Has technology changed the way we write fiction?
Just this weekend, I was reading a novel set in the 80s. The character was making a call on the courtesy phone aboard the Concorde before it took off. ‘Hang on a minute,’ I thought. ‘Sadly, we no longer have Concorde and in-flight phones are obsolete.’
What would this story look like today?
The app-enabled character
Today most planes have Wi-Fi and most passengers would be using WhatsApp to chat to friends and family. And when the plane touched down at whatever destination, they would most likely be using an Uber app to hitch a ride to accommodation they’d booked on the Airbnb app rather than hailing a taxi to a hotel.
And if your character, once she’d unpacked and showered, would probably be scrolling through TripAdivisor to find a good place to eat or a night club to visit – rather than flipping through a printed guide book.
The truth is technology has changed the way we live in the world. Our smart phones and devices are almost an extension of our lives – a dashboard to connect us to the internet, and a world where everything is connected and we can communicate from just about anywhere.
Keeping on trend
Do we somehow ignore this change when we write? Do trends like binge-watching our favourite shows and posting selfies on Instagram – or feeling the need to Like everything on Facebook – pass us by when we’re creating characters and plots? If you’re writing a contemporary novel, using these trends in our stories can make them seem fresh and relevant.
Make technology part of the story
As writers, we need to pay attention to how we’re using technology every day to interact with the world around us – and try to graft someone of that to our stories.
You could use it in a chick-lit.
▌ The GPS on Kiara’s phone has a glitch in the system and insists on taking our heroine past her ex-boyfriend’s house no matter if she is going to the mall or to work.
You could use it for black comedy.
▌Roger, a depressed executive uses a Siri-like on his phone to help him schedule his suicide and even find the nearest bridge from which to jump. Dina, his evil ex-wife, sends him hologram messages from her new home on the other side of the world – and in his paranoia, he believes he is being haunted by a ghost.
You could use it for a dystopian cautionary tale.
▌In the near future, only people who aggregate enough ‘Likes’ on social media are allowed in to the best universities, restaurants or night clubs. Your character creates an AI avatar to help create the perfect online persona – even though she’s the most unlikable person in real life.
The possibilities are endless. Technology is a digital treasure chest just waiting with new plots and characters to be unpacked an examined with fresh twists and inventive storytelling.
Don’t resist the change – have fun with it!
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