Using the COVID-19 outbreak as a Writing Prompt


Are you using the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent pandemic as a writing prompt? If you aren't, you should. COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of life from which all kinds of stories can be written. A number of writers in the past found inspiration during a pandemic to pen seminal works.

I don’t know whether or not China is telling us the whole truth and nothing but the truth about what is happening there with the Novel Corona Virus. But what is true is that this virus is slowly seeping into the rest of the world and some of us will be infected and will end up fighting for our lives. Some of us will lose this fight and some of us will survive to fight another day.

The actions of China in dealing with this virus tell us that the authorities there recognise the danger and are doing their best to contain it. The rest of the world is watching and fighting its own battles to contain the virus where it is present in their countries or to prevent it from entering their countries.

Just briefly scouring the internet, I found a number of responses to the threat that the virus poses.

First, there is fear which is leading to panic. Some people far from the epi-centre of the virus are losing their minds. What if they get it? they ask. They are not ready to die, they say.

Their panic is not being helped by the conspiracy theories that are being circulated on every comment thread on the internet where the corona virus is being discussed. And this is another response to the virus. Conspiracy theories about the virus are spreading like the virus itself. How can writers use these conspiracy theories to fuel their writing? I’ll answer this question later.

Another response is doom. Some people are experiencing a feeling of doom. The world is coming to an end, they say. Some have resigned themselves to their fate. And others are stocking up on their doom day supplies.

Yet another response is resilience, as seen in the people on the front line in China and in the population of China, in particular Wuhan. These people believe that they can defeat the virus, motivating themselves, putting their lives on the line to help the helpless.

After seeing all these responses to the spread of the Novel Corona Virus, the question crossed my mind. As a writer how can I write about this event? I thought about some possibilities which I’ll soon share with you.

The writers who are writing stories now are the journalists. The real journalists tell us what is going on based on the limited information that they have managed to dredge up. However, there are people on the internet who have seized the opportunity that the spread of the Novel Corona Virus presents to further their agendas, whether left wing, right wing or in whichever direction that their agendas lean.

You too can write your story your way.

First, why not write a non-fiction book?

If you are in the danger zone you could write a non-fiction book about your ordeal. For example, think of at least twelve life altering things that have happened to you since you became aware of the outbreak of the novel corona virus and your response to those twelve things. Those twelve things could form the chapters of your book. Write about each thing as honestly as you can. Don’t write what you think people want to hear. Delve into your emotions and wear them on your sleeves as you write.

One chapter may describe the feelings that coursed through you when you learnt about the virus and realised that you couldn’t leave. Another chapter may be about the conflict you feel about going outside to buy food or staying inside to be safe. Another chapter could be about the thoughts you have about the messages about the virus that the government disseminates. Just brainstorm. Before you know it, you’ll have more than twelve things to tell your story about your dance with the Novel Corona Virus. If your work is authentic, readers far away from the Novel Corona Virus hotspots will vicariously share in your experiences, and your story may re-shape their perspectives for the better or worse. At least, if that happens, you would have elicited some response from your audience and that is the goal of writing.

If you are a student of the virus, you could write your book about the virus. The first chapter could be about the virus – describing it and differentiating it from other corona viruses. It would be lovely if you write this book using a number of case studies to illustrate the dry scientific data. Just a thought.

Non-fiction is not your thing? You may want to write fiction then. That is, creating a story world with your imagination as guide.

This situation in Wuhan and beyond is the beginning of great plots for novels, films, short stories, poems and other works of art.

One conspiracy theory that is prevalent in the discussion threads online is that the Novel Corona Virus is man made and unleashed into the Chinese society by someone for all kinds of nefarious purposes. The developers of these conspiracy theories present all kinds of end of world scenarios. The enterprising writer can tap into any of these theories or create his own theory.

And please, don’t tell me that these stories have been written already.

Many years ago I asked my class to come up with an invention or a process that could change the world for the better. This was a class of almost forty students of business. They told me that everything that needed to be invented was already invented so there was nothing left to invent. That was the period before smart phones, flat screen televisions; before amazon... And that was that. We moved on. Until new inventions showed us that there were many more where those came from.

Same with stories. The potential is there for you to come up with all kinds of novel twists, if you are willing to try. The New Corona Virus scare is a great prompt to use to write that first story. I am almost sure that every story that will be written about the course of this virus will be different and worth the read. So, instead of scaring yourself, write your story and scare many others instead. There is a market for these kinds of stories, but I don’t have to tell you that. Instead of waiting and worrying, live and write.

Be safe and take all the necessary precautions to prevent yourself from contracting the virus. 

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About the Author

Janette B. Fuller is a teacher and author of three books. Her business is to write stories set in the place she knows best – Jamaica – while also helping writers to write their own stories. When you are ready to write your story, make contact with her @ writingwisdomtree@gmail.com. Check out her books here



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