A couple of months ago, I justified spending time writing on the grounds that the world needs positive stories (Pondering the Pandemic). Since then, things have gotten worse. We appear to be recovering from the pandemic, but there is still so much we don’t know about COVID-19. There’s no vaccine and treatments remain uncertain. Meanwhile, I’ve learned I have a cancer that probably won’t kill me, but does compromise my immune system. I’m more likely to be a carrier, and more likely have complications if I develop COVID-19.
But the pandemic has become old news, replaced by stories of racist murders, the protests those killings have sparked, the riots that follow some protests, the trampling of protest and press rights, and the escalating authoritarian madness coming from the American president.
With all this going on, I still believe we need positive stories, though in the last few months I have done nothing to contribute to that pool. My first romance, Ocean’s Lure (new title!), was with beta readers (the comments were mostly supportive). I could have been working on another story, but I started a new day job, and my editing sideline saw three projects originally to be done in sequence all come due at the same time. Another few weeks, and Ocean’s Lure will get its last revision before publication, coming late summer or fall.
When I talk about writing positive stories, since I am writing romance, the key aspect is they demonstrate people finding supportive and healthy relationships. Within the genre, that’s the HEA – happy ever after. That does not necessarily mean the relationships are always a straight white man marrying a straight white woman. And even if that is the primary relationship in the story, I may sneak a less conventional relationship into backstory or subplot, and frame it in a positive manner.
However, there are other things I like to promote in my work. I believe every story is a political statement – it expresses what is good and bad about various power relations, group decisions, use of resources, and so on. So I try and show my characters, or at least my good characters, as respecting the environment, being concerned about poverty, achieving satisfying work, enjoying creative expression, appreciating (and representing) sexual and racial diversity, and so on.
It is easy to say that none of this is realistic. People end up in lousy relationships, with lousy jobs, and racism and sexism persist. Yes, that may be the reality, but stories can tell us what is possible. Writing and reading stories that portray optimistic solutions to social problems is itself an act of optimism, and a first step to resistance and change, leading to a better world.