Thursday, December 31, 2020

What's It Like Now: Writing Covid Into Your Story

 It's New Year's Eve (mild clapping) and I'm sure you're at home, like me, like everyone, doing nothing, just waiting for that ball to drop so we can be done with this year. I find myself swarming with a lot of pent-up rage (mostly aimed at politicians and dum-dums who refuse to wear a mask because of 'mah freedoms'), but also a sad resignation that, despite the vaccine, we won't be climbing out of this dark tunnel anytime soon. 

This is our new way of life. Caught not wearing a mask in a crowd is the new going-to-school-naked nightmare. Most of us are used to wearing masks. Used to keeping our distance, canceling parties, working from home, zooming get-togethers, e-learning, etc blah, etc.

Which begs the question for writers, do we incorporate Covid into our book universes? and how?

A friend of mine, who has far more publishing cred than I do, said editors and agents are mostly ignoring Covid as far as stories go. Recently published titles, supposedly set in 2020, do not incorporate the pandemic into their novels. But that is presumably because they were acquired pre-pandemic and to make such drastic changes wouldn't just suit the story, it would cost time and money in rewrites. 

Books are a form of escapism, and nothing anchors us more to our current nightmare than reading about it in our forms of entertainment. And, yet, television shows that have returned to filming are working Covid into the existing universe. Showtime's Shameless and NBC's Superstore are two that come to mind. If this is our new reality, then shouldn't our art reflect it too?

I can't imagine reading a book set in 1919 that didn't, at least, mention World War I and its lasting trauma, so why would we pretend Covid doesn't exist in our own works set in present-day? Is it because we (publishing) expect this to go away and lose its relevancy? If so, that seems short-sighted.

I haven't heard a consensus on this, and I would love to know what writers are doing.

So, writers, what are you doing? Are you absorbing Covid into your plots? Ignoring it? Writing fantasy or historical fiction to side-step it? What? I need to know.

And happy New Year.

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