Thursday, 17 January 2013

Writing Post-Apocalyptic Fiction - My Top 10 Tips

THE CLEARING, Book 2 in my post-apocalyptic series came out this week and I'm already scribbling away on Book 3. Hoping to release it this summer if I can.
I'm really enjoying writing it. there's something about this genre which I find compelling. It sends shivers down my spine but despite this, I love to immerse myself in those terrifying end-of-the-world situations.
A few weeks ago I blogged about writing dystopian and post-apoc fiction over on Author's Anon. I've reposted it below for those of you who missed it:

My personal top ten elements for writing a great post-apocalyptic novel:
1. Make your setting original.
There have been oodles of futuristic New Yorks and Londons and a plethora of abandoned dystopian ‘facilities’. We’ve had kids battling to the death in arenas and gory zombie apocalypses. Worlds have been divided into ‘Factions’ and ‘Areas’, ‘Districts’ and ‘Zones’.
Put your own personal twist on the fall of society.
2. Sanctuaries
Locating them, getting into them and saving them from destruction. That’s all part of great post-apocalyptic fiction. Along with finding food, medical supplies, clothing and other survival gear.
3. Struggle
Decide whether your story is about struggling to save and change the world or whether it’s about a character’s struggle to adapt and survive within that world. It can be both, but have a clear idea about it before you go in. Do they succeed in their struggle? Or does everything unravel?
4. Why is your character special?
Did they get lucky? Are they equipped with specialist survival skills? Are they a victim? Why did they make it when everyone else died?
5. The Threat
Who or what is it? A person? A creature? A hostile environment? Are there multiple threats?
6. Authenticity and continuity
There are two main types of post-apocalyptic fiction. There’s gritty reality - the ‘what if’ scenario where life-as-we-know-it ends. And then there’s pure fantasy – zombies and dystopian societies etc. But whatever you choose to write about, make it as authentic as you can. If you’re writing about zombies, set parameters for them. What can they do? How can they harm you? And remember to never ever call them ‘zombies’ – there are ‘walkers’, ‘deadheads’, ‘the unconsecrated’ and a gazillion other names for the undead. Make up your own. Be consistent and make your world totally believable.
7. Technology
Does your world have any? Or did it all die with the end of civilisation? Or is there now even more advanced technology? Either way, talk about it and show it or the lack of it. What are the implications?
8. Atmosphere
Create a distinctive atmosphere for your novel. Whether it’s dark and claustrophobic or menacing and suspenseful, try and keep that feeling running through the story so your reader gets a real sense of being in another time and place. Perhaps it’s a world of extremes where you have luxury and decadence in the face of poverty and oppression. Either way, make the scenes ooze with atmosphere.
9. Before and After
What was the world like before the fall? What is it like now? Was it the same as the real world or was it something else? I want to know details. I want to see landscapes or cityscapes. I want to picture the before and after.
10. Hope
Even if everything is bleak and horrendous and it all seems futile, you have to plant a tiny nugget of hope somewhere in the story or we might as well all lie down and die.

Feel free to let me know if you think I’ve left anything out . . .

More online resources:
Writing Apocalyptic Stories
Apocalyptic Fiction Authors Beware
How to Write a Post-Apocalyptic Story
Best Post-Apocalyptic Novels