1. Rory Womack
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    Rory Womack New Member

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    21st century technology in literature

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Rory Womack, Dec 22, 2013.

    Hi, I'm a young writer and am very taken with all the realism books that have been written and have every intention of writing one myself. However, I have found that 21st century technology, Iphones, the internet, etc, do not have a place in most story lines. The problems they create are immense. Your characters have no good reason not to be able to contact each other, know something, get lost, have frequent human interaction, etc. I think this is a problem for most genres of lit. but if I am trying to write a realism style book in the 21st century they completely crash it. You get what I mean? Does anybody have any ideas on how to work around this problem other than having every character be a technology hating loner?
     
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  2. Evarnae
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    Evarnae New Member

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    There's quite a few towns that don't get mobile phone signal or internet, your story could be set in one of these places. You could have some of your characters just be terrible at picking up the phone or answering emails. You could have some of your characters be on 'technology lite' in a kind of rehab from being too obsessed with them before. There could be characters who don't use technology for religious or personal belief reasons. Or you could just set your entire story in somewhere other than a first world country where technology isn't so widely available.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hi, welcome to the forum. It's an interesting question but there are many solutions.

    Batteries are incessantly forgotten to be charged, computers crash or email websites go down for maintenance at the most inopportune times. While hiking one loses service if one goes too far from the closest tower. If you don't pay your bill AT&T loves to cut your cell service off and charge you $60 to reconnect. The possibilities are many.

    And then there is the most important need to avoid any communication the NSA might be eavesdropping on. ;)
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Even with all of the options we currently have for keeping in contact with one another, communication remains an issue. People send e-mails when a phone call would be more appropriate, or misread the emotion with which an e-mail was written and decide they are not talking to the sender. I actually don't think it is any more problematic in writing realistic stories now than it was in Hemingway's time, or Dickens's time. Or Shakespeare's. As you flesh out your characters, you will work through these little details. But I think the fact that you are thinking about them shows a care for veracity that will serve you well in writing.

    A line from the film "Backdraft": "You guys should try picking up the phone once in a while."
     
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  5. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ed makes a great point. Technology is really just a setting, and the conflicts between your characters are deeper than that (one would hope!). A story of love, redemption, betrayal, etc, can all be told in any setting.

    But don't discount the usefulness of technology in creating tension and conflict. A short, brusque text message can leave a bitter taste in the receiver's mouth (just ask my mother!), or an email recipient can perceive a snarky tone when one was never meant to be there. An example from my own work--my MC and her crush chatting over MS Lync. She types something flirty. He begins typing a response, which she can see at the bottom of her screen. Then he stops typing, but sends no message. Why? Did he get distracted? Was he unsure of what he was writing? Did he lose interest? Should she send a follow-up? Was her message too flirty?

    Tension. Exactly what you want to invoke.

    As far as its use as a potential be-all-end-all solution to a problem, also remember that resolution needs to come from character, not setting. I'm not impressed if a robot comes in and saves the day. I'm very impressed if the MC slaves away figuring out how to build said robot, builds it, and it saves the day. Technology lacks will (until the rise of Skynet, of course), and that's what separates it from humans. As a reader, I want the MC to do something to remedy his situation. I don't care if he runs miles and miles or takes a train. I just care that, either way, he faces opposition and has to find the inner will to overcome it.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    rory...
    it's no more of a problem for you to deal with than the advent of personal computers and the internet was for those of us who were writing fiction back when handwriting, typewriters and the postal system were the only ways to write and send messages/material... we had to adapt our plots and characters to reflect the changes in technology just as writers in previous centuries had to do with theirs, going from messages sent by pony express to trains and trucks, from surface-bound vehicles to planes, and so on...

    it's no use complaining about it, as that's always been the way of the world and life, always will be... being a fiction writer means you're supposed to have enough imagination to make up whatever you want to happen anyay, so like all of us oldsters [fyi, i'm 75] had to do, all you have to do is write your stories including the use of whatever parts of the latest technology you want to, or give your characters reasons not to, if that's what you want...
     
  7. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    As others have said, there are several ways around your problem, but I'd avoid creating problems that make your characters look incredibly stupid unless your intention is to make the readers dislike them. An example would be to have them go on a hike and they forget to charge their phones. Sure, it can happen, but it'd easily come off a tad too coincidental.

    If I were you, I'd figure out other ways to deal with the situation. Of course it depends on the kind of story you're writing, what events take place, what the problems are, but just having working phones doesn't get us off the hook in nearly every situation.
     

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