Technology and Chatspeak in Romance

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Technology and Chatspeak in Romance

By

Sumaya Bouadi

Copyright © 2011, Sumaya Bouadi, All Rights Reserved

 

In our modern day and age, the blind date has been replaced by the eHarmony date. Rather than waiting desperately for a phone call, we wait desperately for the text. We no longer find out about potential cheaters by catching them in a restaurant; rather, we glimpse their Facebook wall. This new, digital romance gives romance writers both more room to explore, but also leads to a few pitfalls.

Do: Take reader’s age into account

 

If you’re writing a romance novel aimed at a more mature set, including dialogue along the lines of gmab n lma (give me a break and leave me alone) during a text fight, may confuse your readers. Although these aren’t the most common internet abbreviations, simpler ones, such as a/s/l (age/sex/location) on a blind internet date may be lost on older readers. However, if you’re writing a story aimed at the PC-using, AIM-chatting, youtube-loving generation, using chatspeak or texting lingo in your story allows you a closer connection with your reader. After all, authors most commonly want to reveal daily life in our stories, and with texting becoming such a common method of communication, using it in a novel can increase the feeling of authenticity we most crave.

 

Don’t: Overdo it.

 

Although some writers can (and have) written novels entirely in chatspeak, or through emails, is not recommended. Overuse of chatspeak can seem kitschy, or totally lose your reader, while good use can increase the realism of the novel. So how much is too much? That’s totally up to you. Just use chatspeak as a spice. It can definitely bring out the flavors in your novel, emphasizing the youth and modernity of your characters, but too much may make your twenty-something young professional sound like a twelve-year old just discovering how to text her friends.

 

Do: Use an acronym dictionary. Nothing breaks the rhythm of a novel more than suddenly realizing an author misused an internet acronym. There are hundreds of internet acronym dictionaries, all of which are at your command with the press of a key. Take advantage of them! http://www.netlingo.com/acronyms.php provides a comprehensive list of the most common (and quite a few uncommon) text and chatspeak acronyms. This list is just one of many available. Not only will it make your life easier, it provides an easy fact-checking reference. But remember not to go overboard!

 

Do: Stay consistent. Don’t use technology in one chapter and then utterly forget that you have it in another. For example, if your female MC makes a date with her boyfriend over text, and he forgets to show up, don’t forget to have her text him before she screams at him.

 

Do: Your research on internet sites. A girl who visits chatroulette to find a guy is much more likely to find inappropriate image, and the sort of men she would never look at twice. It’s convenient to show how desperate your female MC may have gotten, but will be a rather unlikely place to find a potential beau. If you have your MC visiting real sites, make certain they match her/his personality. An easy way out of this conundrum is to simply make up your own sites to match the needs of your character. However, just as setting your novel in a well-known city adds a touch of realism to your story, visiting well-known websites adds that extra special touch.

 

Do: Take advantages of the extra benefits of technology. Texting is a terrible way to communicate. In point of fact, 93% of our communication is based on body language and tone. Texting only gives us that last 7%. However, it stays a major mode of communication. Use the miscommunication to your advantage! A best friend misunderstanding a sarcastic, ‘oh, of course’ by your MC may lead to her being set up on a catastrophic (or wonderful) blind date, and a boyfriend assuming sarcasm in an earnest text could lead to a fight and a bit more tension to your novel. Moreover, it’s far too easy to send a text to the wrong person (I’ve definitely done it!), and that single wrong click could reveal a cheating husband, a secret love, or a marriage proposal. And on that note, an increasingly common marriage proposal includes asking a favorite youtube star to propose to your significant other, as shown in this youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkKLANmUbF4 (go to 1:00, and watch the rest of the way through). As unusual as this method may be, if your MC is an internet junkie, or loves a certain celeb (youtube or twitter or otherwise), an internet proposal may be just the trick for an adorable proposal without resorting to the old cliches.

 

Do: Have fun! Technology has made our daily lives much easier, and it can spice up our writing, too. Play around with different ideas. Write a book made entirely of emails, or have a couple who keeps (and maybe starts) a long distance relationship over Skype. The sky’s the limit, so experiment until you find the right mixture of technology and tradition that works for you and your story!

 

Technology has definitely become a part of our lives, so don’t hesitate to use it in your stories. Just do your research, don’t overwhelm your reader and most of all have fun. The internet, texting, and social media have become a part of our daily life, so making them a part of your romance is the next logical step. Have fun with what you can do, and experiment! You never know what new ideas might come up.