Thursday, November 3, 2016

How could something so small give a writer so much aggro?





If you ask me, the curse of the modern age is technology.  You didn’t actually ask me, but I am a writer and so I’ll answer anyway.  Technology may be the ticket in many an arena (medicine, education, real-life policing), but it chews up way more time than it saves in many cases. In police procedurals, it can save the day what with advances in forensics, databases being connected across police forces and even countries and other communications. But in the world of amateur sleuths, where the central idea is people figuring out a plot, it’s a pain. 

The worst culprit is the cell phone!  That small troublemaker got even worse when cameras and even video cameras became commonplace on cells.

My early books (some still in the drawer, where some projects should stay) were written before the cellphone became ubiquitous.  I managed the first one without a single reference to one. They were scarce then. My big innovation was a 'door answering machine' but alas, that did not catch on and make me billions. By the time the second Camilla MacPhee book came along, many people had cell phones.  Darn. 

How could you be out of contact with people who could help/save you if you had a cellphone at your  fingertips? Maybe you wouldn’t dial 911 as you were meddling in police business (ahem), but you could call a sidekick. And vice versa, of course.  Luckily, the universe sent me a large puddle of icy water and I could arrange for a little slip and then … but of course, you can only do that once in a series and get away with it. 

The same with the sleuth who is smart enough to solve the mystery but can’t remember to charge her cellphone.  Sure, I forget sometimes in real life, but really, you can’t keep doing it in fiction. Fiction, as they say, has to make sense. 

Oops! Looks like my own phone will run out of juice by midnight! Lucky I'm not in danger.

We've all used 'dead zones' or 'no service' to solve the problem if the sleuth is driving.  In fact, in Eastern Canada (say Cape Breton) I will be able to use that in the new Camilla book as there are plenty of dead zones, but in Ottawa or upstate New York, not so much.  See those towers?  All that improved coverage is a nuisance, especially when you’ve finally got your sleuth separated from her friends and the night is dark and something bad is about to happen.  Oh well.  Fine. Call the police if you must. Ruin the climax.

They would probably use the phone's GPS to find the stranded/desperate sleuth. That's no fun for the reader. Our cozy sleuth has rescue herself.

All my complaining is because tech gives me extra challenges to make my story run its course.  Mind you, I like having the sleuth take a shot of a license plate or to note something wrong in a site or Google a suspect but I still long for the days when nothing was easy for our sleuth.  And in real life, I really like it!

What about you? Do you like technology in your mystery reading or …?