Have you ever considered how the characters in your story communicate with each other: across airwaves, in cyberspace, through high-tech devices? I’m not even talking about sci-fi. The future is now, and as an author you have keep this in mind when you’re creating contemporary worlds.
As a paranormal author, I can tell you this much–it’s no longer easy to isolate characters as a method of creating fear and tension. Even if you abandon your characters in the woods, someone’s bound to have a cell phone (and just because they’re in the woods doesn’t mean there’s no signal, in fact, you usually get clearer signals in open spaces). You can’t have your characters break down on a back road either, because there’s roadside assistance and OnStar. They’re not even likely to end up on a back road unless the GPS takes them there or someone they know lives there, and then they can just call and tell their friends they’ve broken down.
When writing contemporary pieces, you have to remember we live in the future, right now. Technology is vast and commonplace. I had this underlined for me when an editor on one of my books pointed out even in hiding, my protagonist would probably have access to the internet and get her information from bloggers. Also, she was originally getting a lot of information from newspapers and I realized very few people read paper newspapers now.
This is not the world we thirty-somethings (well, I might be forty-something…) grew up in and your characters certainly aren’t in it.
You also have to adjust for certain trends: are your characters watching television, or more specifically, the news? A lot of people watch their favorite TV shows online. A vast percentage of people get their daily dose of news from online news sites. The internet has to come into play at least peripherally if you’re writing a contemporary piece, especially if someone in your story needs information. These days people are more likely to look something up online rather than consulting an encyclopedia. And no one, not even the most countrified bumpkin, is wholly technologically isolated.
What do you think? Would you rather say “screw it” and write historical pieces, or is it easier to keep track of how people really live these days, hardwired to the mainframe?