by Kassandra Lamb ~ There’s been a debate going on in the writerly world over whether we should include references to Covid in our fiction stories going forward.
There are three schools of thought:
- Ignore the pandemic completely in our fiction, because after all it IS fiction.
- Project our timelines slightly into the future and just refer back to the pandemic occasionally as an event in the past.
- Realistically include the pandemic in our writing, even develop plots around it.
Personally, I have a strong need for realism in stories. Even when I watch Star Trek reruns or read a paranormal novel, I expect the not-real elements to be plausible—something that could happen in reality.
Either #2 or #3 above would satisfy this need for realism. I plan to use #2 in my new police procedural series, since the publication of Book 1 is still a ways in the future.
But the story idea I had for my next Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mystery, One Flew Over the Chow-Chow Nest, had some plot elements that worked best if set against the backdrop of the pandemic—such as a person being kept in a mental hospital long past the time that was necessary to treat him. How easy that would be when no visitors are allowed due to Covid.
I figured it will be Spring at the earliest before this book comes out, and hopefully by then we will be seeing “normal” on the horizon.
So I decided I’d go for it, but try to keep the pandemic in the background.
Since this is a cozy, I reminded myself to keep it light. I think I’ve managed that. I’ve even inserted a few moments of levity, such as when Marcia’s police detective husband strips off his workday-contaminated clothes on the back deck, then heads straight for the shower.
“Streaker in the house,” Ms. Snark yelled out.
I couldn’t help snickering. Thank heaven for our six-foot privacy fence.
But ironically, avoiding the heavier aspects of Covid in the story wasn’t the hard part.
It’s all the little ways that the pandemic has changed our lives that I keep forgetting about as I write. For example, when two people are conversing with masks on, I can’t say “he smiled” or “she frowned.” The other person wouldn’t be able to see that!
I have to say, “his eyes twinkled” or “her brow furrowed.” Or I have to use gestures instead of facial expressions to convey emotions.
And when everybody is six feet apart, they can’t hear anything mumbled under one’s breath.
Also, I couldn’t have Marcia running into the quirky residents of Mayfair while walking her dogs. Because everybody is keeping their distance!
(I really miss octogenarian Edna Mayfair putting in her two cents worth.)
I’m thinking that I need to push the timeline out farther.
Maybe set the book in late Spring, 2021, and have most of the characters vaccinated or at least in the process of getting vaccines. And during revisions, I’ll look for more places to insert humor.
And I’ll also be watching for slip-ups, such as having people shaking hands or hugging.
So fellow writers, if you decide to go with realism regarding Covid in your fiction stories, recognize that it won’t be easy. Like me, you’ll be marveling at the number of things, small and large, that have become part of our “new normal.”
Readers, what say you about including the reality of the pandemic in fiction? Would you rather we leave it out completely, be realistic, or somewhere in between?
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Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida. She also writes romantic suspense under the pen name of Jessica Dale.
Misterio press produces an array of quality crime fiction. We post here twice a month, usually on Tuesdays, to alert you to new releases, to entertain, and to inform.
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