txt spk in lit – Y/N?

I remember reading a book back in high school, maybe seven or eight years ago, that was made up entirely of instant messaging chat. It was YA fiction about teen girl problems and it worked well at the time because most of my year 9 issues were covered in the way I communicated most.

A few years later (a few years ago, in fact) A Visit From the Goon Squad came into my life and used PowerPoint presentations and futuristic text speak. It really captured the technological focus of our modern society, which I felt was important for a contemporary realist novel to do.

But then I came across this article where another writer (Nobel and Booker Prize winner actually) JM Coetzee makes the argument that

If people (“characters”) are continually going to be speaking to one another at a distance, then a whole gamut of interpersonal signs and signals, verbal and non-verbal, voluntary and non-voluntary, has to be given up. Dialogue… just isn’t possible.

I have to disagree. I’m writing a novel at the moment and didn’t even question myself over using mobile phones and text messages for characters to communicate. If texting eliminates dialogue in books, then you’re also saying that texting eliminates dialogue in real life. Which it doesn’t.

For me, texting is real. And if you’re writing a realist novel set in our world in a contemporary time, you’re gonna have to use technology at some point.

The point is raised in the article that many crucial plot points can be eradicated by the easy use of a mobile phone call or a text message. Well, as far as I can tell, that’s just something challenging us writers who choose to use phones in their work, are gonna have to adapt to. Maybe it’ll push our boundaries a little. And maybe that isn’t such a bad thing after all.


2 thoughts on “txt spk in lit – Y/N?

  1. I think both you and Coatzee are right, though I would veer towards his opinion but dilute it a little. Texting will not make dialogue disappear, however, it has made it simpler and shorter. Tweeting has had the same effect, things are now “soundbites” and the detail (in which we all know the devil resides) is becoming less important. Writing is all about those details, as you know. Sentences are becoming shorter, as are paragraphs. The evolution of ideas is coming to a swifter conclusion rather than a longer, meandering end. Is this good? I don’t think so, but it was bound to happen as we yearn for faster results and quick messages.

    • You make some good points JC! I think language in literature reflecting language in society is inevitable, and I don’t see that as such a terrible thing. Literature is made to be engaged with, and if it’s shorter, sharper language that’s going to connect with an evolving generation, then that’s okay with me 🙂 That doesn’t mean we leave complex language behind, it means we evolve our techniques and challenge ourselves as writers. I find it kind of exciting actually 😀

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