Tamsyn’s ‘in residence’ with us this month, and has written this fab post…
Danger, Danger! Why It’s Not Always Good To Talk.
Picture the scene; you’re reading a brilliant book, with a plot that twists and turns more than Nemesis at Alton Towers. The main character is in mortal danger…you’re not sure if they’re going to make it…they’re stranded miles from anywhere and the villain is closing in…then they whip out their mobile and call their mum. Straight away, the tension deflates like a balloon dog with a puncture and suddenly, you’re not sure this is such a great book after all.
In the olden days, it used to be so much easier for writers to put their characters into dangerous situations. Look at The Famous Five, forever falling down abandoned mines and catching smugglers in the act. How much fun would it have been if Julian had pulled out a phone and called 999 instead of exploring murky tunnels? Or if instead of carrying on through the wardrobe into Narnia, Lucy had texted Edmund to come and find her?
That’s why writers are always looking for ways to escape from the tyranny of modern technology. Historical novels don’t have a problem, obviously; nor do fantasy stories. Science-fiction brings different challenges but it’s easy to invent some future catastrophe to wipe out the network. It’s writers of stories set in the modern day who have it worst. Most come up with ingenious plot devices to give reasons why mobile phones aren’t available to save their characters; in My So-Called Afterlife, Lucy is a ghost and can’t text the living (but I took pity on her and gave her a ghostly mobile to keep in touch with other ghosts). In Dark Life by Kat Falls, the characters spend a lot of time underwater, with no way to keep in touch. It gives the more dangerous scenes a real edge, especially when you know there’s no help around the corner.
So, next time you’re reading a book and start wondering why the main character doesn’t just phone a friend, have pity on the poor tortured writer. They’ve probably spent ages thinking up reasons why the mobile isn’t working. Because let’s be honest, a flat battery lacks imagination. And none of us wants to be guilty of that.
Thanks, Tamsyn! You can chat to Tamsyn in our forum and ask her any questions you like…