Saturday 8 October 2011

How do social media and technology influence a character's life?

When I first started writing 'The Grandson' I decided to set it in 1994 which is when I lived in Italy. This was because I knew what it was like to live there then.  I didn't have access to a landline in the flat I shared because you needed to be Italian to apply for one.  The only technology around was mobile phones.  Many young Italians used them to organise their social lives. At that time in the U.K. young people didn't tend to own mobile phones as they were too expensive.  Although the internet was around then, I don't remember hearing about it until late in 1994.
I have a padded envelope full of letters from my time in Italy, many written in fountain pen which I received from my friends whilst I was living there.  Who writes letters in fountain pen now?  I save mine for thank you letters as those are the only ones I write these days.
If my main character, Jessica was living in Italy now, she'd have a mobile phone.  Her and the hero wouldn't leave notes for each other in the pigeon holes for their flats.  She wouldn't have to buy a phone card to ring her parents and get them to call her back in the bar downstairs from where she lives.  If she arranged to meet somebody and they were late or they changed their mind, they'd call or text her.  Do you remember when you arranged to meet people before mobile phones? Once me and a friend spent our lunch hour standing at different exits of Liverpool Street station before thinking the worst of each other and returning to our desks at work!
Nowadays Jessica would communicate with friends by text message, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. It's unlikely that she'd write letters. When going out she'd take photographs to post on her Facebook page.  She'd stay in touch with people because of Facebook. 
In 'The Grandson' there are two letters which are significant. One arrives at the end of Act 2.  As a result of what it says, the hero and heroine can no longer be together.  The other, sent by the hero in Act 3 is intercepted by the heroine's mother. If I set 'The Grandson' in 2011 and changed these letters into e-mails, I don't think they'd have the same impact.
I plan to set my next book in the modern day which means at least all the time I'm spending on the internet can be put down to research!

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