One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other. Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.
This week’s topic is:
There is a point where the types of technology included within your story can “date” it or limit its appeal to future readers (think rotary phones or flip-style cell phones or VCRs). Some types of fiction will benefit from such technological references, but other styles may be hampered by it. Do you avoid specific technological references in your stories? What pros and cons do you see about including technology as part of your storytelling?
Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.
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I think including technology in a story is better than excluding it, even if you make up the technology. Not referencing cell phones or computers in a story that takes place in the modern age/world in order to avoid dating will, oddly enough, date the story. But avoiding that kind of technology will date the story as if it took place before the invention/use of cell phones and computers. We live in the information age; not seeing a cell phone/computer in anything but fantasy/historical fiction doesn’t make sense to me.
Granted, if you’re writing a story set in a time where VCRs and floppy disks were commonplace, then it’s important to know what time period you’re working with and the important cultural aspects of that time – historical fiction comes to mind here. Using dated technology like VCRs etc in a modern-day story dates the story and also shows that the writer has no real understanding of the technology trends of the day.
I think that if you’re going to include technology in your writing, it needs to reflect the time period in which the story is set. Historical setting, historical technology. Modern-day setting, modern-day technology. Future setting, future technology – make up whatever you want, but be consistent.
There’s really no way to avoid technology in any type of writing, since technology is, first and foremost, “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry,” and even a simple farmer’s plow is a form of technology.
The question should be which technology works with the story you’re writing instead of whether or not technology dates writing. It’s impossible to avoid some form of technology in novels – anything that is a tool is a form of technology.
I think it is a concern if it’s integral to your story. In mine, one of my main characters is a geek so his tech must always be cutting edge. The fact that it’s taken me way-to-long to get this book out means I have to rethink all his tech and update it. That wouldn’t happen if he was using shoe leather to solve the crime.
I tend to avoid specific technologies that currently exist. Communication devices (phones, etc.) are largely referred to in generic terms (i.e. communication devices). When I need new technologies, I end up making it be ridiculously complicated. This allows me to create technologies that are unlikely to actually become real. Sure, I may invent a “transporter” and that may (hopefully) be something that becomes a real technology. However, MY transporter will not just move a person from point A to point B, but will also provide the person with their favorite latte, specifically customized to include the exact vitamins and minerals their body needs at that moment in time to help the cells operate at the peak of efficiency. Something just to make it have a purpose, but also to hopefully make it not be easily outdated.
I faced exactly this issue with my WIP because it’s set in present day, and I had to include cell phones, at least. So, I made it part of the central idea of the story. Everyone who is healthy has a cell phone, and those who are ill are barely aware of them. However, not everyone chooses to use or respond to their phones, and that brings up the issue of how useless modern technology is if we ignore it.
Me personally – I have a flip phone, hate the thing, have never sent a text, and plan to make that a lifelong mantra – no texting from me! If you are important, I will call you, write a letter or an email at least, or arrange to meet for coffee. And I still like gouging marks in clay – but then I’m an artist also!
What an interesting topic, definitely worth thinking about while developing that novel! Thanks!
I had one story that managed to reach about 40 pages, but from the beginning it hinged on being unable to reach a pay phone. From now on, my stories will be identified in the first paragraph as taking place in 1985!