Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Are Cellphones Killing Literature? When Everyone's Connected 24/7, Many Classic Plot Devices Just Don't Work Anymore

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Are Cellphones Killing Literature? When Everyone's Connected 24/7, Many Classic Plot Devices Just Don't Work Anymore

Article excerpt

Juliet: Fakn death. C U Latr.

Romeo: gud plan.

Conspiring with a distant boyfriend or girlfriend? Send a text. Lost in the woods, wilderness, or a heavy fog? Use GPS. A case of mistaken identity? Facebook! And who is this mysterious Jay Gatsby? Just Google him.

Books can now be read on iPhones, and young writers in Japan are using their cellphone keypads to write best-selling short novels. But at the same time, technology is making some classic narrative plot devices obsolete. Gimmicks like missed connections and miscommunications, or the inability to reach someone just don't work when even the most remote places have wireless coverage.

OVER-CONNECTEDNESS

How significant is the toss to storytelling if characters today can be instantly, and constantly, connected?

When I recently finished a draft of my second thriller and sent it to friends, I received this feedback: The protagonist and his girlfriend can't spend the whole book unable to get in touch with each other. Not in the cellphone era.

Then I talked to other writers and found a growing antagonism toward today's communication gadgets.

"We want a world where there's distance between people; that's where great storytelling comes from," says Kamran Pasha, a writer and producer on Kings, the NBC drama based on the biblical story of David.

Pasha says even the Bible would have been a casualty of connectedness. In the Old Testament, Joseph's brothers toss him into a pit, and stave traders take him to Egypt--a pivotal, development in the Exodus narrative that is central. …

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