I started a new novel recently and found, even without expecting it, that the pandemic was part of my new story, so inextricably woven into the fabric of my life now that I can’t create a fictional world in which it doesn’t exist, or never happened. But oh, my God, once this pandemic is over is anyone really going to want to read a novel that takes us back to this time? I doubt it. So what to do?
What I realized is that the heart of this pandemic isn’t about what we’ve all been doing during these endless days of isolation and quarantine, how we’ve filled our time, who we’ve squabbled with or longed for or avoided. It’s about who we’ve become. The pandemic has deepened our understanding of what it means to be human in the most basic sense—vulnerable to illness and grief, dependent on social connection that’s suddenly been yanked away, fearful, courageous, grateful, lonely. These months and months have provided us an opportunity to understand essential, universal experiences in a way that can only enrich the characters and worlds we write. It’s one thing to imagine being lonely or afraid; it’s another to live it and know in your guts and bones what it means.
We are all different people than we were a year ago, scarred and strengthened and forged into something else. And all of it is a rich lode of understanding we can mine to create characters. Consider: [Read more…]