The Aftermath: Story Ideas on the Coronavirus
As the dark veil of quarantine slowly lifts, the aftermath of longterm effects from the pandemic should be considered in plot development, characters, and the entire gamut of novel-writing. How the pandemic has changed our lives and what the new normal might look like has inspired many considerations, ideas, and what-ifs in my writer-brain. Whether you're searching for just the right novel premise to get going again or how to incorporate all this madness in your work-in-progress, here are some things I've thought about that could be important either as subtle background notes or complete plots.
The end to handshaking, hugs, and general touching might seem a sad footnote to this crisis. I always got a little teary watching those commercials where kind, friendly people would give out free hugs in the park. BUT there's an upside to more touching control, I think. Remember times when someone held your hand too long on a handshake or got a little too touchy-feely? Perhaps more boundaries would prevent those awkward feelings, especially for women. Regardless, physical contact between coworkers, strangers, and other outside-your-own-home acquaintances will be reduced or eliminated, so how might that play into your story or main character? A deeper thought... what would the lack of human contact do to someone? Tears came to my eyes when watching the latest Coronavirus episode of the Apple TV show Mythic Quest when the boss, Ian, showed up at his lead programmer, Poppy's apartment just to give her a hug that she desperately needed. We should all definitely consider the gravity of human contact.
Germaphobes aren't so crazy. In the past, people opening doors with their shirt sleeves or dousing their hands in sanitizer every few minutes seemed extreme. Not anymore. We've all become a little more OCD after this. I've gone through almost all my stash of Bath and Body Works sanitizers, and I keep them everywhere--in the cars, my purse, pockets. If your character's a germaphobe, then perhaps he or she loves this new, more sanitized world. If not, is your character the type to take precautions or throw caution to the wind?
An uptick in healthier practices generally is a definite positive to all the madness. We've all been to a public restroom and been shocked when we realized that someone didn't wash their hands before leaving. Egads! Perhaps now, everyone will diligently practice simple hand-washing. They'll also, perhaps, be more conscientious about flu shots and other vaccines (hopefully one for coronavirus soon). How might this affect your character?
A long-overdue, greater appreciation for medical professionals, first responders, and all essential workers marks another positive outcome. I expect many awesome hero stories will come out of this. If your character falls into one of these categories, then consider the effects--positive and negative--and how your character reacts.
Hoarding is the new black. Okay, I get that sounds funny, but you know what I mean. Perhaps a logical downside to the madness is that people will go to extremes to make sure they have private stashes of items that have been more scarce since the pandemic. Toilet paper. Meats. Cleaners. Medical supplies. Canned goods. Of course, it's always good to prepare and think ahead, but there's a fine line, too. Where does your character fall on the hoarding spectrum? What would your character make sure he or she had a supply of? What lengths might someone go to?
Online, well, everything. Big business is rethinking its need for large, open offices when people have proven to work well at home. Studies have even shown that people are way more productive working out of their home offices. So, what does that mean going forward? More telecommuting? My husband's office had just renovated everything to a trendy open-concept workspace. Well, that's going to change, if they return to the office at all. The same holds true for education. School might end up being at home or at least, part-time in-person. While on one hand, it seems logical that these changes will save lots of money and make home-bodies very happy, there's an enormous downside, too. The foundation of many people's social networks will be shaken. How might a greater online life affect your characters?
A greater appreciation for home-life has developed since spending more time there. The uptick in board games, pet adoptions, yard work, home improvement, home cooking, crafting, reading (hopefully) and so on means that we're taking better care of what we have and we're probably doing a lot of things we should've been doing before, maybe. My daughter and I have played all the games we've been putting off, and we've even created our own Bob Ross paintings. People are breaking out their sewing machines (I did, too, but it did not go well) to make masks. My daughter planted a veggie and herb garden. I've been doing more cooking--I learned to spatchcock a chicken and make my own broth. What about your characters? What have they done with the time at home?
The flip-side to a greater home-life has its negatives. With TV and video games, kids could be more braindead. So can parents--sometimes I don't know what day it is as they all run together now. Do weekends even matter anymore? Being stuck at home can be incredibly lonely for people. It can also make us less inclined to go out, even when we're able. When we're not used to driving every day, for example, we may feel rusty or nervous about it. What might some negatives be for your characters?
The way we gather could be changed forever. While everyone hopes we'll return to normal, it may be unrealistic to think that things like concerts, sporting events, church services, movies, and any event that's a mass gathering will be the same as before. Perhaps big events will be replaced by small gatherings. Maybe mega-churches will give way to home-groups. Movie theaters--theaters in general--could go out of business. More large-scale events could take place online. I can't imagine what this time is like for event planners, can you? Anyway, the way we meet should be considered for stories going forward.
Here are a few, perhaps, less obvious ideas that could happen (at least in my crazy imagination) and might be fun to consider for your plots:
Becoming germaphobes now means children could lack exposure to many things making them more susceptible to allergies, viruses, and so on. I foresee an uptick in science fiction stories using coronavirus as a springboard to larger consequences, like this. During my stint as a preschool director (years ago), some children were afraid of the rain. I can't imagine what they're afraid of now!
A downturn in online dating could mean a new way of finding that perfect someone altogether--if that's what people are online dating for (I don't know anymore). Only it seems to me that meeting up with strangers should decrease while perhaps online dating environments should increase. Of course, dating altogether should be hella-difficult right now. This should impact romance stories greatly. How do you find love during a pandemic? How do you express that love? This could open the door for many innovative plot lines.
A downturn in premarital affairs, maybe? A positive side effect of being at home all the time means fewer secrets between spouses. This could drive many marriages to the brink of divorce or it might bring them closer together if they grow to appreciate each other in a new light. Again, I foresee many romances using the pandemic as a starting point for either ending or rekindling relationships.
Comfy-cozy is so hot right now. *Smirk* High fashion should take a plummeting nosedive in the wake of all this staying at home. People'll get used to wearing Yoga pants and jammies all day making a return to suits, skirts, and heels difficult. Over the decades, we've seen fashion get more and more causal. This could be the thing that brings about the end of platform heels, ties, Spanx, and anything else that we wear strictly for the looks, not comfort. On the other hand, designers could focus more on face fashion--who says your face mask has to be boring? Gloves, scarves, and face masks could be all the rage next season.
Get ready for the wave of coronavirus babies! With couples stuck at home, it's logical to assume that they, well, fill the time together. We could have a baby boom in a few months. It happened with Hurricane Isabelle many years ago. We were without power for over a week in most communities on the Virginia coast, and as a result, nine months later hospital delivery rooms were super-busy with Isabelle babies.
Of course, most of my ideas are speculation, but that's the fun in being a writer. Considering how things might happen fuels all stories. As restrictions lift, I wonder if people will peek out of their holes like the groundhog checking timidly for spring or if they'll rush back into the world like Walmart shoppers on Black Friday. I know which group I fall in.
If you have any thoughts on how the aftermath of the coronavirus will affect your writing, please share below.