Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The day I (almost) went to Bangalore

I had my mobile phone for seven years, one of those pebble ones in a pretty green colour. Of late, I could see friends trying not to chortle when I used it. That should be on the Antiques Road Show I heard them thinking.

But it wasn’t to save myself from being chortled at that I decided it was time to say goodbye to the green pebble. There were various reasons why it made more sense to have what I thought of as a ‘flicky flicky’ phone. Plus I thought I’d like a phone with a keyboard. On the pebble I was the slowest texter in the world. Predictive texting was more hindrance than help although it did have its amusing moments.

Once, I went with friends to Northern Ireland. I texted my family to say I was on a train to Bang … Predictive texting decided I was en route to Bangalore. I was tempted to send it. Back home they would be very surprised to hear that I was in India when they’d waved me off thinking I was going to a party in Bangor.

In writing contemporary fiction, modern communications can get in the way of a good story. Your characters, as they would be in real life, will always be contactable unless you explain – lost/stolen phone, forgot to pack/top up/charge – why they’re not. The red phone box is even more antique than my green pebble.

Enid Blyton never had this problem. The Famous Five could not have had adventures if they’d had to report their whereabouts to Aunt Fanny every five minutes. Or if, using a tracker app, Aunt F could see that they’d gone to Kirrin Island again when she’d told them not to. (On the other hand, in a real emergency, they could have texted her: Frgt gngr br pls brng + 10 jm trts.)

The heroines in the books by one of my favourite authors, Mary Stewart (writing in the middle of the last century), would not be in such thrilling danger if they were able to phone/text/sat nav their way out of sticky situations.

In my People’s Friend serial The Family at Farrshore I got round the issue by having signal problems. It’s set in the far north-west of Scotland so this seemed plausible, but not a solution for every story.

Modern communication methods cannot be ignored but I can write stories set before everyone had a mobile or I can try to avoid situations where they need to be mentioned. Or, of course, I can make use of them in a story just I do in real life.

I’m now the owner of a flicky flicky, smart new/new smart phone and I’m trying to fathom all its many functions. And I hope that very soon I’ll be much faster at texting than I was the day I (almost) went to Bangalore.


  1. Great post, Kate - modern technology must have spoiled many a plot! I still have a mobile with camera but without Internet. Absolutely plausible to have no signal. BTW, Mary Stewart was one of my most favourite authors ever!

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on what to do with the mobile phone in fiction.
    One publisher advised me just to get rid of the phone altogether at the start of the story!

  3. Thanks, Rosemary and Rhona. I suppose writers in the past had to take account of new inventions but they seem hard to keep up with in the 21st century.