While I was looking for a passage in Shell Game to share yesterday, I noticed that Sarah, the main character, has a BlackBerry. Talk about a dated reference.
It’s a constant battle between making something relatable and realistic and making something that is going to feel dated far sooner than you think. Even when I first published the book in 2013 I knew that BlackBerry was on the way out — I had already gone through my first iPhone and had moved on to Android devices — but I didn’t go back and change it. I wanted it to remain a sign of the times, and in 2008 tech-savvy people used BlackBerry phones. Sarah, a computer science grad student, was very tech-savvy, so it made sense.
At least these days there are basically only two phone operating systems, so all I have to say is “iPhone” or “Android” and the reader knows what I’m talking about. I’m almost never going to name-check a specific Android phone, unless it’s relevant to the story; saying the character has, for example, a Galaxy S8 means nothing to the reader. Not really. Not unless you’re trying to prove the point that the character is frugal and is still holding onto an old-ass phone.
Nothing wrong with old-ass phones, though. Mine’s three years old, and while I would love to get a new one, there’s nothing wrong with the old one, and anyway not having to pay for a device cuts my bill by $30/month. Every cent counts, especially when, as I write this, my washing machine is leaking again and the last time it was repaired the repair guy said “buy a new one; the repairs will cost more than a new machine.”
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