Fiction in the Pandemic

Literary arts have long served as humanity’s means of processing reality. But as we reel from continued global crises, what stories are going to emerge from these odd and troubled times?

As our own reality changes, what happens to the world a writer imagines? With so many of the arts hobbled by the pandemic, fiction should be thriving. Unlike any of the performing arts, writing is a solitary profession, one that does not require the physical presence of an audience.

Even more than pursuits like painting and photography, which can require some collaboration, writing is best done in isolation. We have the ultimate “work-from-home” profession. But even as it is, by nature, removed from the world, much of fiction relies on realism, or some semblance of it. We call it “world building”…creating credibility for our characters and their lives.

But what kind of world do we build now?

This is only one issue facing writers in this difficult time. In addition to the common necessities of wrangling everything from child care and schooling to health care and shopping, not to mention worrying about a Presidential election, many of us have had difficulty concentrating.

The subconscious, where so much plotting and character-building happens, has been taken over for many by a silent, screaming panic.

I’m sure the current pandemic is spurring some writers. In two years, I expect a bumper crop of dystopian fantasy (as if we want to live this year over again). However, no matter what our genre, we face a choice. Do we depict a world in which people interact as we did so blithely only eight months ago? Or, do we try to set our stories in a world of Zoom conferences and masked, distanced meetups?

No matter what our conscious choices, reality is bound to seep in. One author I know has posted on social media about his latest manuscript. Drafted largely before the pandemic, he talked about revising it, and removing handshakes and embraces, at least between non-family members. He said these scenes now make him uncomfortable.

For me, the choice has been somewhat predetermined. When the shutdown came, I was already deep into the drafts of several new stories. Not only did it feel wrong to change the settings, even as our reality was changing, it felt antithetical to the purpose of my tales.

I also had a practical concern. One work of mine is the fifth (and probably last) in a series. I have another, darker book that’s a sequel to one of my well-received horror stories. I tell myself it’s neither wise nor fair to my readers to change too much at this point, even though their real worlds have changed as much as mine.

If I revise, like my friend is talking about doing, am I going to remove the hugs and handshakes? I’m not sure yet. But I have noticed another element of reality creep in, because I tend to right the world I create as I write it.

By that, I mean I try to resolve the obstacles my protagonists experience. However, this time around, my characters keep straying from the direction I thought the story should go. The real world has made it tough to keep my concentration as I write.

I’ve always claimed to start with a “what if” and let the characters tell me where they’re going. Now, as I struggle with writer’s block for yet another month, perhaps it’s because I no longer feel my inventions are that much different than reality.

Be that as it may, I voted yesterday, as I hope you did, and I’m waiting (not very patiently) for final results. I won’t get into my political leanings, but I’m sure this whole year would make one hell of a story…except no one would believe it.


Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

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You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show, or see my three local television interviews. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

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6 Responses to “Fiction in the Pandemic”

  1. Dirk Eichhorst Says:

    Hi Ron, I enjoyed your thought-provoking post. I can understand the temptation to revise your work according to the current social restrictions caused by the pandemic. I too had to revisit my WIP in consideration of this. Since I am trying to write something that can remain somewhat timeless, my choice was to treat the pandemic as if it was something in the past and is no longer an issue in the world of my book. It’s addressed briefly, in context, and assumed to have been dealt with and is now behind the characters in the story. That’s just the way I handled it. It happened, but it’s over now (in my book anyway). No permanent, long lasting social reforms.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. T. W. Dittmer Says:

    You have it in you, Ron.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bob Wonnacott Says:

    Thank you, Ron, for another thought-provoking post. Let us know if you decide to change your stories to adapt to today’s environment. That is really a tough call. Just keep writing your terrific books!

    Liked by 2 people

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