Writing a Novel in the Age of Covid: An Evolving Setting

Writing a Novel in the Age of Covid: An Evolving Setting

In the past few decades, writers have often had little to adjust to in their day to day “realistic” storytelling. Aside from some world changes like Afghanistan, Iraq, ISIS, or other more regional things like Hurricane Katrina, most stories could have continued unscathed by real-world, real-time events. Since technological changes are usually within gaps of years, it’s usually relatively easy for a writer to take several years to complete a book without the world around them changing and evolving too much. For example, my fiction first book Acceleration had its first draft finished in 2013, with its final published draft going out to the world in 2020. Normally, this wouldn’t really matter. The world is often generic. As long as you don’t overly describe computers, phones, or the exact cars, or places visited (like restaurants that might completely close), you’re usually in the clear for having a generic time and place as the setting. Most people will just naturally assume it takes place some time in the present, which is helpful when you want the audience to feel as though they’re part of the action.

Now that I’m writing the follow-up to Acceleration in 2021, I’m realizing that there’s a very large elephant in the room. Covid. Do I mention it? Do I ignore it completely because obviously when I wrote Acceleration in 2013 I wasn’t thinking about a worldwide pandemic. Also, if I do mention covid, then this dates the book to now, and readers 5 years from now won’t identity with the book as much. But, readers in 2021 might be like, “Wow, they’re going to restaurants in big cities, and hanging out without masks… must be nice.” So, there’s that.

I think I’m going to keep covid out of the book. Mostly because it’s a mafia-drama that’s going to already have a lot of crazy stuff going on. Also, I don’t feel like spending 5 hours researching what the FBI field office covid mandates are. Masks? Vaccines? Also, I think I need a bit of escape from the real world right now. Still, I’m considering what a book written in 1915 would be like if it completely ignored World War 1. Then, I remembered that Anne of the Island, the third Green Gables book, doesn’t take place in WW1 – and in fact, the series doesn’t make its way to war at all until her daughters and sons take part in it, way later in the 1921 book, Rilla of Ingleside. So maybe I’m just overthinking all of this.

I’m really curious if you’re adding covid to your in-development projects, ignoring it entirely, or planning future covid-related projects.

 

What do you think?

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