As I was reading the newspaper this morning, I got to thinking about how world events impact writers as we plot a story. With all the major headlines, and our ability to get news 24/7 on many different types of reading devices, getting information about current events for our stories is just a keystroke away. (Yes, I still sit down every morning with an old-fashion print newspaper. It’s my quiet time before I start the day.)
Certainly what is going on in the world tends to work well in suspense and thrillers. Any book that features characters in the military or police agencies may mirror what we read in the newspaper. Yet when the author adds actual world events, it makes the story immediate. We can imagine ourselves in the line of fire in a sandy desert somewhere or in a foreign city running for our lives because of certain secret information in our possession. I’ve never been in any kind of dangerous occupation, but I love edge of the seat stories that keep me turning the page to find out how the characters will get through danger and stay alive.
I tend to write stories about characters who live in small towns. How do current events fit in? What about a world-weary traveler returning home after months of working in a refugee camp? Now all he wants is to experience peace. A wounded soldier back from deployment. How does he cope with what he’s seen and done? Or perhaps the photojournalist trying to deal with upsetting memories because of an assignment. A character who has had enough crime in the big city and wants to retreat to simpler life in a small town.
What about the news of a smaller scope? Local or regional. Not big enough to make the front page, but compelling enough to make a writer wonder, what if, and run with an idea from there. Again, with our access to the internet, there are all kinds of news and special interest stories out there to catch the eye of a writer for use in a future story.
Now, let’s take the current events and apply it to our characters. This gives us another layer of depth in an already emotional story. How have these events shaped heroes or heroines? Will the events they’ve experienced determine the decisions they make? What a way to build conflict.
The possibilities of adding the pressure of happenings in our small towns, big cities and worldwide are endless in story creation. Adding current events is the bridge of our imaginary characters to real life. Done well, these events add another dimension to the world the author has created.
So, I have to ask, as a reader, do you like current events in the books you read? Is it too much invasion of the real world? Does it add a layer of immediacy you crave? I’m curious to hear what you think.