Monday, November 18, 2013

Technology Changes Stories

I recently reread Ant Farm, what would now be a prequel to Bad Policy, the current start of the Seamus McCree series. Several readers were interested in the origins of various characters and this early work provides the answers. So, I read it through to determine how much work it would take to fix the problems that made Ant Farm unpublishable.

What I learned about story and writing style problems may be material for another blog, but one of the things I discovered in this reread is how quickly technology can force story changes if they are set in “recent” times. I last worked on this story in early 2006. If I do the rewrite, I’ll need to update it to around 2010-11 to fit in with the rest of the series. In those short five years:

Fax machines for personal use did not become extinct, but they might as well be. I’ll need to change fax usage to sending pdf files that can be digitally signed. I’ll miss the mating call of two fax machines linking.

Using phone booths. They still exist, but they are rarer than hens’ teeth—well, I’m not sure that’s accurate because I’m not sure how rare hens’ teeth are, but nowadays I only see phone booths in rural areas where cell coverage is still spotty.

Speaking of cell coverage, have you seen the commercials for Verizon’s coverage map? Fewer and fewer places are without cell coverage. Fortunately for me, some of the rural areas my stories deal with are still white (empty) on the map—for now.

And how about those phone calling cards we used to use. Anyone, other than characters in the current version of my story, still using one? Didn’t think so.
I used driving a hybrid Prius as an indicator of an environmentally conscious early adopter. I need to find another indicator now.

In 2006, few people used their cell phones for detailed internet searches on the road. Now, it’s second nature.

In 2006, none of my characters texted each other. I need to think through how communication might change.

In 2006 “everyone” had home phones. Now, many people only have cell phones.
Wow! That’s a lot of changes for only five years. Mostly they relate to the way we communicate, and I haven’t even covered social networking, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., etc., etc.

Writers, have you ever picked up one of your old stories and discovered it was dated? If so, what did you do? Readers, how much slack do you cut writers if their story seems dated?

~ Jim

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