P is for Post-Apocalyptic
Sure, we all like the apocalyptic part of the story where the world gets trashed, people die and the good guys and bad guys have a stand-off at a gas station on a deserted country road. But an important part of this genre is the survival and potential rebuilding after the event. It’s not always necessary to have a ‘post’ to your apocalyptic story as they can work perfectly well as just a story of the event itself, but if you are going to have a post, or if your main focus is post there are some important factors to consider.
Scenario: Any apocalyptic book has an ending – either the crisis is averted, humankind decides to rebuild or everyone dies. Post-apocalyptic books have a slightly different ending in that you can make them a little more open ended, or you can go the whole hog and write a whole series! The difference is that apocalyptic books attract the readers more inclined to non-stop action whereas post-apocalyptic attracts the human-interest types. Please note, this is a generalization! I personally love both kinds of books, so I definitely don’t expect all other readers to sit peacefully on their side of the fence.
Characters: Try and avoid clichés, please. Pretty please. You can throw in the odd action-hero type if you like, but make them slightly flawed or unique – a sarcastic sense of humour, a tragic past that causes them to freeze up at inopportune moments, an Achilles heel in the form of a favourite food – anything that makes them more realistic and relatable. Anti-heroes will make your story stand out from the rest – that geeky guy who survives the zombapocalypse is going to be a hit with all of us that have an inner geek, the scared girl that faces her fears, the kid that isn’t afraid of that pesky alien and the mother that sucker-punches a zombie will make your story all the more memorable and realistic.
Location: Long-term survival and rebuilding is only possible in a stable location – isolated farm houses, old forts, wildlife parks or islands are good locations being easily defendable, established and have easy access to scavenging locations. Feel free to move your stable location as required – take the whole gang on a road trip when the farm house gets a bit small – it’s also a way to spice up your story if writing about planting potatoes is getting you down.
Series or stand-alone: Despite my well known dislike of series (I’m impatient, OK?!), a lot of post-apocalyptic stories work very well as series due to the time needed to establish situation, characters and make the long-term survival of your group realistic. Or make it a really long-stand alone!
Recommended by Me
Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon
Pages: 865 (paperback)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Published: 2006 by Knopf Doubleday
Pages: 241 (hardcover)
A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.
P.S. - I'm kinda stoked that Post-Apocalyptic fell today - it's my favourite genre and it's my birthday!! Yay!!