In my creative writing class that I was teaching for our local college, cut short by the pandemic, I stressed the value of ratcheting up tension as your book progresses.
Well, welcome to the real world, where the tension is rising nearly every day.
On Friday, the governor of Michigan shut down the Capitol in Lansing in fear of armed protesters. For the past week, lawmakers have been debating how to safely enable lawmakers to work and vote in session while the state’s laws allow people to bring firearms into the capitol building. The debate grew in intensity as some lawmakers read about threats to the governor’s life on social media, which were published in the Detroit Metro Times.
There’s a tense video on YouTube filmed by a female customer in a Trader Joe’s, arguing with a young worker who was trying to enforce company policy by asked the woman to wear a face mask. The discussion grew heated, the young man called the police, who never showed up, and the woman finally left. When she did, the other customers in the store applauded.
A Target employee in California ended up with a broken arm as she helped escort two customers who also refused to wear masks.
In Pennsylvania, a female convenience store clerk refused to sell a man who refused to wear a mask a pack of cigars. He punched three times in the face.
In Texas, a man was told he couldn’t ride a public bus if he didn’t put on a face mask. He shot another passenger who ended up in the hospital and the gunman was arrested.
Then in Flint, Michigan, a security guard outside a dollar story insisted that a customer wear a face mask. The guard was shot and killed.
On a much lesser note, but still ugly, I was in line at our Food Lion, wearing a mask. As the lady behind the counter checked me out and I place my groceries in my cart, I turned to put my credit card in the machine to pay. I saw a man and woman standing right next to me, neither of whom were wearing masks. I politely asked the man to please step back. In a loud belligerent voice, he said, “Where do you want me to go? The back of the store?”
Wanting to defuse the situation, I didn’t tell him where I really wanted him to go.
The poor clerk smiled sadly and told me, “Have a nice day, honey.
I’m working from home and in my spare time, I’m working on edits for my fourth mystery, Shadow Hill. But it’s difficult not to fall down an internet rabbit hole when an alert pops up on my phone letting me know when some new kernel of news has arrived. Usually, it’s bad news.
It’s not productive. At some point I just switch it all off and lose myself in my work. It’s a little like a movie or a book where the tension has nearly peaked.
So my advice is that when the world serves you more tension than you think you can handle, turn it off, go for a walk or open your work in progress and lose yourself in that.
Stay safe and stay healthy.