Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Science of Survival: Talking Post-Apocalyptic Books

I've been wanting to do a feature on survivalist fiction for a long time. What I write is a unique mix of survival, post-apocalyptic adventure and romance. I love all of those elements. Right now I'm currently reading DeADINBURGH, by Mark Wilson and Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I know of) by F.J.R. Titchenell. Both of them are authors that I discovered through interviewing them on Writing Belle. The reason I read zombie fiction is because I love the survival aspect. The reason I watch The Walking Dead (periodically, with a blanket over my head during the scary parts....) is for the same reason. I like the nitty gritty light that survival stories shed on the humanity of characters. What will they do to survive? It's a fascinating premise, and today I want to show you how to create an amazing survivalist story, too! 

  • Get desperate. The all-time awesome medal for survival stories goes to Robinson Crusoe (for me, at least). If you're writing a survival story, the tension in the plot really sizzles if you take a character completely out of their element and put them somewhere really desperate. Quickly. 
  • Get real. No doubt about it. We've all wondered how we would survive without bottled water and cable programming. Go without your smartphone for just one day and you'll realize how much you use it for seemingly trivial tasks such as calling home to ask if you should bring dinner. Give your characters this realization. They should feel the strain just like you would. 
  • Grow up. For a little while, your characters are entitled to being Debbie Downers about the entire situation. At some point they need to step up to the plate and perform, though. Don't forget this. In my novels, Cassidy Hart was initially scared to death and naive about every move she made - and now she's a kick-butt sniper in a militia. Basically what I'm saying here is that even in a survival story, you need healthy character growth. 
  • Find your setting. Regardless of whether or not your character is flung into a survival situation in outer space (Gravity, anyone?) or in the middle of a desert (the horror of Tremors!), know your setting, and know it well. Know the conditions, know the weather, know the resources and know the size. Familiarize yourself with every aspect of that region but make your character blind to it from the get-go. They should slowly figure out what you already know. 
  • Be ruthless. Survival is ruthless, so get with the program. Just kidding! Well, only a little bit. Be realistic. Readers will know when you're faking it for the sake of the characters' dignity. 
  • Balance your cast. I have personally found that focusing on certain aspects of survival make the story more interesting. For example, self-defense and finding food are just two elements of staying alive. Find your focus and sprinkle in the peripheral. Find your shining star within your cast of characters. Unless your name is Koushan Takami and you wrote Battle Royale, try not to have more than thirty characters, you know what I'm saying? *wink* 

1 comment:

  1. I love this! I have been writing a sort of survivalist story and recently finished my third draft. This is some great info and really has me going back to think about a few choices I made. There are no zombies, but definitely plenty of creepers! Thanks for the great suggestions!


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