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Monday, April 20, 2015

Princess & Smart Phones

By Sandra Nachlinger

My friend Nan and I shared a table, waiting for our lunch orders to be delivered, when I asked her a favor. “Will you let me play with your smart phone?” I explained that I’ve been drafting a scene in my latest work-in-progress where the heroine (Ruth Ann) has been given a smart phone. Now Ruth Ann is in a fix and desperately needs to call a number that’s been preprogrammed into the phone by the person who gave it to her. But she has never used a smart phone before! To write this scene, I needed details to be able to accurately portray how the phone worked.

(As writers and friends of writers know, when a story is rattling around in a writer’s head, it’s there all the time—even when lunching with a friend—and bits and pieces of plot may surface without warning.)

In case you haven't guessed, let me admit the truth right now. I do not have a smart phone. My cell phone has a cover that flips over its screen, and its “smartness” is limited. I’m a dinosaur, aren’t I? Yes, there’s a camera function, but so far I’ve only managed to take a picture of my foot and another shot of the steering wheel of my car, both achieved while trying to increase the volume of the ringtone. The coolest phone I ever had was pink plastic, had a rotary dial, and was marketed as “Princess.”



Nan smiled, turned off her phone, and set it on the table in front of me. “Go for it.”

“Are you sure I won’t mess it up?” I asked. After reassuring me that everything would be fine, she leaned back to watch. I took a deep breath and tried to put myself into the mind of my character, a retired small-town schoolteacher - someone who had a flip phone just like mine - someone who was under stress. 

Here’s my draft of the scene.

Only one button disturbed the shiny surface—a little square. Ruth Ann took a deep breath, stilled her shaking hands enough to push the button, and watched the screen come to life. Aha! The display read “7:30 p.m.” and a message instructed her to slide to unlock. She ran her finger across the glass the way she’d seen her nephew do. More than a dozen tiny icons filled the screen.
Thank heavens!
She squinted at the fine print underneath each picture—Messages, Calendar, Photos, Camera, Videos, Maps—but not one of them showed the familiar Rolodex she expected. Where could the list of phone numbers be? Frantic, Ruth Ann tapped several pictures on the device’s glowing screen, each display more confusing than the last, each one leading somewhere unknown, until she finally gave up.
Oh, why didn’t I ask for more detailed instructions on how to use this frickin’ thing?
           Frustrated and angry at herself, she shoved the phone back into her purse.

Nan led me through the icons on her smart phone (easier than I’d expected) and confessed that she hadn’t thought about how much research a writer has to do. 

I nodded. “You’ve got to get the details right. Somebody will know if you mess up, and then they won’t trust anything else you write.”

I understand that screens vary from phone to phone and people set up their phones in their own unique ways, but I have to ask … did I get it right?


Sandra Nachlinger is the author of Bluebonnets for Elly (a sweet romance) and co-author with Sandra Allen of I.O.U. Sex (a spicy Baby Boomer romance).

19 comments:

  1. Sandy, I had to laugh at your description of using an IPhone for the first time! Having recently trading my flip-phone for a more modern version, I can relate! Enjoyed your blog!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed my post. Thanks for making me feel not quite so dinosaur-ish.

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  2. Sandy, you did get this right. After two years with my iPhone, I still don't know how to access all the features. I was so excited when my husband and I were looking for a store and I used my phone to get directions. You'd think I'd built the road to get us there. LOL

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    1. Congratulations on using your phone to get directions. I have a GPS for that, but it would be convenient to have the tasks from all my gadgets in one device. One of these days I'll get smart and succumb.

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  3. LOL! Fun to read. Thanks for including a snippet of the work-in-progress. Btw, you think you're a dinosaur? Never mind smart phones; I don't have a cell phone, period!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Judy. I like the security of having a cell phone. After all, you'd have a hard time finding a phone booth these days! But mine doesn't get a whole lot of use.

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  4. I do have a smart phone but literally know how to do nothing on it and am lucky if I can figure out calling someone. We got it as part of package deal and I'd be happier with a simple phone that just let me call someone. The thing was i wanted texting to be able to get them from my daughter, dil and granddaughter. When one comes in, the panic starts as there aren't enough for me to get the knack. I did get one of the little styluses; so I could make texts as my shaky hands would never do it any other way. My kids and grandkids are all pros at it but I started out with a family phone where you told the operator the number you wanted (country living). Too much too soon is my philosophy now.

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    1. I'm laughing because your comment made me remember party lines! One short ring and two long for us, and you never knew who might be listening in. Thanks for making me feel a little less out-of-it, Rain.

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  5. Lol! Rain everything you wrote is so me. Just got mine 1week ago and the kids are cracking up at me. Just learned how to hang it up today. But at 73, can't complain, just laugh. Sandra, your book sounds like it would be a fun read. Judy Esposito

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    1. I'm loving all these comments. Y'all make me feel normal! Thanks for your encouragement about my work-in-progress. I'm a slow writer, but one of these days I'll get 'er done.

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  6. Believe it or not, flip phones are making a comeback in many countries -- hugely popular in Japan. Why? Because they're just a heck of a lot cheaper. I mean, an iPhone costs $500+. I should have had my sanity tested when I bought one back last summer. Hubby got an Android smartphone for a fourth of the price, and I like his better because it has a slide-out keyboard that's SO much easier to use for texting.

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    1. How interesting! Maybe I'll hang onto mine after all.

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  7. I do have a smartphone, but I got it only recently....and my teenaged granddaughter gave me "lessons." As much as I am now enjoying the phone, I still think longingly of my various landline phones...I have a few in my condo. One is a Minnie Mouse and another is like a pay phone. In the 80s, we called these "designer phones."

    Your scene very accurately portrayed the experience of a newbie using an iPhone. LOL

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    1. I'd love to see your designer phones! Sounds like a fun collection.
      Thanks for verifying the accuracy of Ruth Ann's smart phone experience.

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  8. This was so funny to read Sandy! You got it completely right! That frustration jumped right off the page! Good job!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jacquie. I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt.

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  9. Great description of a first time smart phone user! It brings back memories of the first smart phone I had.

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  10. What a great article, Sandy! I also don't have a Smart Phone, Not even a cell phone, but am getting closer to that.

    The scene with Ruth Ann could well have been written about me! GRIMACE.

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    1. I'm glad you could relate, Colleen. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment.

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