The Things We Assume

The Smoky Mountains between Gatlinburg and Cherokee.

Yesterday I read a post by Rheea Mukherjee about Negotiating Social Privilege as a writer.  Her post made me think about the things that we assume.

Cell phones.  Write a story without cell phones or a story where a plot point hinges on a dropped call and people will challenge you on it.  I’ve seen this happen in critique groups and it kind of cracks me up.

I have been three places in the past year with patchy cell service.  In each of these locations, some places have it and some don’t.  People don’t live with a phone grafted to their hand like they do in the city.

And, yes, there are still people there and, no, it isn’t like Mad Max.

So many stories rely on the characters having ready access to transportation.  Teens have cars or live on bus lines.

But that isn’t always reality.  Even in the suburbs, buses run infrequently and not everyone has a car.  Yes, it is inconvenient but it is also real.  And that isn’t even taking a rural area or the southwest into consideration.

Does it mean that you shouldn’t have any of these realities in your stories?  Nope.  But it does mean that you should set your story in a specific time and place where and when these things exist.  You should create characters who would have them.

This might mean writing about a family much like your own.  Our your sister’s.  Or your kid’s best friend’s.

Because a lot of what we think we know isn’t necessarily true.  In the Smoky’s, people don’t rely on their cell phones and being able to text people to set up plans.  It doesn’t make sense because they very well may not have service.  And the people who work in Gatlinburg?  Most of them don’t live there.  They can’t afford it.

Reality is often a lot more diverse than we think it is.