Too Soon Tragedy

Hi Jim,

I wanted to ask you about writing about tragic events. Example, let’s say you’re writing a story that’s taking place in the modern day and then something happens, does that alter your writing?
Let me give you an example… Part of one of my stories is set in Berkeley California. There was a major riot out here and part of the area that I was writing about was damaged as a result. Do you think I should ignore it or address it in the story? I’m concerned that when people read it, they’ll be a little upset because its still a fresh wound.


Hi Melinda,

Good question and you happen to be in luck. I had a very similar situation happen to me. I was at work and it was a slow day (Marathon Monday in Boston). I opened MS word and was typing up a couple of scenes for Magnifica, which takes place in Boston. An hour or so into it, I received a ping on my phone from a friend that was downtown to turn on the news.

Yeah… the Boston bombing happened literally right where one of my scenes was taking place. I had to think about how I wanted to handle this. I know that some people may think that I was cashing in on a tragedy (the same criticism was levied against Mark Wahlberg for his movie about it).

In the end, I just didn’t see it as realistically feasible for the scene to continue to take place in that location given the police presence and repairs that would be needed over the next few months, so I moved it from Boylston Street to Newbury Street. If you know Boston, this would make sense.

Honestly, I’d say that if its realistically feasible, I’d bring it up in the story. Don’t bring your story to a halt, just have your characters notice it and move on back to the story. If the area isn’t majorly significant to the plot, it should be fine.

If it is significant to the plot and the damage affects whether or not you can continue to use that area logically… I’d say move it.

Your other option, and I’d recommend against this, would be to date your story prior to the riots. I call this time-machining. I honestly would recommend against this as it strains suspension of disbelief, but its up to you.

Hope this helps. Feel free to email me if you need additional help!


Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!



2 thoughts on “Too Soon Tragedy

  1. Dacia says:

    Thanks for this advice. I have wondered this myself, as my novel is set in real places in Colorado…

    I do have a question along the same lines:
    How important in fiction-dystopian writing is geographical accuracy and specificity? People living here would know the difference and could be distracted by inaccuracies. People that are not familiar with the area may get lost in the details. And maybe the book hits big and fanatics want to follow the journey for themselves just to find it doesn’t exist. What direction would you go?


  2. I’m currently writing about a time and place thirty or more years in the past. It was an entirely different world back then. The places I’m speaking of have changed beyond recognition in most circumstances. Still, I’m writing as I remember. I’m not so concerned about addressing present day issues, though the lessons learned can span more than a single lifetime (or so I hope). So, no, I wouldn’t worry about changing my story due to current events, I’d stick with the plotline and just let it flow as it will. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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