CJ Carmichael

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Cell Phones…Novelist’s Tool or Headache?

As a writer I have to love technology. I depend on the Internet for research. And I can’t imagine going back to manual typewriters and white-out. But sometimes (actually, often) technology makes me wish I wrote historical fiction.

8c8b98e0-1a94-0132-085d-0eae5eefacd9When I started writing seriously, back in the eighties, e-mail was just becoming commonplace, and it didn’t take long before this new form of communication was incorporated into novels and movies.

You’ve Got Mail capitalized on the new email trend and its potential as a forum for meeting new romantic partners. Emails began to emerge in novels, as well. No longer was it reasonable to have a several day or week lag as a character waited for a letter to arrive. No, emails were delivered instantly—and that was a game changer.

Next came cell phones. Now for a novelist writing a suspense novel, a woman-on-the-run could no longer be stranded and helpless at her lake cottage because readers would want to know—where is her cell phone? And there are only so many times a writer can use the “it’s out of juice” or “no reception” excuse.

Along with the cell phone came the text message. Now novelists don’t even have to wait for our characters to check their email. Communication happens instantly. Text messaging is even being incorporated on TV shows like House of Cards and The Good Wife. What is this doing to our storytelling? Well, of course there are advantages (besides not having to worry about correct spelling for a change).  First, texting requires the novelist to be brief and to the point—and we know readers like that! Also, as we all have probably experienced in our real lives, text messages can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings—and novelists really like this!

Honestly, there are days when I long for the 70’s, when lovelorn characters waited weeks for letters to arrive, when there was no DNA testing and detectives relied on deductive reasoning to solve crimes, and when people argued in person, rather than by text.

But this is 2015. And I suppose I’ll have to include drones in my next book…

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