I previously posted a thread about What Books Do Your Characters Read? But it occurred to me, that seeing how we live much of our lives online these days, a character’s browsing history would tell a lot about them.
For instance, someone who regularly looked at satirical sites, such as Private Eye or The Onion would be markedly different to someone devoted to Drudge Report or Breitbart News Network. It would be a quick way of portraying their stance on a whole range of issues.
For something that’s so commonplace an event, surfing the web for pleasure rarely occurs in contemporary fiction, unless the plot hinges on it, of course. In my last Cornish Detective novel, my titular protagonist relies on an array of experts to assist him investigate cases involving local history, seagulls, the art market, embalming, sea currents and trawlers. His hobbies include painting, music and wildlife gardening—which I refer to, as they’re forms of meditation for him, sometimes opening up ideas about his current murder investigation.
He’s just unearthed an ancient ring in his garden while trying to dig an old tree stump out. It’s 600 years old, and he goes online to find out more about medieval jewellery…which browsing will lead him back to the case he’s trying to crack when he suddenly realises the significance of a clue that’s been staring him in the face for weeks.
I’ve had detectives on his team check facts while out in the field, using their smartphones, sometimes referring to Google Earth to get the lay of the land, when staking out a suspect’s house. One investigation required the monitoring of tracking devices that are legally fitted to ships, for reasons of safety, following them online. In the same investigation, an informer had his iPhone fitted with software that turned it into a listening device so the cops could hear him talking to his villain of a boss, via the FlexiSpy website.
No longer do stool pigeons need to be fitted with bulky microphones, tape recorders and battery packs taped to their torsos—yet an astonishing amount of modern crime novels still use this obsolete technology—the author not having done their research.
One of the irritating things about crime fiction is how many detectives and private eyes are portrayed as being inept at using computers—relying on a subordinate officer or a geeky friend to winkle out information for them. Granted, finding a solution online isn’t as exciting as the copper confronting a tough guy in a seedy bar, but it’s more efficient! I’m sure that many crime writers set their stories in olden times, to simplify the writing, as technology is a rotting albatross around the neck.
I don’t recall characters web surfing in any of the science fiction I’ve read. Does it happen?
Presumably, romance/erotica stories feature web browsing a lot, as the protagonist searches for a partner—with attendant emailing.
Do your fictional characters visit real or made-up sites as part of the life you create for them?
What about the web surfing of astronauts? Best not think about what excites Klingons or the Borg!
Has anyone written a story that hinges on their characters being addicted to social media?