Incorporating Social Distancing in Writing

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I’ve debated this since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Should I incorporate social distancing elements in my writing? Should characters wear masks and stay 6 feet apart? Should they never greet each other with a physical gesture like a handshake or hug? Should more than one character even be in the same room together? Or do I ignore all that and write as if life is back to the old normal?

Stories always represent a snapshot in time. Whether it’s the language used, the technology described, or the social norms of the characters, stories inevitably date themselves. As a science fiction writer, many of my stories occur in the future; so outdated tech usually isn’t an issue. But my characters speak and use early 21st century vocabulary and not the words, or even a separate language, developed between now and when the story takes place. And say I’m writing about a colony ship hurtling toward a new planet. What about the crew’s composition? If written 100 years ago, the crew likely would have been all male and white. Not today, at least not for me. I purposefully include an ensemble cast consisting of both sexes and multiple races and ethnicities.

Whether we like it or not, our writing dates us. Wouldn’t including elements of social distancing simply further date an already dated work? Or do such elements go too far? Or would we prefer our fiction to be just that, a fictional escape from reality? Would we rather not be reminded of this unusual and difficult time we are living through?

So far I’ve written two short stories during the pandemic. Neither one includes social distancing concepts, but I thought about doing so both times. I ultimately rejected doing so because it would have interfered with the story. For example, one story takes place at an academic conference. Those are all cancelled for the foreseeable future, so that would have killed the story. The climax wouldn’t quite have the same dramatic impact if it was a virtual conference.

There is no right answer, but I’m curious. How have you treated social distancing in your writing? Let me know in the comments.

Acceptances = Free Stories

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Everyone likes free, right? Good! We’ll get to that.

But first, there’s the good news. I’ve had two flash stories accepted already this year. After missing my goal of one acceptance a quarter last year, I’m already 50% toward the same goal in 2020. Both are online only magazines, but I’m not complaining.  Both are fun publications, and I encourage you to read their content, after reading my stories first, of course.

The first of the two to be published, The Sea Lords Script, went live today at Ash Tales. This is a market devoted to post-apocalyptic stories.  I got the idea for my tale while on vacation in Luxembourg last year. Not wanting to spoil the story, I’ll say I found inspiration in something that came with my daughters’ Kinder Eggs.

The second story, All Rhodes, will be posted March 13th by Fudoki Magazine, so mark your calendar. This market is dedicated to myths, legends, fairy tales, and the like. The story features the architect who designed the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, in ancient Greece. I did a project on the Seven Wonders way back in elementary school, and that has stuck with me to this day. I consider the story to be my first stab at historical fiction. While the architect and the Colossus of Rhodes were real, I took several historical liberties from there.

What do these two stories have in common? Besides my enjoying writing them, they both have comical twist endings. And best of all, both are/will be free to read!

Self Promotion

1/17/19

It’s been a year of blogging once a week, and I finally ran out of topics. So what should I do? Shamelessly self promote, of course.

Hot off the electronic press is Issue 8 of Broadswords and Blasters where my story “Temporally Out of Order” appears!

I’m pretty stoked. This was my first paid sale (though my second paid sale was published last November). In addition, this was the first story I started when beginning this writing adventure about a year and half ago. I got stuck about halfway through, so it ended up being the second story I finished. Regardless, it holds an honored place in my heart for starting me on this writing journey.

I’m glad it found a home, and I’m glad it was with Broadswords and Blasters. The magazine hearkens back to the pulp fiction days of speculative fiction. I thought my story would be a perfect fit, so I’m delighted the editors thought so too.

This story also means a little something more to me because I borrowed the characters names from a couple friends of mine (with their consent). Oddly, when I did so, those names were meant to be placeholders. As soon as I included them though, the words flowed to the page rather easily. The characters themselves don’t resemble my friends, but that didn’t seem to matter.

Because of the success I had once I named the characters after friends, I’ve continued to use that technique in other stories. Each time I’ve found naming characters after friends made the story easier to write. I don’t do this for every story, but I used the technique for both of the two fiction stories I’ve sold to date. That may tell me something right there.

Let me know in the comments how you name your characters. Do you borrow from friends and family? Do you make them up on the fly, or do you put a lot of thought into each name?

And if you’re interested, go buy Issue 8 and leave a review!

Do I Really Want to Hurt You?

1/10/19

The title of this post is not in reference to you, dear reader, but the characters in my stories. Since interesting stories require characters to be in conflict, that means they eventually get hurt. Of course, the hurt could be psychological, but the point of this post is physical hurt.

The Writers Path recently had an interesting post on How to Write an Effective Fight Scene. I found this timely. There is an escape scene coming up in my WIP where I expect an altercation will happen.

For the fight to be effective (or possibly even final for a character?), someone must get hurt. Thinking back to all my short stories, the worst a character has had it is experiencing a cramp. Having had plenty of those, it wasn’t too difficult a task to describe it.

What about more advanced and painful injuries? In 2017, I purchased the ebook version of Hurting Your Characters by Michael J. Carson as part of the 2017 NaNoWriMo Story Bundle. I have not yet made time to read it since hurting people hadn’t come up in my writing. I guess the time is ripe now.

Let me know in the comments how you describe an injury? Do you draw on personal experience? Research testimonials from others who have experienced the same injury? Make it up? (Always a solid option. We are fiction writers after all.)

Photo credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

Post #49 – Characters

11/29/18

The essence of any story is characters in conflict. To increase that conflict, or at least make it more interesting, some of those characters need depth.

Most of my writing has been limited to short stories. That form doesn’t provide room to dig much into a character’s background or motivations, at most a couple hints here and there. So when it came time to work on my novel this month, I didn’t have a lot of experience with developing characters. In prior months, I’d jotted down a few notes. This character’s parents died in an accident. This character’s brother saved him when they were kids and has suffered ill effects ever since. But I never fully developed them, probably because I didn’t know how.

I’ve attempted to read up on the subject. A Writer’s Path posted an interesting exercise titled Things I ask My Characters. By way of an interview, the author can get to know his/her character’s. The same blog then posted 3 Ways to Flesh Out Your Character’s Motivations as an additional exercise guide.

For a more classical view, Andrea Lundgren analyzed Victor Hugo’s techniques in Writing Lessons from Les Mis: Characterization.

ProWritingAid has had a series of blog posts this year examining Oscar Scott Card’s Elements of Fiction Writing: Characters & Viewpoint.  The most recent is How to Nail Third-Person Narrative. I found these lessons helpful. This is a book I wanted to read last year when first starting to seriously write, but the book is out of print. Coincidence or fate?

Since I’m new to the novel writing, and thus character development, thing, what I don’t know is what works better for me. Should I develop full backstories for my characters before starting the novel? I am a plotter after all. Or should I come up with a few key points for each character and see what else the story demands these character be? That seems to be more a pantser technique, though it provides the greatest flexibility when writing.

For my current WIP, I’m following the latter course by necessity. I may wind up determining that after the first draft, I need to think through each character again and fill in their stories as I conduct an initial edit.

Let me know in the comments how your develop your characters. Do you map out their entire lives first, or do you wait and let the story dictate who your characters really are?

Photo credit: aixklusiv via Pixabay