This week in A Family of Strangers, next summer’s release from Mira Books, I needed a scene with my point of view character, Ryan. Ryan is casual in both dress and manner, and she shops… well, I’ll let her tell you what she says about her clothing choices early in the book.
Today I wore running capris patterned with a beach scene and a long sleeved crop top shirt. Apparently it was important to protect my arms from the cold, but the designer had declared open season on my midriff.
For Christmas last year Wendy presented me with this outfit and three other running ensembles, along with bright purple headphones. That much glamour is definitely out of place in my wardrobe. Most of my clothing looks like I picked it up on sale at Dollar General, but when I run, I’m the bomb.
Wendy, by the way, is also a major character. (The above is from a first draft, so maybe you’ll see it and maybe you won’t.)
There we have my gal Ryan. In this week’s scene Ryan needed to know the time. Without thinking I had her look down at her watch. Watch? Alarm bells rang. What’s that? Ryan would rarely if ever use a watch. Ryan would wear a fitness tracker. Somewhere in her jewelry box–a jumble of items she rarely bothers with–is an expensive watch given to her by her wealthy mother, who wishes Ryan would fancy-up a bit. But Ryan only wears it when she goes out to dinner with her parents.
None of that appears in the story, by the way, but of course, I KNOW, just as I know that while Ryan might wear the jacket in the photo above (from Fitbit.com) she would never carry that purse, as pretty as it is. Just. Wouldn’t.
Ryan is, oh, quite a bit younger than I am. In fact her mom and I are contemporaries, but I’m much more Ryan in style. I have four watches, all fun, none expensive. For more than two years, every one of them has needed batteries. I never remember to take them to the jewelry store because I never wear them. Like Ryan, I wear a fitness tracker, in my case a Fitbit.
I received my Fitbit for Christmas several years ago, waiting patiently for new version that also logged my heart rate. I immediately disconnected the heart rate monitor since the flashing light bothered me. The Fitbit itself is going strong, and I wear it every day. While it’s tough for someone who sits at a computer as much as I do to log 10,000 steps, I try to get 5,000. Unlike some people I like being goaded each day to get up and get moving. I love the little flashing light show and the warm buzz when I make my goal.
I love my Fitbit.
Anything a writer details about a character should say something important. We shouldn’t have to explain why. Details pile up, and make a clear statement about who that person is. So for Ryan, a fitness tracker is just another detail. It’s an important part of Ryan’s persona. In my mind, she’s never without it.
Now an interesting–if sad–real life twist. It turns out that a Fitbit isn’t just a way to detail character traits. This week a Fitbit became an important part of a news story. While investigating a murder, the police checked the dead woman’s Fitbit, and learned the moment when her heart stopped beating. From that they were able to trace the murder to her stepfather, who was in her house at that exact time, supposedly delivering a pizza–but allegedly delivering much worse.
In the next two years, you’ll probably read a mystery or thriller in which the time of death of a murder is pegged to the second by the victim’s fitness tracker–his/her Apple Watch, or any of several devices which might give that information. The news is a great resource for writers.
In the meantime, maybe I’ll turn my heart rate monitor back on.
Do you wear a fitness tracker? A fun but inexpensive watch? An exclusive name brand watch a mugger might covet? A mini-computer-on-your-wrist–i.e. an Apple Watch or one of it’s competitors? How do you think your watch or lack of one defines you? It’s a fun question. Let us know.