Considering all of the changes that have occurred along our eastern seaboard, change seemed an appropriate topic today. Change is a problem writers of contemporary fiction must always consider. Of course you want your characters to change during the course of a story, and you want a change in the situation—villains caught, lovers united, and goals reached. The question is, do you use real places in your story?
Using actual locations gives verisimilitude to a story. If I mention the Statue of Liberty, the reader immediately has a picture of that landmark. It sets the location of the story. It may even bring up memories if the reader has ever been there or sailed by it.
But what do you do if you’ve written a story using actual landmarks or streets or restaurants and suddenly those locations are gone? Movies and books that had anything happening at the Twin Towers were immediately dated after September 11, 2001. Think of the books that mention the New Jersey Boardwalk. From the TV images I’ve seen, it’s gone. Perhaps it will be rebuilt (actually, I’m sure it will be), but how long will that take and will it be the same?
Are your characters riding the New York subway? Flying into JFK? Touring the HMS Bounty? Heading for an Atlantic City casino?
If the story is already in print, the reality may date it. If you’re still in the process of writing the story, do you make changes to reflect the damage from Hurricane Sandy?
I feel so sorry for those who have been impacted by the hurricane. I can’t imagine what it must be like to discover your entire neighborhood has been destroyed by fire, or that your house has been flooded and a foot of sand now covers everything. As a boat owner, I groan whenever they show those images of boats piled on top of each other. I wonder how you tell the insurance company that holds your boat policy that your boat is now sitting on a railroad track. Will they cover that?
But, of course, these changes will give writers new story ideas, and the reality that will be expressed in contemporary stories will reflect mankind’s ability to survive and triumph. Change is inevitable but wow, I do feel sorry for those now dealing with the changes Hurricane Sandy has created.
Oh, one other change that occurred this week: The Big Six will now be the Big Five. Soon we’ll have Random Penguins running around.