Include or Not?

May 19, 2020

Will Covid-19 show up in your fiction writing? Writer Lynne Fisher posed that question in a comment on my last post. She touches on it briefly in her blog, which you should check out. She’s a good and thoughtful writer.

I hadn’t even considered the question. I know there are poems out on the subject, and I assume there will be countless memoirs. What about novels? I pondered a while. If we want our fiction to be realistic, then, yes, we should probably include it. But I don’t want to read about the pandemic. I decided it won’t appear in my writing, at least not for a while. Maybe 5 or 10 years from now, but not right now.

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That made me curious about what was written after the 1918 flu pandemic. I didn’t look for memoirs or factual accounts, I wanted stories with the pandemic as a backdrop. Goodreads lists 85 books on the subject. I looked at a handful, all of which were written in the last 20 years.

An article in Smithsonian Magazine talks about earlier works. It highlights a 1922 novel by Willa Cather called One of Ours as the first major novelist to include the pandemic in fiction. There are a host of other books, too.

Pandemics, epidemics, and viruses have been featured in multiple books and movies, many of them science fiction. We can go back further, and look at plagues in the bible.

I draw on real life to create my stories. Some aspect of our current world may appear in my upcoming work, perhaps an aspect of isolation or socialization, maybe fear or illness, but not the virus itself.

Will the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 be a part of your fiction? Would you read a novel with the Coronavirus as its backdrop?

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Writing is a Good Distraction

May 5, 2020

Does anyone else feel like they’re in the midst of a post-apocalypse book or movie plot? I’m not making light of the pandemic, just acknowledging the strangeness of it. The rationale of the bad guys would be that it’s a social experiment with some unfathomable-to-us goal.

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I wish the radio and TV commercials would stop using phrases like “unprecedented”, “uncharted”, “we’re in this together”. Blech. We all know what’s going on; you don’t have to keep reminding us. The ad agencies are missing on this – they need to get rid of the qualifiers altogether. Plus, it’s not unprecedented. I’m wondering why so few people are talking about the so-called Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. The parallels are eerie.

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Recently, I’ve read how some writers can’t get into their writing mode. For me, writing is a welcome distraction from the news. I can only handle so much reality before I need an escape. I finished my sci fi/fantasy/thriller short, I finished a piece of flash fiction, and I edited a spiritual short for which I need to find a market. Then I started working on my fantasy romance but didn’t get far. The ideas wouldn’t come.

While I was casting around for my next project, something unexpected happened. You know those things you put off? Maybe it’s calling a certain person, or doing a big project, or even cleaning out the junk drawer. You put it off and put it off until it starts nagging at you, and you know you can’t put it off any longer.

Well, my first book manuscript has been sitting on a shelf for about 5 years. That was the one I spewed out as fast as I could (per beginner advice), planning to polish it during the revision process, but then I couldn’t because it was horrible writing. There was too much to fix. That was one of the first lessons I learned in my fiction-writing journey. I need to be more thoughtful and produce a well written 1st draft that is easier to revise. (See my previous post Sketch Me a Story.) At that time, I figured I’d rewrite the story somewhere down the road.

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My instincts are telling me that time is now. I really don’t want to do it. It’s going to be difficult. I’m going to completely re-write it, only referring to the early manuscript for the research I had done back then.

I’m also kind of excited. I loved the story, just not the writing. Here’s part of one scene I’ve rewritten so far:

She scowled. He was an old man, at least 60. What did he know? It had started earlier at dinner…

With the addition of two leaves, the cherry pedestal table was stretched to its full length. Twenty place settings of cream and gray china with accompanying silverware were evenly spaced on the hand-tatted lace tablecloth. Silver serving dishes and serving utensils had been polished to a high gleam and reflected the light from the overhead chandelier. Crystal water glasses had been filled, and white wine chilled in dual silver ice buckets. The large serving platter, empty at the moment, soon would be filled to overflowing. The smells of turkey, dressing, and fresh cranberries wafted through the house.

The swinging kitchen door opened and Tessa’s mom emerged, her hands clad in red oven mitts and tendrils of hair escaping from her up-do. Perspiration dotted her forehead.

“Dinner in 5 minutes,” she announced to the family gathered in the living room playing charades.

Are you writing now? Is writing a welcome distraction? Or are you too distracted to write?

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1st two photos from Unsplash by Paulo SilvaYuliya Kosolapova

 


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