Print Story Directory Assistance
By Kellnerin (Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 06:05:19 PM EST) (all tags)
Because the last time I wrote a story from the point of view of an inanimate object, the object in question was a second-century Roman glass bowl,

and because I am always trying to write something I haven't done before,

and because I often end up writing the same kind of story anyway ...

Because of all these things, when CRwM announced that the theme of WFC Eye Ex was the It narrative, I decided that I was going to write a version of the classic phone meets boy, phone mistakes gratitude and infatuation for love, boy turns out to be member of a terrorist conspiracy, phone loses boy story.

WHEN IT COMES TO exploring the storytelling potential of inanimate narrators, the part that sets them apart, for me, from the more traditional sentient narrator is how much objects know. What they experience. What they understand. I knew I wanted to make the story about the object and the person using it, with an emphasis more on the person than the our object narrator. In thinking of how I could present a picture of a person through this lens (no pun intended) it struck me how much our phones know about us. How much raw data they, especially "smart" phones, contain about our daily habits. When we wake. When we sleep. Who calls us. Who we call, and when. Or who we exchange texts with. Our musical preferences and listening habits. Our appointments. Our favorite Web sites. Or physical locations that we visit. Things that could have given my protagonist more food for thought are the cities that Adam had configured his weather applet for, or stocks that he was watching -- all these fragments and slices of who we are.

Still, it's a cliche that machines, however sophisticated, don't really know anything about us, about people in general or individually. It takes a human to be able to make a judgment (however subjective) about someone from the fact that they listen to Oasis. Because the omniscient narrator is so nineteenth century, I wanted to play with the intersection between precise data and limited understanding. I liked the idea that the machine might know what URLs we load, but not what the content is or what it means. They might get more insight into SMS messages, but voice recognition is a conspicuously missing iPhone feature, so all it would have access to is date, time, duration, and the phone numbers involved. Metadata, not substance.

And, if my last WFC entry was overly influenced by reading Amy Hempel, this time I was in the middle of reading Adverbs, by Daniel "Citroid Snicket" Handler, which is in a way the perfect cross-pollination for me since most things I write tend to turn into some flavor of love story, and Adverbs contains several flavors of the genre. I like to think that Handler would approve of my flipping the obsession that some people have for their electronic toys. The "my new boyfriend is so great, everything he does is just great, because it is him doing it" song is grating in real life, but I hope it is a least slightly entertaining when it's a phone who feels that way about how it's being used by its owner.

The other thing that characterizes many of my love stories is that they tend to be vaguely tragic. I had this image of the abandoned phone calling out to its owner at the end, which steered me toward incorporating some catastrophic event that knocks out or overloads the network for a while before that last call. When I first formed the idea, Adam wasn't involved in bringing the disaster about, but then there didn't seem much point to telling his story, and it would have been hard to convey any sense of what had happened from the phone's eye view.

By the way, I did in fact write much of the story itself on an iPhone, using its "Notes" feature. I was tempted to try to mimic the yellow legal-pad look of that application (complete with its terrible Marker Felt font), but I figured that would be too cruel. I settled for a really narrow text block because if I had to scroll a lot while writing it, damnit, you should too. My phone, by the way, clearly doesn't love me because it doesn't support Notes in the landscape orientation, when that keyboard layout is obviously superior.

FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN'T had enough of this yet, here's a CRwM-style annotated version of "The 411."

OH, AND ABOUT THE WFC Book ... um, yeah. I have sadly neglected it for a time (along with a couple of PMs that are still open in other tabs as I type). However, I have a nefarious plot brewing, about which more anon.

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Directory Assistance | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
I felt the warmth of his breath as he spoke, his by johnny (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 03:08:39 AM EST
I felt the warmth of his breath as he spoke, his cheek against my glass.

Now then, that is just wonderful, even if, upon rereading, it does kind of remind one of Blondie's "Heart of Glass".  (And I wasn't even thinking about "glass" and "ass", I promise!).

I apologize to you and the other contestants for not having read the WFCs this time, but I'm happy that I've read yours, and thanks for the annotations. Adam's last name makes him sound like a teenager heart throb from whatever this year's version of Dawson Creek is.
Buy my books, dammit!

His name by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #2 Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 05:44:46 AM EST
No wonder he made the phone swoon! Love at first activation!

Thanks for reading. If I may point out two more highlights of this WFC, please see "Dian Bling" and its postmortem by Scrymarch just next door on this diary page, and the widely acclaimed CRwM and blixco debates regarding these two stories.

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM

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Directory Assistance | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback