Responding to Covid 19

16th August 2020 |

How can we as writers accommodate the new normal in our writing?

Part one; Choose your time frame carefully

Just how do we as writers respond to the current situation of masks, social distancing, temporary or longer lockdowns, limited social contacts and uncertainty about the future? Are these going to be ignored? Included fully or as a token? Or write something different?

Historical fiction? Fine if that is what you enjoy but embarking on the research as well as writing a new novel will take time and expertise.

Write speculative fiction? Science fiction? Fantasy? These genres may not appeal at all and writing without conviction is not for me. I prefer to leave these genres to those who enjoy reading them, are prepared to put in the necessary research and join like-minded groups.

Of course, it may be possible to adapt a setting slightly to a time prior to 2020. I have recently completed a novel set in the summer of 2018; that protracted spell of hot weather reminiscent of 1976. The heat and the torpor it creates is an essential part of the narrative. Perhaps select a year less noteworthy? Except how do you then convey the essence of the time? Perhaps it isn’t needed? It is self explanatory as a before Covid 19 narrative.

A book of mine that is nearing its final edit required a very specific timescale as I wanted to take advantage of the lack of social media around the turn of the century to explain in part how easily a couple can drift and break up. I selected 1995. Fast forward and the two characters meet again ten years later. It is still prior to the advent of the smart phone, widespread social media and internet use so similar issues can arise. As it’s also about a woman who is obsessed with The Great Gatsby and dreams of an end in which Gatsby and Daisy were reconciled, her dreamy excerpts were not a problem and there is plenty of first hand information about the bright young things of the roaring Twenties. Certainly, enough for me to write with a flavour of the times.

But what if you have a story that needs the bustle of bars and cafes, weekends away with a group of friends or even large-scale gatherings? I think 2019 will be a very popular time for such novels. It will remind us of what we have so far lost, both good and not so good and how intriguing it would be to weave in a sense of doom? The characters are going about their daily lives unaware of what will befall them within a few months.

In fact, I like that idea so much, I might have a crack at a short story on that theme.

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