Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cell Phones and Plot Devices

This New York Times Article about literature being cell phone free was interesting and amusing. And it got me thinking.

While cell phones certainly have changed the way that people communicate and there are quite a few plot devices that are rendered improbable by the common usage of cell phones, there are still ways to use some of those plot devices.

People don't always contact someone in the event of changing plans. Some do. Some don't. Just as some people out there don't have cell phones. Or maybe someone doesn't answer the phone.

Or perhaps the wrong number is texted to. (There's an infamous story of a girl who texted her "friend" about losing her virginity, but instead she'd highlighted "Dad" in her cell contacts. Yeah. Dad was thrilled.)

Misunderstandings are still common. In fact, in my opinion, because people are communicating more often, they're usually doing so with less information and sometimes less clarity.

Some work arounds with cell phones are going to seem convenient no matter what. It's that little problem where coincidences are frowned upon in stories. I've had my cell phone mysteriously shut off. I don't notice it for hours since no one calls and I don't have any calls to make. Or a battery dies. Or we had a roaming voice mail the other day-- I left it on Hubby's phone on a Thursday about 3pm. Friday evening, his phone chimed with the incoming voice mail. Write that in a story, and prepare for the Pitchfork Brigade.

Cell phones and technology are changing story-writing. Maybe that's why some people like to write their stories set in those "simpler" times. I think it's just a new challenge. If the technology is available, how do you fuddle plans for your character? Think harder.


Terrie Farley Moran said...

Thanks Clair,

Cell phones have presented plot problems even though everyone I know has had problems similar to those you describe.


Michael Bracken said...

There's an unfortunate presumption by people who have cell phones that everyone has a cell phone. Many people still don't. (I don't.) As a writer, it's my responsibility to create logical reasons why my characters do or don't have a cell phone, and to be sure I incorporate that information into my stories when appropriate.

Clair Dickson said...

Very true, Michael. People make a lot of assumptions about cell phones. And writers do have to make it believable, not just convenient.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Tempting to set a story pre-cell days. Also tempting to set life there.