Last fall, I wrote a line in a work-in-progress featuring two teenagers and what I thought was a phenomenon of the younger crowd: being freaked out by a phone call.
You know, just your average, out-of-the-blue ringing phone. The same kind of call we’ve had ever since Alexander Graham Bell patented the thing in 1876. Which also happens to be something today’s teenagers are pretty adverse to because they prefer texting to talking.
So, the scene went like this: My main character (MC) calls her best friend with good news and when her BFF picks up she immediately says, “Please tell me your dad didn’t get shot.”
No, the MC says, her father (a cop) didn’t get shot.
“Christ. Why the hell are you calling then? Wait, it’s not your mom, is it?”
No, the MC says, her mother (who has cancer) is fine. And then she finally gets to the exciting, story-moving news.
I was pretty proud of myself for that scene because I felt it was true-to-life for today’s teens. That it was something that set them apart in their life experience and I felt like it worked well.
But now I’ve developed my own fear of the phone.
Weeks after I wrote that scene, I got some really horrible, shocking news. By phone. Because it’s not something you’d text and the person calling didn’t live near me.
I’ve had a huge fear of unexpected phone calls ever since. Rather than being excited when my husband or my parents call, I freak out if they call without a warning text. My brain automatically flashes horrible images through my mind of something gone wrong—a car wreck, a heart attack, an accident.
I struggle to answer or I don’t answer at all. I don’t want to hear it.
Obviously, I’m hoping that this will change for me over time. But it got me thinking: As writers and readers, we’ve all read or written a scene that takes place over the phone. It’s a utility of modern writing and it’s often crucial to deceive or PI work. Many contemporary books will also include bits of dialogue exchanged in text. Again, this is useful and normal.
How do your characters communicate? What does it say about them? Or what does it say about you?