Keeping pace with social change: Women accept a brave new world, while writers of women’s fiction wonder how to make headway

summer of loveOur great-grandmothers would be shaking their heads in dismay if they could visit our times. Internet, Twitter, Pinterest, smart phones, text messages, they wouldn’t know where to begin to stay in touch with their families and friends, let alone how to use these tools. Change has become so constant and so fast, even people on the shady side of forty can lose their balance in the net.

No one in restaurants, stores, or theaters is minus a device over which they bend their heads and wave their fingers. Married couples spend more time online than they do in bed with one another. I can barely go shopping without some seller urging me to download a new app.

However, women’s fiction by and large hasn’t adapted to this transformation, at least not to the extent I see in real life every day. Novels still focus on characters, plot, description. Although mobile phones now appear in fiction, and a woman in danger turns immediately to a cell, few heroines or heroes spend the amount of time online that occurs in daily life. Human interaction requires face-to-face contact, if not body-to-body; and text messages or Tweets are used, if at all, as quirky plot developments..

The array of communications methods mirrors what seems to be occurring in women’s personal lives. If experts, along with films, television, and songs, are to be believed, women are leaping in and out of bed (or in cars or on tables or outdoors) with enthusiasm and are increasingly casual in their sexual encounters, if not outright promiscuous.

Why then do novels continue to advocate stable, monogamous relationships? While wedding rings may be far fewer in stories than in the 20th century, the preponderance of women’s fiction has the heroine and hero in a happy clinch by the end, not a clutch of partners.

So how can the poor writer decide how to publish a story and what equipment to feature? Should we write in 148 character series, as one novel I read did in an introduction to each section? Are young readers going to dump fiction unless it’s available on phones? The phenomenon in Japan is the cell phone novel with chapters of less than 200 words. Are our characters moving toward no physical contact, just phone sex?

One thing’s for sure. In fiction, the chaste (and chased) virgin of fifty years ago, frequently a nurse, secretary, or teacher, is far outnumbered by her more adventuresome sisters. They may not be “loose women,” but they’ve been around the block. Plots are reflecting reality, as studies and surveys show attitudes toward casual sex and multiple partners continue to become more liberal.

And yet. . .and yet. At the conclusion of the adventure, whether the novel is a sweet romance, erotic, historical, sci fi, literary, steamy or whatever, everyone’s still just looking for love. Real love. True love. Which continues to mean one partner, even if he’s a vampire.

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