Right now, you can keep it. From my point of view as a mystery writer, it’s a brave new world out there. Case in point: Today’s New York Times has a major feature on sexting. That’s right. Sex while texting. Or texting during sex perhaps. Not completely clear. All to say, be careful. You could end up part of an NYT article read by millions (not be mention those who received a FORWARD by your faithless recipient). Trust? It’s dead in the water.
Okay, I’m not 100 % sure that my friends are sexting, but they sure are worrying about the death of the print book and questioning if the world will shift to reading only e-books. Personally, as of today, I am worried if the world will be reading anything besides sexts. Pass the Scotch. Don’t make it virtual.
Now, where was I? Oh yes. Technology.
You see, I am trying to get my protagonist into a situation where she might be in danger. Yes. That’s right. Legitimately in danger. With no one knowing where she is. And that absolutely can’t be her fault. Women sleuths get lashed for going anywhere without armed friends, rampaging relatives, the police chief and the SWAT team being informed of their plans. But suppose there’s a good reason, something unexpected, say a burning requirement to meet with someone just a bit dangerous on hunch. Well, the sleuth can easily signal difficulties with a flip of the cell phone to save herself. Where’s the suspense in that? So, the author (that’s me) is always busily tossing the cell phone into the river or a ditch or a nearby trash can. Or locating increasingly rare dead zones. Now, with GPS in the phone, is that even enough? The dangerous location can be triangulated in a flash. It’s a pickle. Do you have to mail that phone to Katmandu? Will a dead zone be enough? For how long?
Of course, that cell phone could get stolen. But it would have to leave the sleuth’s hand long enough to give that slippery thief a chance. Judging by the number of people I see talking on cells or texting at red lights or while driving (possibly even sexting), that’s not happening.
Then there are the social networks. The notion of the lone wolf protagonist against all odds, that’s so yesterday. First off all, her Facebook status will almost certainly read: Gone to confront murderer in graveyard at midnight. Miss you all!
Of course, the right kind of modern murderer could easily hack into her account and send all the helpful sidekicks to the wrong graveyard. Oh yes. Then we’re up the creek.
Plotting murder used to be so simple and satisfying. Now it’s like a full time job to stay ahead of the technobumps in the fictional road. Wait! Those two sentences are EXACTLY 140 characters including spaces and punctuation!!! A perfect tweet. Excuse me, I’ll be back.
Still here? Good. That’s another thing: technology and social networking bring new and multiple distractions. For instance, I can’t remember exactly what I was talking about. I’m a little out of it because I’m multitasking and downloading photos for another blog at the same time I’m writing this.
So I’ve hit a wall. And just for today, I am longing for bygone times. Forget technology. I’m off to read some Agatha Christie with classical music playing in the background. I’ll try not to think of what my friends are up to.
What about you? Did you update your status while reading this? Are you multitasking this very minute? Don’t be afraid to tell the truth. I’m in the other room, relaxing and reading. And what I don’t know won’t hurt me.
Mary Jane Maffini rides herd on three (soon to be three and a half) mystery series and a couple of dozen short stories. Her thirteenth mystery novel, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Murder (April 5, 2011), is brimming with names, no two the same.