How a Fiction Writer Might Consider COVID-19:
1. What is the story you want to tell? Every writer begins with this question. Whether it is a fictional story or true, writers decide which stories become known. As we consider our current times, what are the stories we want to share? Do we want to tell the story of hoarding toilet paper? Or do we want to share how we and others combined experience, skills, and care to overcome a difficult situation and make the world a better place?
2. Is this scene moving the plot forward? Writers know every scene must have a purpose. If you can cut a scene, and it has no impact on the story line, it is not needed. Which scenes in our lives right now have no positive impact on our situation and lives? How can we incorporate scenes which move a better life story forward?
3. Will readers be able to connect with the characters? Creating characters is about making them real and relatable. Readers do not want perfect characters, nor ones who are stereotypical. Characters who are vulnerable and have weaknesses as well strengths and resiliency are the most popular in literature. Which “character faces” are we presenting to the world? Are we remembering that others prefer people they can relate to and feel connected with, who share both their vulnerabilities and strengths?
4. Is there a setting to ground the reader? Stories do not take place in a vacuum. Readers want to know time and place and see the world where the story unfolds. The setting helps to anchor the reader. Where are our anchors right now? Which places, routines, and people moor us to good things and good feelings so we can continue to invest in and commit to finishing our story?
5. Are you writing a resolution to the story? Writers and readers alike do well to never forget that the climax is not the end of the story. The action and intensity of climactic scenes capture readers and arouse emotion, but they are not the end of the story. No writer ends the book in the middle of the battle. Readers want to know the outcome of the battle – whether the characters and their lives are better after the battle. What heat of the moment situations are we currently in where we need to remember these are not the resolution scenes? Are we recognizing that there are more than just these moments to come? Remember, after we have lived the climactic scenes is when we will have the amazing stories to tell.
Paula Castner is the Chief Operating Officer for Seven Bridge Writers Collaborative as well as a freelance writer, playwright, drama director, writing workshop facilitator, baking coach, and professional administrator. Though she received her certification for writing children’s literature, she writes in multiple genres. Her pieces have been published in a variety of venues, from parenting magazines, to newspapers, to online magazines, and have claimed first prize in several writing contests. Her play, A Fairy Tale Life? A Musical, with music by Canadian folk artist, Nancy Beaudette, was performed in Lancaster, Massachusetts. She is currently working on her second musical, Museum Follies, set in an art museum. Her long term writing project is a fictionalized account of a historical court case about a slave girl from Holden, MA. Emails to her may be sent to pcastner.SBWC@gmail.com