How Will YOU Tell The Story?

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By Miko Johnston

I’ll cut straight to the chase: How will we write about this? For unless we write science fiction, fantasy, or historical fiction, we must.

Over the past few months we have been going through an experience unprecedented in our lifetime*.  Not a single person has been unaffected by the current situation, nor will the world ever get back to “normal”, whatever that means, anytime soon. Living through the Corona virus pandemic will fundamentally change us, as a world, a country, a state. A city. A neighborhood. A street. A home.

There is no way we will be able to ignore what we’re going through.

The repercussions will ripple for years, even decades. This time will become a pivotal point in many of our lives, much like Pearl Harbor, 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis.

We’re hearing a lot about the Spanish Flu pandemic that ripped across the globe in the post-World War I period, largely because it’s the last time we’ve faced a medical crisis like this one. Unfortunately, like that pandemic, the current one is not only threatening our health, but our economy.

I think of how the Great Depression of 1929 affected people for the remainder of their lives. The vast majority became extremely frugal; the fear of losing everything, or going hungry, never left them. On the other hand, some moved in the opposite direction, spending every cent they made on frivolous things; their fear was depriving themselves of pleasure when they had the opportunity to enjoy it. Same story, different endings.

There has to be a moment when the reality of the new normal hits you in a unique way. Three months ago, one friend had to self-quarantine for five days – this was before sheltering in place became mandatory – after coming in contact with someone who had been in contact with someone with the virus (she’s fine). Another friend’s husband lives in a senior care facility due to other medical problems. She has been unable to visit him beyond standing in the parking lot and waving to him through a window since February, but she’s also been lax about remaining in quarantine. Social isolation seems to have aggravated the occasional periods of confusion and forgetfulness another friend experiences. I and others have been calling her, hoping to keep her mentally stimulated, but as we all know, it’s not the same as social contact. And some younger relatives have ignored the warnings and continue to hang out with friends, despite the fact that their parents fall in the high-risk category.

For me, it began with some rice. 

I’d rinsed a half cup before cooking it for dinner.  As I was cleaning up after the meal, I noticed a few uncooked grains in the strainer. Normally, I’d toss it without a thought; there couldn’t have been more than a dozen grains of raw rice there. It has been over forty years since I faced food insecurity, but at that moment I couldn’t help but wonder if I would be standing at the sink a year from now, wishing I had saved those grains as my empty belly rumbled from hunger due to food shortages.

Eventually, we will look back and see this time as we see all great stories, with a beginning, a middle, and an end – how it was before, during, and after the pandemic. We’ll have some amusing memories, like Zoom parties, cerebral conversations with the dog, and bizarre meals patched together from pantry staples (pasta, sardines, dukkah and lemon peel anyone?). And we’ll recall the unpleasant moments, of loneliness and fear, anger and frustration. Of sickness and death, which will remind us of the courage and sacrifices we’ve witnessed throughout this crisis by those who did their best to help protect us, and the failings of those who did not.

It’s too early to have an ending yet…

…but it’s not too soon to think about this: How will you tell the story of what we’re going through? Will you keep it in the background, just part of the world in which your characters exist, or will it loom so large it almost becomes a character? Will you show how your characters came through it, all the intimate details that illustrate for the reader how it affected them, or served as a pivotal point in their life? We want to know.

Maybe you’re keeping a journal, maybe you’re devouring news reports. Maybe you’re juggling family, home, work and writing. Maybe you’re hunkered down and working on your next novel. Whatever you’re doing, stay safe, be well and look ahead.

 

*with few exceptions, including my almost 105 year old Aunt Rose.

*****

mikoj-photo1

Miko Johnston is the author of the A Petal In The Wind Series, available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington. Contact her at mikojohnstonauthor@gmail.com

 

 

 

This article was posted for Miko Johnston by Jackie Houchin (Photojaq)

 

Author: photojaq

First, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, so my views and opinions are filtered through what God's Word says and I believe. I'm a wife, a mom, a grandma and now a great grandma. I write articles and reviews, and I dabble in short fiction. I enjoy living near the ocean, doing gardening (for beauty and food) and traveling - in other countries, if possible. My heart is for Christian missions, and I'm compiling a collections of Missionary Kids' stories to publish. (I also like kittens and cats and reading mysteries.)

12 thoughts on “How Will YOU Tell The Story?”

  1. Miko, your blog is so spot on. Very well expressed, thank you for covering so many aspects of this current chaos and providing food for thought, if you’ll forgive the reference to food. Glad you are safe. I wonder what if it will be called anything like The Great Fire of London (or San Francisco), the Great Plague, or The Great Depression. The Great Coronavirus has heft and sounds pretty deadly, too. I can already sense it as a murder weapon and I read recently that someone spat all over produce at a grocery store as an act of malice, forcing the store to throw it all out, but there are also many, many humanitarian stories of bravery, courage, and unselfishness that bring out the best in mankind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Jill. I also wonder what this will be called by the time it’s in the proverbial history books – suggestions, anyone? I’m intrigued by your idea of deliberately infecting someone; between the physical, emotional, mental, economic and political impact of Covid-19, the possibilities for fiction seem endless.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an excellent analysis of what we’re going through–and how we may need to handle it in the future, both in our writing and otherwise. I guess it depends on what we’re writing whether we have to focus on it or not, but if nothing else it’ll always be on our minds.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t help but think we will have to address it in the future, Linda. The effects will be profound and widespread. I can visualize everything from a character’s lifetime hatred of a food after having to eat it ad nauseam while in quarantine to inadvertently causing the death of a loved one.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I did use World War II, the Vietnam War, and the communist infiltration into certain areas of American life in my spy trilogy, but off hand I can’t think of any story I want to write featuring my private detectives that would be able to utilize this current event. It would be too confining for one thing and if I had one of my detectives flaunt the restrictions, he or she would be looked at as heartless or stupid since they reside in the Los Angeles area and we have stricter rules at the moment. Some of the rules themselves might be stupid, but I’ll save my characters from voicing their opinion and losing readers. I’ll have them fight the bad guys on a different playing field. And who knows, maybe one can read between the lines and see the truth that is written there.

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  6. I see your point, Gayle. For many reasons, I hope this event becomes a blip on our historic radar, one we can get over with and move on. Somehow, I doubt it. I think of all the books I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, that incorporated significant events into their story, either as a set-up (a parent’s death in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”) or as a background (the Depression in “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Sullivan’s Travels”, to name two). In the years to come, when (hopefully) you’re still writing your stories, you may be surprised by how something from this time triggers a plot line or a character trait.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent, Miko, as you capture so much about the current situation in your post, and down the road a bit, I can see and hear as a first line in or the title of a story you’ve yet to write, “For me, it began with some rice…” Could lead to so many literary places. Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks, Madeline. We will all have our stories to tell about this time. All we can hope for now is that many of them will have happy endings.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree with Madeline that “For me, it began with some rice…” is a great story beginning. BTW, I had to look up the new-to-me dukkah! I think this extraordinary time we’re going through will be a huge topic for writers, as the impact on our lives will endure for years to come. Unless a story is set pre-2020, we can’t avoid it. I heard Stephen King interviewed, and he had to add references about the pandemic to a story he’s been working on that’s set in current times. Interestingly, I find little fiction that includes the 1918 pandemic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the encouraging words, Maggie. And you’re right – there is little fiction written that includes the Spanish Flu. Ironically, I’d just completed extended research on the topic for my current novel, which opens in the final year of WWI, and felt obligated to ‘kill’ several characters to stay true to the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I, too, love the “…for me it began with some rice…” story idea. I think this whole episode has made many re-think what they are doing with their lives. I am always an optimist and think it has (mostly) brought out the better in people. Those who have taken advantage of this will be shown for what they are.
    In many ways this is as if time has stopped, paused, so we can re-think our future.
    As a writer, I have dealt with the Spanish Flu Epidemic in Lottie’s early days – and I am sure I am not the only one who has ideas of using this pandemic as a weapon in a mystery. Such a threat has been used in other fiction, but now we have personal experience to color it more.
    Miko, this is a beautifully written synopsis of where we are now. Thank you for your thoughtful observations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Rosemary. I can see using Covid-19 as a ‘murder weapon’, as well as a mid-21st century detective’s fatal flaw – careless carousing as a youth brought the disease home and took a beloved family member. I can also see how socially active people would react badly to self-quarantining, leading to personality disorders. Oh, the possibilities….!

      Like

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