Monday, September 3, 2012

Beyond Which I Will Not Go



For our monthly Sisters-in-Crime meeting, we had two very interesting authors come to discuss technology in writing. Unlikely speaking partners, Camille Minichino, a physicist/writer (when stressed and needing to relax, she does math problems) and Simon Wood, a thriller and horror genre writer (author of over 150 published stories and articles) joined us for a talk and lunch.

What an interesting talk it was! (I left with an armful of books.) They asked some thought provoking questions I had not considered before (and got a chance to talk to Camille about String Theory and Bubble Theory at lunch).

“What’s your technology threshold?”

Camille mentioned that some people she has asked this question of say they don’t want anything to do with technology. But, that is not true, she counters, we all have technology in our lives, but our thresholds vary. The wheel is technology. The pen is technology. The dial-up phone is technology but some can’t go to the level of the smart phone, iphone, computers or the latest tech gadget—they are unwilling to dig in and learn for whatever reason. “I only need a cell phone that just lets me make telephone calls.” How often have you heard that?

 “What do you think of as natural?” (Technologically speaking)

Camille and Simon pointed out a problem I came up against a few weeks back when the acquisitions editor who has my book told me to bring the time of the story into present day, not the 1980’s where it was when I began writing it. (I know, I know, I’ve been sitting on this book a long time) I didn’t want to change the time period, thinking of all the reasons why I couldn’t, but soon realized it wouldn’t be that hard (the story mostly takes place in Mexico where there is no cell phone reception, so I wouldn’t have to be concerned with cell phones). But as a writer, where do you draw the line? Do set your story back to a time you feel more comfortable with?

 “We all leave trails.”

Simon reminded us that we all leave trails—paper, technical, physical, and other. Have you ever thought about the signals you are sending to the internet every time you go public (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, web sites, searches)? Every word you plug in leaves a trail and sends signals (words) that are used to target/identify you. 
        (Remember what Kristin Lamb teaches in We Are Not Alone-The Writers Guide to Social Media—find the tags that identify you and your writing and use them) 

But, did you ever think that every word you use identifies you.

If you start talking about cars, say, and you mention your new VW beetle, you might notice that the ads to your Facebook page will begin to show ads for cars and specifically VW dealerships.

In reverse, I can view the ads showing up on my Facebook page as an indication of what I’ve been putting out! (I just looked; there’s puppy adoption, author, Kindle and shoe ads—I don’t know why the shoe ads—maybe simply because I’m female and they know females love shoes, but 3 out of 4 is very telling.)

Simon brought up the point that in today’s writing, it is harder for the bad guy to stay hidden because cell phones can be pinpointed and cars have electronic systems that can be found by satellite search. He mentioned that that is why many writers choose old cars that can’t be located by the newest electronic devices--technological issues to consider.

Do you like fast paced mysteries? Check out: Simon Wood Quoted from his site: Welcome. You’ve been dragged off the internet and into my cyber world. I write in both the thriller and horror genres. My work tends to err on the dark side, so don’t say you weren’t warned.

Are you a science geek? Even if you’re not, then you might like Camille’s books.
Camille Minichino Retired physicist turned writer. She is on the faculty of the Golden Gate University, San Francisco, and on the staff of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She has written eight novels under her name, The Periodic Table Mysteries. (She’s written more under different names which you can check out at her website: 


A few other interesting tidbits I gleaned from the talk that you might want to use in your writing:
·        One million dollars in hundreds weighs twenty-two pounds.
·        It is possible to send an email from someone else. (We weren't given the how)
·        You can always skew things on the internet by sending the wrong signals (the words you use)



I won't do cyber games (I have too little time as it is to get my writing done-I'd have none if I started learning games).

So, what’s the level of technology past which you don’t want to go?




27 comments:

CAMILLE MINICHINO said...

Thanks for the great review, Cora. I'm going to FB it in a minute!

Anonymous said...

Very nice, Cora!

From Terell

Jodi Lea Stewart said...

Intriguing! Now I know I have to learn how to use my new android phone and tablet!

Liv said...

Oooh...I'm off to see what FB knows about me...
Good post!

Cora said...

Thanks for stopping by. You are invited anytime to come and do a post or share a few words. I really enjoyed your visit at Sisters.

Cora said...

Muchas Gracias.

Cora said...

I love my smartphone but don't know half of what I can do with it. I just learn new things when I need them, and usually only what I need to know to get what I want to do, done.

Cora said...

Do tell us when you find out--all the nitty-gritty secrets:)

John Brantingham said...

Great post -- and how far will I go with technology? Only until it makes me unhappy. You have to be careful, just because something has been invented doesn't meant that you have to use it. I don't carry a cell phone at all not because they confuse me, but because I see so many people unhappy because they are always drawn out of the moment by the constant demands of technology.

marja said...

Thank you, Cora. This makes me realize how much more I could be using technology in my books. As a matter of fact, I already decided to use one type of technology in my WIP, and now I realize I made the right decision.

Erica Miles said...

What fun! The talking String Theory at lunch thing, that is. As for technology, I've always been of the mind that it's there to serve me, not the other way around. There are tons of apps, programs and doo-dads out there, each with a learning curve and each promising to make life easier. I've found that often the old, no-tech ways are faster. For example, when someone comes into my store and needs a phone number for a local business, I can Google it and find the info within one to five clicks. It's quicker to pull out a *gasp* phone book and look it up.

And I agree with John one thousand percent--people are drawn from being present the moment their cell rings or they receive a text. Personally, I feel it's almost like being 'on call' 24/7. Leisure, privacy and control back, please? Easy. Turn the doo-dads off.

Cora said...

I still love my pen and paper to get new ideas down, so I prefer the low tech solution in that regard.

Staying present in the moment is certainly a challenge these days. Thanks for commenting.

Cora said...

So true. It is not the tool that makes us happy or unhappy, it is our use or non-use of it that decides that. If a tool causes us problems, I agree we are probably better without it.

Cora said...

We can only write what we know about, so to use technology in our books, we need to be knowledgeable. Otherwise we have to find a way around it somehow.

Barbara Forte Abate said...

Really terrific post, Cora! I'm pretty much Old School in both my writing life and everyday preferences. Even when my stories first start to tweak along the edges of my thoughts they generally appear in B&W rather than color. All things tech come slowly to me, but mostly I think this is just my own little rebellion against the excessive speed of modern life.

Sara Walpert Foster said...

I'm not sure who said it here but I find that I use technology on a very basic level until I have time or want it to do more for me. Then I try to figure out the next thing. This frustrates my tech-crazy husband who can't understand why I don't always pick up my cell phone (or notice it's ringing) and why I always print out writing I've done and edit using a red pen instead of doing it all electronically. Lots of food for thought here.

Kim Griffin said...

Recently, I saw a commercial about a television that 'sees' you and recognizes you when you walk into the room. It says hello 'insert name here' and turns itself on.

Freaked. Me. Out.

Right now, that's where I draw the line.

Lots of good food for thought, Cora!

Kim Griffin said...

Sara ~ I read your comment AFTER I wrote mine and we both mention 'food for thought'

What's going on?? lol

Tami Clayton said...

Interesting question - I'm not sure where I draw the line. I wouldn't consider myself super techno but I do have a cell phone, a laptop, and use Apple TV to watch shows that Instant Stream to my television. I am more immersed in social media than I ever thought I would be thanks to Kristen's class and meeting all of you fine people. :) I would definitely draw the line well before Kim's example above, though.

Sally Carpenter said...

When I write a book or short story, I always start with pen and paper and then type it up. I can't compose on a computer--I spend too much time going back and fixing typos. A blank screen doesn't inspire me the way blank paper does, maybe because I didn't enter the computer work until midlife. Not teaching cursive writing to children and expecting them to do everything on computers is shorting out part of their brain/learning. I feel the hand-pen connection is still vital in writing.

Camille Minichino said...

This is such an interesting discussion -- I wish we were all in room together. Oh, wait, we are!

I've redefined "present moment" to include all the things and people that come together to make that moment.

Cora said...

Computer's that talk to you--uh, I agree--freaky. Although I did work with learning disabled children on computer programs that speak the words you type. Not the same, I know.

Cora said...

I love the computer technology. For me, it was like I had been waiting for it all my life. But a computer geek I am not. What I love is the quick interactions you can have with people. I am not a wordy person. I may not be able to spend an afternoon with a friend, but I can interact for a bit by text or internet--or even a phone call:)

Cora said...

Yep, I agree--head to hand to pen to paper allows the creativity to flow for me.

Cora said...

I never thought of it that way, but at this moment you are all off doing something else, but my moment is with all your thoughts you've written that I can access now, in this moment. Hmmm. Sounds like the time slip I am working on in my new novel. More food for thought. Thanks, Camille.

Sonia G Medeiros said...

I always find the use or lack of use of technology in a story very interesting. A lot of horror/thriller type stories will ignore computers and cell phones to restrict the amount of information that the characters have access to. I remember one novel about a small town with an outbreak of ergotamine induced madness. I don't recall a single cell phone...which is pretty weird for our modern world and the one computer mentioned was some kind of dinosaur. LOL. I understand the desire to keep some of that very convenient tech out of the story but just ignoring it has always bothered me (like why didn't Buffy carry a cell phone?). I'd rather find an explanation for why the tech won't help.

Cora said...

You got the point of this post, exactly. Authors have a point beyond which they will not venture in their writing due to their own personal tech knowledge (or should I say, lack thereof). Authors do the research they need for their stories, except when it comes to the newest technology--often throwing up their hands and avoiding it altogether rather than having to learn it so they can include it in their stories. That's why they set their novels in a past time (before computers, cell phones, etc), or, as you have noted, just avoid it altogether (is that cheating?.

I think that for some writers it is just too confusing for them to learn the newest tech advances. We do not all have the mindset to learn it. Thanks for your insight Sonia.