Writing about characters who aren’t social distancing is actually a bit difficult. This is a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic that I must admit I did not expect.
I just wrote about a boy who comes up to stand next to a girl and I hesitated because alarms went off in my brain. It’s not safe for him to do that! All the kids are standing too close together! They can’t get in the van together! They shouldn’t walk on the sidewalk among the crowds!
Of course, these alarm bells are for the current and real world and do not apply to my characters, who are perfectly safe from COVID-19. My characters are completely unaware of the real world pandemic and therefore don’t take care to avoid crowds and stay six feet away from people. That’s just my brain panicking. Every time I write about my characters doing something that would be dangerous in this world but isn’t in theirs, I catch myself hesitating. My brain automatically thinks up alternatives for them to keep them from a danger they are not privy to. I have to force myself forward with whatever dangerous thing it is they’re doing, whether it’s going to a restaurant or sharing a park bench with a stranger.
Not only does my brain keep stopping me, but I feel the panic every time it does. It’s getting to be every line that I catch myself stopping, and I have to take a moment to remind myself that the danger won’t affect them and force myself onward. I keep getting worried for no reason, and then I feel stupid for worrying but it just kind of happens.
Writing them in what is now a different world, carefree and together, puts me on edge. I keep reminding myself the danger isn’t real, and then remembering that it is, actually, just not for my characters. Of course, I know all this in my head, it’s more my subconscious and gut reaction to what I’m writing. My fingers keep halting before I realize what they’ve done, my thoughts jump ahead before I can stop them, and I keep having to remind myself everything’s okay. Or not okay, really, actually. But still, okay in my big bad book. This constant back and forth is exhausting. I just want to put my characters in a big house with everything they could need and let them ride this out safely.
And yet, I’m eager to keep going back to their world, where things are safe and no one will die by an invisible virus which spreads without anyone’s knowledge and kills in the most horrible ways. And it’s not like I have anything better to do. I just keep writing.