It’s a dilemma, one I faced when writing Magical Ties. The book takes place on Long Island but at one point, the main character, Emily, travels to Manhattan. In a post-9/11 world, I struggled with whether to mention the changes that horrific event created. Ultimately, Emily traveled only to a train station on East 14th Street, so it was unnecessary. And yes, that was deliberate on my part.
In these uncertain times, I’m left with a struggle that’s similar but much wider in scope. I’ve already started book two of Emily’s adventures (but early enough that I can change things). The question is, should I?
Placing characters inside the pandemic or its aftermath can either draw readers in (“Yes, I can relate”) or alienate them (“I’m reading to escape, dammit!”). And the weirdness of time factors in as well. Which will date the story faster? If we can get past this as a painful and difficult period in the world’s history, putting the pandemic into our stories will eventually date them. But if our lifestyles are permanently changed, not mentioning it will also date the stories. (Anyone else feel mildly uncomfortable watching old TV ads that feature large groups of people with no social distancing?)
I don’t have an answer. But I welcome comments.