Writing: What's Essential During Covid 19?

These days we read and hear a lot about essential workers. A small sampling: Medical professionals working all hours to take care of so many; food industry workers keeping the supply running steady, and nursery employees who ensure we maintain the beauty and peace of lovely gardens to give us a lift.

There are other kinds of essentials we need in our lives that aren’t discussed as often; the essentials that we should insert into our minds: positive news, powerful thoughts and compassion toward others, to name a few.

Let’s switch gears to the non-essential inhabitants moving into our heads. What are we allowing in our minds that’s not essential? For starters, any type of negation.

I recently heard a story about a man given up as dead by doctors after 80 percent of his body was burned. But through the support and love of family and friends, he started recovering slowly…until his own negative self-talk reminded him he didn’t deserve to live. He sank into a depression and poor recovery re-emerged. He developed a high fever and asked a nurse to read to him.

She picked up an inspirational book and read a piece about not allowing past mistakes or distressing circumstances to play a central role in one’s life. When she’d finished, she took his temperature. It had dropped! His state of mind had instantly changed when positive content entered his thoughts.

We are living in unsettling times. I’ve talked to fellow authors who say they just can’t write lately. I debated mentioning Covid 19 in my writing, but ultimately didn’t because Covid thoughts made me sink. I prefer to float.

Now is the time to take excellent care of our physical and mental health, and one of the best ways to do the latter is to write your heart out. You can write about Covid 19 if it brings you a sense of relief and peace.

I read and write to escape reality. To disappear into an adventure without leaving my home. In between writing, I fill my head with positives so I have an ample arsenal stored when negative circumstances come a-knocking. Why not experiment and write positive content, and see how it makes you (and your readers) feel?

Creating Conflict: A Necessary Ingredient in Mysteries

All fiction has some non _____ in it (fill in the blank). No, not nonsense, non-sequiturs or non-profits (although some of these nons may show-up in fictional works). What do most works of fiction contain that starts with “non”? I’ll make it easy for you: just about all fiction contains at least a few non-fiction elements (sci-fi and fantasy possibly excluded).

My fiction is no exception, especially when it comes to the setting. I like inserting my characters into real places. Locations I’ve visited; where I feel comfortable and right at home. Peaceful, uneventful places. Throw in my heroine and it’s not so serene anymore. And it shouldn’t be. Would you read a mystery without action and conflict? I didn’t think so.

Here’s how my real life might go: I walk into a restaurant, enjoy a delicious meal on the patio, and watch a gentle breeze ruffle nearby palm trees.

Then I think: What would happen if my heroine, Corrie Locke, popped into a similar place? What would she eat? Where would she sit? Who’s she with? Would she have a chance to finish her meal? Of course not.

She’d sit with friends, toward the back…but she wouldn’t eat. She’d be starving, but a little something would get in the way of Corrie and her meal. That little something is called conflict. Conflict is what makes a mystery tale suspenseful.

Nail-biting, tension rousing conflict is a must. How to create it? Just insert obstacles between the hero/ine and their goal. For instance:

– Corrie runs to her car to chase after a villain. Can she? Nope. The car has a flat tire. Now what? (The flat tire is the obstacle);
– Corrie and Michael break into an office and are snooping around when the janitor sticks his key in the lock. Did I mention that hiding places were scarce? (MURDER GONE MISSING);
– Corrie wrangles with a difficult movie star in order to find clues leading to a killer. Personality clashes occur, which also create conflict. (MURDER: DOUBLE OR NOTHING).

I let the scene just unfold in my first draft. Then I go back and ask: how can I rewrite this to make matters more difficult for Corrie? I’ll use the setting, other characters, even her car to create conflict. By overcoming obstacles in fiction, our characters grow. Hopefully, we do the same for ourselves in real life.

Notes to Self on Pushing the 1st Draft Forward

It never ceases to amaze me how much my feet drag during the writing of the dreaded first draft.

I don’t mind thinking about what to write. Or about what my characters do, say, eat, drive, clue-gather or how they crime-solve. But when it comes down to the actual writing of the words, no-want-to-do.

This post is mostly for me, and people like me, whose heads spin during the drafting phase. That spinning makes it a wee bit challenging to write anything. When that happens, remember:

– Forget about finding the right words. They’ll show up on their own, later. I promise.

– Not to worry about character voices being on point or distinct. In the first draft, you’re merely willing your fictional peeps to rise up from their lifeless states. What are you like when you first wake-up after a snooze? Witty? Clever? Rarin’ to go? I didn’t think so. Give your characters time to breathe, and they will jump to life.

– Forget about timing within the story. Does the day and time really matter? A little. But the beauty of it is that you can go back and recreate the timing any way you please. How’s that for flexibility? If only real life worked that way.

– Not to forget about why you write. Isn’t it about spending time doing what you love? Questions will pop up during the head-spinning phase. Who am I? Why am I torturing myself by trying to pull out a story? What do normal, non-writer people do during their down time? Why can’t I be like them? Am I hungry again? NO. This is the time to pull out something you’ve published and read it. Or if you’re not published yet, find a book you love and imagine writing one that’s just as good or even better. Because when you finish that darn first draft, you’re going to feel splendid. It’s a huge accomplishment!

– Location is everything, right? Yes, if you’re buying real estate, but not necessarily if you’re writing a first draft. I know I write a Southern California Mystery series, but So Cal is huge! The book opens in Santa Monica because guess who hung out in SM recently?

Once I find the main locale, I let my heroine lead the way. Guess where my heroine ended up? Sorry, I can’t divulge because it would be a spoiler alert (if you might lose sleep over this, email me and I’ll spill the beans).

Carry on!