How I Use Technology in My Stories

Unless you’re living in the backwoods as part of some antisocial backwoods Chicken Little Cult, you have to admit that Technology is a dominant feature in all our lives. We use it to wake us up, get us to sleep, entertain, education, feed, and so many other ways that one could write a book….

Ahem, anyway, this particular article is about Technology’s place in Fiction and how I specifically use it in my stories. This is an opinion based article and while I may utilize facts to support my assertions, they in no way should be construed as the only way to think about it.

Technology is a broad range of machines and devices designed and built to perform particular tasks. They can be mechanical, analog, digital, virtual, etc, but they all share that common function to make our lives and jobs easier. Even a simple fork, knife, and spoon represents Technology to a degree. Let’s face it, eating soup with your fingers isn’t as enjoyable as with utensils. 😉

In Fiction, Technology serves a purpose in helping to define a story’s particular time and place. If you were writing a story setting during the Industrial Revolution, you could possibly include items like a steam engine, waterwheels, hand-cranked drills, weaving looms, and other such items. They provide that little pinch of salt that helps flavor your story. A more futuristic story could include digital computers, virtual reality, lasers (Industrial, Pew Pew, and other types), and other electronic systems.

I love Technology, but it’s not the end all be all of a story. I write SciFi/Adventure, usually set in the near to distant future and populated with all kinds of blinky beepy toys. However, I don’t make a big deal about their usage. After all, who makes a big deal about nuking a burrito in their microwave or logging on to the Internet in the 21st Century? Short answer, they don’t because we consider all of that part of our daily lives, much as a farmer in the 1800s wouldn’t make a big deal about hooking up a horse-drawn plow to go till their fields or a factory worker in the 1940s using their rivet guns.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I despise Technobabble. It serves no purpose other than to make the character saying it look smart and if done incorrectly or without restraint, will confuse the reader and ultimately turn them off. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying that I ACTIVELY try not to engage in that kind of wordplay. If you can’t explain it in simple terms, it’s probably best not to do it in the first place. However (and there’s always a However), if you have two characters that are engineers or scientists, it’s perfectly okay to have them use jargon that is particular to their occupations so long as you provide enough context that the reader can follow what the heck they are talking about.

Technology is tools and should be used like any other device in a story, to advance the plot or add insight to a character. Thanks for your time. 🙂