So, we’ve been in lockdown for many months now. At first we weren’t sure that it was going to happen and then – all of a sudden – it did. We were not allowed to go out, except to go shopping for essential supplies or for an hour of exercise. Bars were closed, as were restaurants, cafés, galleries, cinemas, libraries … Visits to friends and families were no longer possible. We went into a shutdown. But that didn’t mean that we had to stop seeing people.
All of a sudden the media was full of stories about Zoom, Facebook and WhatsApp. We were being bombarded with tales of people being interrupted by their children or their pets, or of businesspeople only being dressed from the waist up. It seemed that the whole world – or at least that part of it that the media was interested in – had gone online. I wasn’t immune to it. My local writing group moved from fortnightly meetings in the upstairs room of a local pub, to weekly meetings via Skype. My reading group kept meeting monthly to discuss (and in my case, denigrate) our chosen books. For a while it was fun. Different. But now … ?
Right now, I long to see other people in the flesh. Far from connecting me, the use of video apps and voice channels helped me feel more isolated from the world. For a few hours I would hear voices of people I know, and then it would be back to the same four walls. It took me a few weeks to realise what it was that I was missing.
So much of our communication is non-verbal. We rely on subtle cues to tell us when somebody has finished speaking or when somebody else thinks they have a point to make. These cues can be as blatant as raising a hand or as subtle as a glance between friends. And then there are the other, more intimate senses. Smell, taste, touch, pressure, warmth. When we are with people, as opposed to just seeing them or hearing them – we get so much more. But, staring into screens, looking at grainy images of compressed video or listening to sidebanded audio channels can only give us so much.
But what does this have to do with writing? Well, when you are describing a character, when you are writing about their interactions with the world, there is more to it than just the words. You need to bring your characters out from the 2D world of the page and surpass the 3D world that claims to be reality. Bring your characters to life. Give them quirks. Insert small gestures into their conversations. Allow the reader to notice things about them. But please – don’t go too far. You don’t want to be thought of as the literary equivalent of William Castle, do you?
OMP Admin Note: John Nedwill is a writer, OMP Network member, and a regular #OneMillionProject Blogger. His work can be found on Wattpad.com and in the One Million Project’s Short Story Anthologies published in February 2018.
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