We’re so excited to have Robin stop by our blog for this leg of the tour (it's a double stop today so make sure to also head over to Cheeky Reads) – after checking out Robin’s post on keeping up with what’s contemporary, be sure to comment below for your chance to win a copy of WHIRLWIND!
Keeping Up With the TimesOne of the definitions of any type of contemporary story is the realistic use of “today’s” language, technology, and styles. While fashion is constantly changing, and new slang and rules are added to our language almost daily, it’s technology that’s the most fluid in our modern world, and what really keeps contemporary writers on their toes.
A friend of mine recently read a novel – one of Nora Roberts’ many works, I believe – and wrote in her review that she couldn’t understand why the heroine didn’t just take out her cell phone and call for help...until she realized the story was written in the early nineties. It’s hard to believe that just twenty years ago, cell phones were either a luxury or a replacement for the pager and used only for business (you remember those, don’t you?).
Barely ten years ago, the idea you could read, let alone send email using your phone, was all but a fantasy – except for super-busy executives and computer nerds (the BlackBerry came out in 1999, and took a while to become the CrackBerry we know today). Now, smart phones of all kinds are commonplace, and do a lot more than email. It’s even harder to believe that just three years ago when I wrote the first draft of Whirlwind, the iPhone had only been out for a year!
"Old and New Flip Phones"
I got really lucky, though. When I originally envisioned my character’s phones, I was thinking of what is now the old-fashioned flip phone that only had a numeric keypad. Thanks to the boom in text messaging, I imagine most of my readers see the current versions of flip phones, those with a keyboard. In another year or two, a flip phone may not exist at all, if the rage of iPhone-like virtual keyboards continues to grow. I have one on my Droid, and I love it.
Cell phones are just the beginning. Computers also continue to shrink and become more powerful. Laptops (aka netbooks) had already shrunk to the size of a trade paperback, and that was before the release of the iPad. Music CDs are now passé; it’s MP3 players. Or better yet, MP4 players and DVRs for video. Gone is the idea of “taping” a TV program – rather it’s “I’ll just download the latest episode when I want to watch it.” TVs themselves are now all flat panels – do you remember the huge, heavy monsters they used to be?
And of course, you can listen to music and watch videos on your phone, if it’s “smart” enough.
How about GPS? Remember the days of *gasp* paper maps? Then came portable GPS guidance systems: TomTom, Garmin, Magellan, etc. Now cars come with that feature built in. ’Course there’s a app that does that for your cell phone too…where will it end? (HINT: it never does!)
One thing that seems to have a little staying power in the realm of technology is email. Writing a letter has pretty much gone the way of the dinosaur (or rotary dial phone, take your pick), but email looks like it’s here to stay for a while. Yes, texting and tweeting and social networking are claiming their share of our attention and screen time, but if you really want to get information to someone, you email it, right? You can also send a PM (personal message) or DM (direct message), but I’d classify those as different types of email. And how do I know I have a PM or DM waiting? I get an email notification.
I hope email will be around a long time, since some of the most fun pieces of my characters’ relationship are their email exchanges. Melissa, the narrator of Whirlwind, first met pre-med student, Jason, via email, and shared some pretty racy comments with him. Here’s a little taste (by the way, Mitch is Jason’s brother, and an amateur steer wrestler):
Mitch must not have said much about me, because Jason’s email interrogation continued. I purposely kept my answers vague, enjoying stringing him along as long as possible. But when he asked about Mitch’s skill as an equestrian, I finally gave in and flat out asked:Gotta love email!
Do you want to know if I’m the one your brother is riding?
Normally I’d get a response within the hour — Jason seemed to be online all the time — but in this case I didn’t hear back for a full day. I worried I’d offended him; he really didn’t know how blunt I could be. Eventually his response arrived, for the first time without any cagey questions.
To be perfectly honest, yes. Mitch mentions you often. He likes you and the way you make him laugh. I think he cares about you a lot.
That’s all I was trying to do with my questions — get a glimpse of what Mitch sees in you. I’m sorry. I can see now you are a no-nonsense woman.
So, are you my brother’s new mount?
I laughed out loud when I read the note — much to the chagrin of the other students on the fourth floor of the library at the time. After apologizing and making a mental note to read my email at home in the future, I carefully composed my response. Jason seemed like someone who could appreciate some friendly innuendo.
That depends. How many brothers do you have?
This time the reply came in seconds.
Just the one. How many men are you sleeping with?
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was no-nonsense. Quickly I sent him my answer and packed up my books.
Well, sleeping may not be the right term. Cowboys like to ride a lot … bareback.
Jason’s response arrived before I could shut down my laptop, and I left the library snickering.
But that can’t be nearly as much fun as playing doctor.
While I can’t predict the future, as a contemporary writer, I have to consider it as I go. There’s no way to make a story truly contemporary without automatically dating it, but is that bad? Maybe someday someone will read Whirlwind and wonder why Melissa didn’t just let her car auto-drive her where she needed to go, or why she never video-called Jason. I hope they then check the date it was published, and have a laugh. “So that’s the way they lived in 2010?” they might say to their holographic book club. Then maybe they’ll discuss their contemporary world – one that’s only science fiction to me.
Here's your chance to win a print copy of WHIRLWIND - contest details are below:
* Contest ends 6/21/11 - 11:59 PM (PDT)
* Comment below to win - let us know what your MUST HAVE piece of technology is - (Jess's Droid is attached to her hand, literally)
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Have you checked out Kristin's review of WHIRLWIND? Find it here!