Author Topic: Do you plan to include the virus into story?  (Read 1193 times)  

Offline Frank the author

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Do you plan to include the virus into story?
« on: July 11, 2020, 11:32:44 am »
This virus looks as if it will be around a bit.
There's the anticipated vaccine early next year which will take ( I assume) several months to be distributed
And there's the hopeful theoretical return to normal post-vaccine ( at minimum we won't have to wear masks)

Still.....It most likely will be in the news in some capacity through 2022

How many of you are wrestling with the fact you might have to include it in your fiction? (Either novels or short stories)
I'm curious
I might just set my stories in 2019 BEFORE the virus and wait out the real world to see if it might go away

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    Offline Sapphire

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #1 on: July 11, 2020, 11:47:31 am »
    No, I'm not. However, the entire situation spawned an idea for a future book. Not the current COVID-19, but...  ::)
    I can't say more. The idea hasn't fully formed, and I won't be sharing if it develops as I hope. People will just have to wait for the book in 2021? 2022? Who knows!
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    Offline Fleurina

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #2 on: July 11, 2020, 04:21:45 pm »
    I will most definitely not include it.


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    Offline Carol Davis

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #3 on: July 11, 2020, 04:26:00 pm »
    Nope.

    I write sweet romance these days, and I feel absolutely free to pretend Covid isn't happening. Fiction is good that way.







    Online Jena H

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #4 on: July 11, 2020, 07:40:09 pm »
    I think it might end up being part of a lot of books in the future.  Maybe not directly, or in a major way, but as aspects of our daily lives change over the next year, and some of these changes may evolve to permanence, behavior and actions can very well end up being written about.
    Jena

    Online ShaneCarrow

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #5 on: July 11, 2020, 09:55:37 pm »
    Unless you're writing a story which specifically needs to reference what date or year it is, rather than just being set in a generic "present," there's no reason to.

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    Offline Crystal_

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #6 on: July 11, 2020, 10:51:15 pm »
    I just finished watching The Practice. It went from 1999-2003, give or take.

    The show never portrays 9-11 or the immediate aftermath, but it starts mentioning events and changed to the law and public perception by the 2002 season.

    It's not a big plot point. There's no special episode. But the show works reality into its reality. It has to or it will stop making sense.

    I expect that will be the case for most of us if the pandemic goes on much longer. Even if we don't ever portray the 2020 events of COVID, we will have to include its effects in our books or they'll feel dated and irrelevant.

    This may go to the debate of realism vs escapism, but I think everyone agrees you need a certain level of realism for people to buy into your world. Eventually, ignoring the pandemic will ask too much suspension of disbelief. Like reading a book set in present day where people meet family at the airport gate.

    Now, I don't believe in this dichotomy. I like to escape in a realistic book that also presents me with interesting themes. But I think escapism is only one of the values of art. Even genre fiction. Maybe even especially genre fiction.

    We need art to help us process our emotions as human beings. Which means we will need art that helps us process the pandemic (the same way so much art dealt with 9-11 in the early 00s).

    That's our responsibility as artists. Though I know the world responsibility is not one most indie authors embrace.

    (And, as a total side note, the post 9-11 season of Law and Order is one of its best, even watching now, far removed from the context. It's amazing watching the writers processing in real time. And guess ridiculous would it be is this NYC set show pretended as 9-11 never happened?)

    Online jb1111

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #7 on: July 11, 2020, 11:09:30 pm »
    I'm not certain. I like my books -- fantasy based as they are, plot-wise -- to have a certain amount of gritty realism to them.

    Hard to have a 'gritty realism' to a book when a pandemic has been going on for six months (or a year?), when your stories are more or less fantasy based and you don't really want to cram a pandemic into your storylines.

    If I do include the corona issue in a book, I think I'll wait until the end of this year, or next year. I have several unfinished WIPs that need to be finished and put out there, and I think I'll take a look at the corona situation after those are done and see if I want to include it or not.

    What Crystal says about alluding to changes related to the pandemic, without necessarily making direct references, seems like a good option also.

    Offline Decon

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #8 on: July 12, 2020, 02:59:24 am »
    I haven't referred to the current one by name, but as the lockdown will be in the conscious of characters that went though it and readers, I've referred to "the Pandemic" in the same way as those who lived through the World War 11 would say "in the war". My book is set in the future in a world as it is now in a type of lockdown not connected to a Pandemic.


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    Offline P.W.JORDAN

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #9 on: July 12, 2020, 04:30:35 am »
    Hey, I haven't and don't feel the need to revise to include but as I develop and if the situation hangs on it offers me as a crime thriller writer interesting plot opportunities...

    Identification of suspects when everyone is masked, the problems of arrest and custody and prison while social distancing is in force and of course the problem of shifting contraband and operating a criminal enterprise when the ports, airports are shut and what would happen when the people at the top start to get ill!

    It also fingers crossed may just become a byline like Decon and Crystal have mentioned and work into the social subtext of the novel world. 

    As dear old Uncle Albert would say "I remember, during the war..." ???

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    Offline wearywanderer64

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #10 on: July 12, 2020, 05:01:30 am »
    If it's set in the modern day, I think you have to. Unlike other events, this a worldwide event that has affected everybody in some way. It would be like ignoring the first and second world wars if you're story is set in that era. Saying that, you don't have to go into too much detail, merely hint at its effects on the main characters' lives.


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    Online unkownwriter

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #11 on: July 12, 2020, 05:12:24 am »
    Just to note that Amazon is blocking even fiction that references the current virus, even mentions of "lockdown". Not all get blocked, but most, and certainly those nonfiction ones trying to make a buck of the situation. Even books published early in the year have been removed.

    So, for now, it might not be possible to write anything about the current virus. Perhaps as the worse of this moves on into history, it will be possible to have a realistic story using it, but who knows?

    Since I tend to write PA fiction, including virus pandemics (though often with resultant zombies), I've been of two minds about it. Some of my older stuff, shorts under a pen name, have been selling and getting page reads, so people do want to read fiction about viruses and end of the world still.

    Online ShaneCarrow

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #12 on: July 12, 2020, 05:38:21 am »
    I just finished watching The Practice. It went from 1999-2003, give or take.

    The show never portrays 9-11 or the immediate aftermath, but it starts mentioning events and changed to the law and public perception by the 2002 season.

    Funnily enough I'm watching The Sopranos for the first time, up to season 3 - which I vaguely knew would have aired in 2001 - and the first episode has some FBI agents unsuccessfully bugging the Soprano household on an operation that's proving fruitless. And back in their boardroom two of them get up to leave the debriefing, saying they have a bugging job in Denver to go to. And as they're leaving the room, heads out of shot, one of them adds "a mosque" right before the scene cuts.

    That immediately struck me as something that was dubbed into the scene in retrospect to make it feel more topical, for an episode which was probably filmed but then had to premiere after 9/11. But nope - airdate May 2001. It made me reflect on how sensitive I was (how we all were) at the time about an event which, while unprecedentedly shocking, didn't ultimately change life all that much in the long run - and was in fact part of things which were already going on, even if they weren't headline news every day.

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    Offline boba1823

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #13 on: July 12, 2020, 02:48:08 pm »
    I don't know. This is one that I find to be horridly tricky, in fact.

    I include contemporary urban settings. I prefer them to maintain that contemporary feel - not sound dated at least - for as long as possible. That necessarily involves some level of guessing about the future, but I try to avoid getting too specific about technological details, very trendy fashions, etc.

    But.. masks. It's right there, on their faces. As another poster mentioned, masks can impede identification. Can't have someone notice those shiny white teeth (or yellow crooked teeth, or whatever), or a big smile, or a sneer, if the person is masked. If a character notices these things, then it becomes pretty clear that the person is not masked.

    So guessing game time, unfortunately. A year or two from now, what will it be like in major American cities - back to no-mask normal? Or will they still be a regular sight, or even the norm like they have been (so I heard anyway) in many Asian cities?

    I really don't know, this seems like something that could have far-reaching impacts on a story.



    « Last Edit: July 12, 2020, 02:51:11 pm by boba1823 »

    Offline Crystal_

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #14 on: July 12, 2020, 02:53:11 pm »
    Funnily enough I'm watching The Sopranos for the first time, up to season 3 - which I vaguely knew would have aired in 2001 - and the first episode has some FBI agents unsuccessfully bugging the Soprano household on an operation that's proving fruitless. And back in their boardroom two of them get up to leave the debriefing, saying they have a bugging job in Denver to go to. And as they're leaving the room, heads out of shot, one of them adds "a mosque" right before the scene cuts.

    That immediately struck me as something that was dubbed into the scene in retrospect to make it feel more topical, for an episode which was probably filmed but then had to premiere after 9/11. But nope - airdate May 2001. It made me reflect on how sensitive I was (how we all were) at the time about an event which, while unprecedentedly shocking, didn't ultimately change life all that much in the long run - and was in fact part of things which were already going on, even if they weren't headline news every day.

    It's an interesting layer to older TV shows, especially ones set in or near NYC or dealing with the criminal justice system. IIRC, the war on drugs shifting to the war on terrorism is a big thematic point in The Wire. It comes up in a lot of cop shows of that era. (I watch a lot of procedurals. The Bush era stuff feels very relevant right now, what with all the talk of freedom vs safety and government interference in free speech).

    There were several pre 9-11 episodes about anti-Islamic sentiments and I felt that horror movie like sense of oh no, the bigger monster is hiding in the basement.

    I write romance (and very character driven romance, as far from procedurals as it gets ha) and I'm having a harder and harder time writing "normal life." I don't think it would be that hard to work the pandemic into a popular trope. In fact, it could add some extra stakes to a roommate romance (now you're really stuck together!). Or any kind of forced proximity book.

    Readers don't really seem interested so far. But I expect that will change as the pandemic continues.

    Honestly I'm having a hard time justifying continuing to write a pandemic free world. It feels off. I can't capture the little things the way I used to and it's straight up painful writing about normal life sometimes. I almost cried writing a scene of two characters just wandering around the grocery store looking at stuff. (Something I often do with my husband, but until yesterday I hadn't been to the store in four months).

    Online ShaneCarrow

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #15 on: July 12, 2020, 05:50:13 pm »
    Are romance, or other genres, particularly tied to any given year other than being "current," though? Even geopolitical techno-thrillers tend to take place in an imaginary alternate present, sort of - they're rarely using the real president or real political events.

    My zombie book was written as a journal, and it begins on January 1. I also released it on January 1, 2017. A zombie apocalypse overwhelming the world means a lot of the early pages are talking about what's on the news, and displacing whatever was previously dominating the headlines, which if I recall correctly I said was the war in Syria. Whereas of course in real life, when publication rolled around, by January 2017 the headlines were dominated by the pending inauguration of a truly unexpected president.

    But it didn't matter, because the book never specified what year it was. It was just "January." If there was a moment in the story where the president addressed the nation, it would've been a fictional president, not Obama or Trump - and it wouldn't have been an election/inauguration year, because the notion of an existential crisis afflicting a nation right at the point of a scheduled transfer of power would have introduced a complication I hadn't prepared for. (It was a different story having to re-write it from the original version serialised online in 2005 - in the intervening decade there'd obviously been a massive technological revolution in terms of social media and breaking news, which I had to update for.)

    I'm writing historical fiction now but if I was writing something set in the present day, it would be in a non-specified, vague, "present day" indistinguishable from 2019. I don't think writing with reference to unfolding events in an unrelated genre is desirable from either a writer's perspective or a reader's.

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #16 on: July 12, 2020, 05:52:37 pm »
    And of course you can always leave yourself wriggle room for a seamless, last-minute insertion of contemporary references:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeiCd_PQMl0

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    Offline jdcore

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #17 on: July 12, 2020, 08:43:37 pm »
    I'm working up a sort of zombie Apocalypse story. I had planned (before the pandemic) to reference John Prine. He recently died from COVID, so it gave me an idea. I'm going to reference every famous person who dies from COVID but not mention COVID. My story, about a global catastrophic plague, will be a subtle homage to an actual global catastrophic plague.

    Offline MorrowWriter

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #18 on: July 13, 2020, 05:31:20 am »
    If your story is set very specifically in the early 2020s, I think you have little option but to include the COVID situation. COVID will obviously have a huge influence on fiction in the next four or five years. Just think about all of the media (literature, movies, TV shows, video games) that followed 9/11 and the War on Terror: the dystopian surveillance state novels, the mostly lacklustre Iraq movies, the thriller novels that made reference to Private Military Companies as the big bad, and so on The best fiction about COVID will probably be written in a few years time, once we have some perspective on the situation.

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    Offline Yorkshire Lass

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #19 on: July 13, 2020, 08:37:48 am »
       Well, that's the beauty of writing historical fiction - you don't need to worry about fitting in modern-day references!
       I do think, though, that many historical events will now resonate more clearly with today's readers because of their Coronavirus experiences. The obvious example for me is the heroic village of Eyam, in Derbyshire. When the bubonic plague arrived there in 1665 (reputedly carried in a box of clothing some no-doubt well-meaning person had sent from London, where the plague already raged) the entire village went into voluntary lockdown for 14 months, to protect the surrounding communities. It took a heavy toll: 75% of the village died, one poor woman loosing her husband and all six children within a week. The people of Eyam must have been sorely tempted to cut and run - but they didn't, and the plague did not spread. For a story of courage and fortitude it takes some beating (and makes our  grumbles about wearing face-masks seem pretty pathetic!) Most of us, thank God, haven't had to endure anything so horrific - but we all now know what fear, isolation, disease and death feels and looks like, just as we've all witnessed wonderful kindnesses, altruism and heroism.
       Eyam is still being studied by scientists and ologists of all kinds, seeking the lessons it can teach us for today - about infection rates, immunities, and simple human nature under confinement and stress. I'm sure this subject area could be a deep and rich one for any fiction writer, whether the story is set in the past or present. (And maybe an 'Eyam' tag could successfully bypass any Amazon blocks as well?) Perhaps readers will feel more at ease, right now, engaging with pandemic/lockdown themes if these are wrapped in a safe 'historical' comfort blanket?
      When a couple of months ago I started my sequel to 'Philippa's Choice', set in England in the 1360's, I considered bringing in the Black Death as a plot-line, but for this book decided against it. I thought then that people have had too much of death and fear and would not want to read about it in an escapist historical romance. I still think that, for now. Escapism is good, as is (almost) anything that makes people a little happier during dark times.
       However, a year from now, when we have either got through all this or have grown more used to the ghastly New Normal, and feelings are perhaps a little less raw, I think there will be a real appetite for stories of both love and heroism during the 2020 pandemic.
       (But personally I mustn't be tempted, till I've successfully exited 1366 !)
    Ann Erleigh 

     


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    Offline jvin248

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #20 on: July 13, 2020, 08:47:47 am »
    .

    Before running headlong into writing about it ... remember that thousands of potential readers may have lost immediate family members. Or those who survived it with diminished health capacity will be dismayed at seeing it again, and maybe not written as accurately as they experienced it.

    As of today, there have been more deaths in the US than combined losses in the Korean and Vietnam wars, or more than all of the US losses in WWI.

    Those wounds will be too fresh.

    .
           

    Offline Trioxin 245

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #21 on: July 13, 2020, 08:52:57 am »
    Deliver what your readers want. Mine have told me that they want a escape from whats going on. Yours may not. Personally, I don't want to read about something that every message board, social media site, news etc is going on about 24/7.

    Offline DmGuay

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #22 on: July 13, 2020, 06:35:08 pm »
    Nope. My readers are looking for an escape and a few laughs along the way. So no way.
    I did slip a Tiger King joke into a recent release, though, but that's as close as I'll get.
     
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    Online Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #23 on: July 13, 2020, 07:25:17 pm »
    No, but I'm writing fairytales at the moment.

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    Offline jmb3

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    Re: Do you plan to include the virus into story?
    « Reply #24 on: July 14, 2020, 12:13:59 am »
    I've written a quarantine series in my reader group featuring the characters from my romance series and it has been so popular that I've decided to turn it into a novella and release it in both ebook and audio (hopefully Amazon will allow it through). I keep it light, mostly, with lots of laughs at the things we can all relate to but I don't shy away from the realities either (three of my characters have coronavirus, one is very ill but survives). I've had nothing but positive response so I do think you can write about the pandemic if it is relatable in a way that doesn't make the readers' skin crawl.


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