two years before the Black Lives Matter movement began.

Even in contemporary lit, life varies a lot from year to year. It's fun to do the research and see what has (and hasn't) changed.