Round Robin – Writing of the Pandemic

:Thanks to Connie Vines for this month’s topic.

How are you dealing with the COVID pandemic in your contemporary novels/short
stories? Not as a political statement or polarizing pro/con mask stance,
but the way the COVD virus affects the day-to-day lives of your
characters and appears within the story’s plot line?

On Christmas morning last year, a writing friend died. As so often happens when someone dies, I thought of my association with her, the times we’d been in company, some of her conversation and some of her writing. Also she had a pre-writing life as a Health Ambassador in Pakistan and Afghanistan which she came to through her work with Oxfam.

I remember her telling a group of us about how she explained germs to women who’d never thought of such a thing. She had a glass jug of water and asked them to watch her pour salt into it. Could they see the salt? No. Did they know the salt was there? Yes.

I think that explains how I’m dealing with the pandemic in my writing. I know it’s there but I’m not making a big thing of it. I may mention that my characters are working from home without spelling out why. My readers are living through this time, too. They know why most people working from home are doing that.

Most of my recent writing has been set in the nineteenth century and so I’ve avoided the issues thrown at us by the pandemic but I have written two contemporary short stories recently and one of them refers to the pandemic, if obliquely, because it explains a decision that would otherwise seem a little odd. The other one doesn’t. The second one has a plotline that didn’t need the pandemic and so I missed it out.

However, I do think the pandemic stories are there in my brain and will seep out over the next year or two. I hope they’ll be upbeat and show people coping with technology they never thought they’d need to know about. Maybe there’ll be the re-kindling of romance in established couples. Possibly the finding again of lost skills and pastimes. How many of us dug out jigsaws? If any of you followed my lockdown diary (it’s on this blog – scroll down) you may remember the way I was plunged into cooking three meals a day seven days a week. Nettle soup? You may remember the joy, absolute joy, of being sent a dinner by my children to mark the DH’s birthday.

Also, I think it has caused a re-evaluation of what it is to live. There are stories in the idiosyncrasies of one’s neighbours. There are stories in the sudden moments of blind panic most of us experienced – when will this end type panic? There are heroic stories of the people who not only kept our health service operating, but those who kept our utilities running and the paper being delivered and the post. The people who went into work stocking shelves in our supermarkets.

And there are the people who were less than heroic. I won’t give examples, but I’ve got one or two in the memory bank.

Some fellow Robins are listed below and I’m sure their views will be worth reading.

Thanks for dropping by,


Connie Vines

Skye Taylor

Marci Baun

Diane Bator

Dr. Bob Rich 

Judith Copek

Helena Fairfax

Robin Courtright


18 thoughts on “Round Robin – Writing of the Pandemic

  1. Hi Anne, I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. Thank you for your thoughtful and optimistic take on this topic. I love how you say it’s cause ‘a re-evaluation of how to live’ and I’m also struck by your idea that the pandemic will gradually seep through into your writing. I think that will be true for all of us. Thanks for a great post and an interesting take on our topic.


  2. Hi Anne, sorry to read about the loss of your friend. Yes, to include Covid or not in contemporary fiction is a bit of a dilemma for the reasons you outline. I’ve not included it so far but I sense it will happen in future stories.


  3. Oh, Anne, I’m sorry to hear about your friend. I lost one in December 2020. It was devastating. ❤️

    It makes sense to write about the pandemic in the manner you’ve expressed, and I really think it depends on the stories. Perhaps I’m just avoiding the plots that would require it.


    • Hi Marci, I keep having to remind myself that the years have passed and while still not aged, I’m no longer young, so my friends and acquaintance aren’t young either. Deaths are still a bit of a shock and I’m sorry for your own loss.
      I certainly haven’t been looking for plots depending on the Pandemic! Anne


  4. Anne, I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. The manner in which you described your handling the Pandemic topic in your writing was helpful. Subconsciously, you always know it is there…


  5. Anne, death is not the end of a book, but the end of a chapter. One of my current works in progress is a book on grief — all too needed in today’s world.
    You are right. This little bug will become as much a part of backstory, or even the setting, as, say, WW2.


    • Hi Bob, Writing about grief is so very valuable. I read Jackie Kay’s Trumpet recently for the first time and thought how good it was. I hope you can progress your own one. thanks for dropping in. Anne


  6. I think it’s going to be very difficult to avoid the subject if a story is, for other reasons, clearly set post March 2020. As you indicated, Anne, since then we’ve all had to make any number of new decisions. I’ve referred to it obliquely in a couple of recent magazine stories. It would be interesting to know if popular women’s magazines around 1918 had pandemic stories; they certainly would have ones referencing the war.


    • Hi Kate, I think the archivists would be able to tell us whether there were Flu stories. Perhaps the pandemic and the War were conflated? Perhaps the War was so devastating that it was deemed, not quite frivolous, but possibly less heroic to refer to the flu? I think ‘our’ Pandemic will seep into fiction. If for no other reason, the enforced separations and missed dates/appontments/next steps offer so much plot potential. Anne


  7. Sorry to hear you lost a writing friend to Covid. I believe in the future, I could address Covid as part of a character’s back story. We’ve all been affected by its presence scarring us forever. One good thing that has come from it is how aware we are of the small things in our lives.


    • Hi Janet, Thank you. In fact, she died from a cancer. Yes, the small things are now much more appreciated. Backstory – the Pandemic is creating huge amounts of that for many, many people. thanks for dropping by, Anne


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