I’ve decided to write COVID-19 into my current fiction work-in-progress. Doing so makes me think of Stephen King’s The Stand with a shudder. Stores closed, streets practically empty. That is, until two weeks ago, when governors started announcing gradual re-openings. I am still playing it safe, though. If you were to write COVID-19 into your current work-in-progress, would you mention toilet-papergate? Stores running out of hand sanitizer? Stores with signs up requiring you to wear a mask? These are unprecedented times, and they are worth remembering and writing about. In my novel, the character will travel to our times from the earlier 2000s and will see some of those things. I do not plan to make it tragic, though. Still, who knew this would become our reality?
In my most recent work of published fiction, Malachi, Ruse Master, I have written a whole chapter on Sept. 11th, 2001. My character is a young man living alone in the D.C. area. An ordinary day turns into an exercise in fear and uncertainty as news reports come in about the attack on the World Trade Center and the plane that headed for the Pentagon. The emotions were real, I experienced them and recall clearly what 9-11 was like.
I did a little research on what it may have been like for someone living in the D.C. area during 9-11 to get my facts straight. I do not know anyone who lived there at the time. I had lived there as a child, and I’m always reminiscent of the Potamac River and the weather changes. Living in Florida, the seasonal distinctions are not as clear. So, having a character living in that area around that time lent itself to writing that event into the setting. I feel that this is a way to frame the events of a novel, adding something we are all familiar with.
Like my character, Malachi, I did not really have a feeling of community reinforced for me. I just felt more alone. Though, I suppose, that is a result of terror. So why add such a horrible event into the setting? Because it is something we all remember, in many different ways. I also feel it helps us sympathize with the character. The book is considered a young adult novel, but it is not written specifically for young adults. It is something we all can identify with in some way; we’ve been there. My hope is that readers of all ages will find something to identify with in this book. You can learn about or get a copy of Malachi, Ruse Master at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086VYJYZX
As I grow in my writing journey, I am finding the importance of setting in a book, how it makes readers connect to the characters in the events. In a sense, a setting in any book is a character in itself.
What historical event have you lived through, and which fiction books express the experience well for you?