Is the Pandemic Affecting Your Manuscript? - Andrew Crofts
How quickly contemporary writing can seem historical.
When I first started writing in London in 1970, not only the fashions and hairstyles were different. We had a coin-operated public phone in my shared flat and anyone lucky enough to own a car could simply pull up outside and leave it there. Now when a piece of film from that period appears on television it looks like an historical document, books from the leading authors of the day can feel equally old fashioned.
The proliferation of mobile phones has changed the way that the plots of thrillers and detective series work and the progress of the MeToo movement has changed the way that we talk to one another. The unlikely rise of showmen like Trump and Johnson to positions of genuine power has changed our view of what is possible politically, moving the parameters for where a reader has to suspend disbelief.
So will the Covid pandemic, and our reaction to it, change for ever the way we view things like social distancing? It already looks slightly wrong to see people shaking hands or standing too close to one another on television programmes that were recorded before 2020, so how quickly will we adapt back to our old ways of interacting – if at all?
It makes for some difficult decisions if you are in the final stages of completing a manuscript with a contemporary setting. If you don’t mention the pandemic and society’s reactions to it, you risk making your story appear out of date before it has even been published, but if you do make reference to any of these happenings there is a risk that everything will have changed once again by the time you find your readership.
I recently worked on a novel which was set in New Zealand because the plot required a peaceful and safe location. During the early stage of the writing there was a terrible mass shooting in a Mosque in Christchurch, which then had to be mentioned and consequently had an effect on the plotline. I can only imagine how many authors are currently doing hurried re-writes of their manuscripts to include some reference to the great pandemic of 2020.