WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Writing novels in the age of coronavirus

Maybe I mentioned that, since there’s no baseball this spring, and maybe not this whole season, I’ve been working on a baseball novel. It’s a great world to inhabit while the real one is collapsing around us—the thrill of the grass, the sound of bat on ball, the smell of peanuts, popcorn, and Crackerjack. I can’t talk much about the story, but it takes place in the minor leagues in California and Texas and involves a special player who seems to have MLB stardom in his genes. He just has to pay his dues in the minors to earn a shot at The Show.

The problem I’m having is that the coronavirus is changing everything about our society. I’m setting this book in 2021 or 2022, since that’s when people might be reading it eventually, but there’s no mention of what happened in 2020. I can’t know how things are going to turn out in 2020, whether there will even be minor league baseball next year. People might have no money to spend on sports. How many of us will come out of this thing unemployed, busted, and ruined? Will life change like it changed after 9/11—with wholesale rearrangement of things we use to take for granted?

So the real question for novelists is how to carry on doing what we do without leaving space for the inevitable effects the pandemic is going to have on us all.

Or do we just ignore it and proceed with the true-enough premise that fictional worlds are fictional? My baseball world of 2021 is separate from and completely unrelated to the real world. Heck, I’m even using fictional team names so I don’t prompt readers to say, “No Amarillo Sod Poodle ever pitched a no-hitter, you dummy!” Why not just pretend that things are the way I say they are in this product of my imagination?

In #QuarantineLife, those of us who write are probably writing up a storm—just to stay sane. So how are you handling coronavirus in your fiction? Subtle acknowledgment or total abstinence? Does it feel better to confront it directly or to let that world in your head remain free of it and all the upsetting consequences that follow?

[Photo by CDC on Unsplash.]

14 comments on “Writing novels in the age of coronavirus

  1. kingmidget
    April 7, 2020

    I’m still in my writing funk, but it’s fiction, feel free to ignore real life.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 7, 2020

      Readers might actually appreciate a fantasy world where the damn thing never happened … Or everyone can write period fiction from now on.

      • kingmidget
        April 7, 2020

        I think you should write it based on the assumption of things being back to normal in 2021 or 2022. Cause if they aren’t, I’m not sure people will be buying many books anyway. 😉

        Seriously, “normal” seems to be the best assumption, but maybe add in some details like hand sanitizer stations everywhere and jokes about toilet paper …

      • Kevin Brennan
        April 7, 2020

        Good idea! Or here and there someone’s still wearing a mask & rubber gloves in the grocery store. A little nod to what happened back in ‘020.

  2. TamrahJo
    April 7, 2020

    I write essays, memoirs or creative non-fiction, so for me, I couldn’t hazard a guess how real authors, such as yourself, would do it – however, my little mind when off on all the possibilities to play with different alternative ‘worlds’ come 2021/2022 – for instance, in Ken Burns Baseball documentary, in the early days, played on dirt fields in rural towns all across the nation, the entrance fee was .25 cents – OR the local teams just showed up and played the neighboring town- with nothing but potluck stuff brought by the ladies, for food during – like a community picnic – :). Not sure how alluring MLB would be with lowered/non-existence wages, but, “For the love of the game” is for any sport, IMHO, but then, I’m not a big sports fan – :). The history of sports? Oh yeah, I’m all IN! LOL

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 9, 2020

      Yeah, the love of the game seems insufficient when you’re used to making $20 million a year. Maybe sports will become virtual, realistic AI events we can watch on phones or via holograms.

      The future sounds pretty lousy to me …

      • TamrahJo
        April 9, 2020

        I can see that – but heck, you’re a writer! I’ve read some of your books – godurnnit – go WRITE A BETTER FUTURE! Inspire those who will be moving forth to build it after being torqued of over current/past decades of stuff – ! Sheesh! You creatives hold the better future in your hands – write the road map, if you will, please – – 😀

      • Kevin Brennan
        April 9, 2020

        I don’t write fantasy.

      • TamrahJo
        April 9, 2020

        LOL -just reminding you H.G. Wells, Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek changed the world – …no one realized it until decades later, but still… LOL

  3. Marie A Bailey
    April 9, 2020

    Like Mark suggests, you can have a nod to the pandemic, assuming that we might still have to commit to some elements of self-protection like face masks. At a minimum, that whole handshake might finally be long gone and maybe sports players will be less likely (or not) to pat each other on the butt all the time 😉 But fiction is where I go when I want to get away from my world. The market will likely flood with all manner of books on the pandemic.Yours might be the one where we can get away from all that.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 9, 2020

      I wouldn’t be sad to see the handshake go away. “A man’s handshake is his word” feels pretty naive in this Trumpian world. But I agree: Having some books that are oases from reality might be nice in a year or two!

  4. Pingback: What do we write now? | writers co-op

  5. jvtripioauthor
    April 27, 2020

    I feel fortunate. The next three manuscripts I have planned are all set around the `1980s. Since writing, for me, is done at my home I have not been disrupted there either. Best of luck to everyone!

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 28, 2020

      Period pieces are the new black.

      (Thanks for following too!)

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