Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Writing Take-aways from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

We've had a number of great articles this month on ways COVID-19 and multi-state stay-at-home orders have affected our lives. We also have an impressive list of books from the past that address the devastating consequences of worldwide pandemics. My post will explore how our current health crisis can affect our writing.

I find today's world situation to be alarming, even terrifying. The massive loss of life, critical illnesses, overwhelmed medical services, and resulting instability of the world's economy are indeed unnerving, as well as heartbreaking. While we see numerous acts of courage, of love, of reaching out to help others who are often strangers, there's a dark side to that coin.

We also see horrific acts of intentionally exposing people working in essential jobs to whatever germs or viruses those perpetrators may be carrying, such as by coughing and spitting on workers who risk their health and lives so we can continue to buy groceries, medicines, etc. We see adults and teenagers contaminating fresh produce by coughing directly on the food and then laughing about it.

People congregate in large and small groups despite governmental mandates not to do so. We hear so-called spiritual leaders defying those mandates and insisting on freedom of religion while stating that the Almighty will protect them because they're God-fearing folks. How many have come down with coronavirus and even died because of these people's wanton disregard for their fellow humans? We see a lot of folks out and about despite shelter-in-place orders. How many of them are wearing face masks and gloves? How many are staying 6 feet away from everyone else? How many of their trips are truly necessary?

As a person who is high-risk and the grandmother of a toddler with a serious heart defect and of a nurse on the front lines in the war against the virus, I am appalled. I shudder at the widespread callousness shown by such actions. The drastic change in the attitudes of the general public just within my lifetime blows my mind. This, in my opinion, is far scarier than the virus itself because it can perpetuate ongoing outbreaks that might continue to wreak havoc and take countless lives in the weeks, months, or even years to come.

How does all this affect my writing? My literary fiction books focus on characterization—what makes people tick. Protagonists, secondary characters, and bit players are portrayed realistically, and they act accordingly. I neither sugarcoat wrongdoing nor magnify goodness. People are what they are.

My plots reflect reality. Still, the stories are not downers, and the clouds often have silver linings; however, neither I nor my characters are Pollyannas. Not every ending is a happily-ever-after one, but they're always a satisfactory outgrowth of the characters' attitudes and actions. And there's always a lesson to be learned, perhaps several lessons.

I've created a recurring character who will appear in all the novels currently in the works. A psychologist with an inherent ability to feel the physical, mental, and emotional pain of others, she refers to herself as a healer rather than the more intimidating title of doctor or the supernatural connotation of empath. Her desire to help others cope with the drama in their lives and find a path to contentment often puts her in harm's way, but that hasn't stopped her yet. COVID-19 will provide a backdrop for some of these forthcoming books.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your writing?

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and thrillers. You can contact her through her websites: LSLaneBooks.com and DenverEditor.com.


  1. Linda, it's hard to know what to do about anything these days. Burying my head in writing projects helps, but I feel guilty for having that escape while nurses and doctors and thousands of other workers head out to do the things that care for the rest of us. With new writing projects, I expect I'll write stories about the near past, before COVID-19. I certainly don't want to write about what's going on now.

  2. I don't intend to make today's pandemic the focus of any story, but I may allude to it in one or more upcoming novels. My granddaughter, a nurse, is on the front lines with thousands of other healthcare workers, and I worry constantly about her safety.

  3. Very compelling post, Linda. I think so many of us who write stories are trying to sort out feelings and reactions and ways they play into our writing. I'm working on a short story right now and wasn't going to include a connection to the pandemic, but I found it creeping in without my conscious decision to let it in. I'm not sure if it will stay, this is first draft. So, I'll see when I go to the edit and polish stage.

  4. The pandemic is becoming part of our history. People's attitudes have surfaced, and an alarming trend is taking shape. Let me know whether you decide to keep any reference to it in your short story. :-)

  5. I could have written your post, Linda, other than reference to your stories. The sheer ignorance of that percentage of the public that shows disdain for science and truth is most depressing. As how it's affecting my writing, I'm doing more of it. My current work takes place in New York, so rather than set it 2020, I'm pushing it back a year. As to how it's affecting my life? Not much different. I love to stay home. I miss the occasional lunch with my friends, my Sisters in Crime meeting, but that's about it.

  6. I, too, miss the interaction with other writers. Staying at home, on the other hand, works for me. Sometimes, I wish we had more interaction among the BRP contributors. We have much in common.

  7. Sounds like an interesting series. Glad you are able to write. Disappearing into a book world is a good escape from these troubling times.

  8. Yes, especially when one is housebound by governmental decree — or for any other reason.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.