One of the perks of being a writer is having the luxury to research anything that sparks an interest—all in the pursuit of developing the story, of course. I can’t help but take advantage of this privilege, since learning is an innate craving inside my brain—thus, the volumes of trivia and interesting facts which line my bookshelves.
Yet, there is a downside to having a head full of fun and interesting facts—it requires policing the urge to share this information with others. Although difficult for me to accept, it seems most people aren’t interested in the geeky information I have stored away in my head. (Do you know two rats can become the progenitors of 15,000 rats in less than one year?)
My latest fascination has been researching possibilities which will allow my antagonist to take advantage of the cell-phone boom. Too many stories I’ve read portray a heroine who forgets to charge her cell phone on the worst possible day of her life. And as incredible as it seems, her service provider always favors the antagonist. How is it the main character has cell-phone reception until the moment she’s in danger? Isn’t that considered cliché by now? We’ve all had bad experiences with service providers, but can you imagine AT&T possessing magical powers to know exactly when to cut your signal and leave you in danger?
Of course, as readers we suspend our disbelief for the story and accept characters with bad service providers and faulty batteries. But why not mix it up a bit? My latest research reveals more opportunities for the novelist than what most writers have are using.
For example, a lowly one-hundred-and fifty dollars will purchase the villain his own personal cell-phone jammer. This little gadget looks like a cell phone, but when activated it blocks all cell-phone frequencies within thirty feet. If I had one of these in my classroom, students couldn’t text messages to the person across the room and perhaps learning would actually occur. But alas, they are illegal to use in public places.
Stay with me, because more money buys more evilness. At three-thousand dollars, I can purchase a jammer that will obliterate all cell-phone signals up to five-hundred feet. (Oops. I meant the villain can buy one of these). Can you imagine a quiet dinner at a restaurant without that leather-lunged person across the room sharing his or her phone call with everyone present? This would work great in a funeral parlor or a concert hall. This is what our minister needs when he’s about to make the altar call and somewhere in the congregation the loudest ring tone known to humankind breaks forth like a signal to begin recess.
One of my antagonists has a jammer hidden under the seat of his car, which he activates with a secret switch. His initial reasoning to install this device was to retain the full attention of prospects when they were in the car with him. He didn’t want his sales pitch interrupted by an untimely phone call to his customer. Later, this hidden jammer causes havoc for the heroine as the antagonist holds her hostage in his speeding car. The poor girl can not get a single bar of service as they speed for miles along the interstate around Boston, Massachusetts.
Finally, this one last morsel of evilness, which will make a novelist’ mouth water. According to The Forensic Examiner; The World’s Leading Forensic Magazine, there are inexpensive softwares available, which an ill tempered person can use to remotely turn on your cell phone to listen to live conversations. This brings back childhood memories when we left the phone off the hook of our rotary-dial phone while we went to the other room and eavesdropped on the family conversation. (Sorry. Maybe you’re not old enough to have had the rotary dial phone experience.)
In addition, this software enables the perpetrator to listen from anywhere in the world. These softwares work by different methods, but my favorite is Vervata’s $49.95 FlexiSpy Pro Tap. To secretly install this software, the heroine receives a text message on her cell saying something like; “Call (317) 777-4321 to update your Verizon cell-phone software” or “Download free new ring tones and screen savers.” When the unsuspecting heroine calls to get the fake update, the digital eavesdropping device is installed on her phone. No burglary required. The antagonist can then turn on his victim’s phone any time he wants and eavesdrop on the conversation in the room or automobile—even if she is not using her cell phone. Wow!
Yes, this is real, and yes it is illegal (except for the cell phones which you purchase for your children who are minors). But when has an evil antagonist cared about legal matters? I love it because “this application installs itself without any kind of indication as to what it is…and completely hides itself from the user.”  Did I mention it will turn on your cell phone and allow the villain to hear your conversation—even when you haven’t answered your cell? This is almost unbelievable, but you can read it for yourself. The power of science in the hands of evil people is very scary.
So, the next time you need to raise the tension for your character, you don’t have to use the obligatory low battery or no service cliché. Your character is responsible enough to keep her cell phone charged, and she is savvy enough to choose a good service provider. But the antagonist has done his homework too, and he has a jammer in his pocket, or maybe he’s been inside her house and hidden a jammer above a ceiling tile. When things turn sour in the story it won’t be because the heroine has forgotten to charge her cell.
If you're willing to share, we'd all love to hear any other ideas you writers have come up with on how to keep the main character from using her cell phone when she's in danger.
Below is an online source for this information as well as a few other goodies I didn’t mention. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to call the number above to upload a new set of ring tones to your own cell phone—absolutely free. I’ll be listening in. Kenny Noble
The source for this blog is also available online at; http://www.theforensicexaminer.com/articles/news/24/15/Activity-Monitors-AKA-Cell-Phone-and-Computer-Eavesdroppers
 THE FORENSIC EXAMINERVolume 18, Number 2, Summer 2009 page 46, Author Louis L. Akin, LPI
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