Friday, December 14, 2012

Choose Your Own Apocalypse & DL's Deja Vu Blogfest

Note: My entry for the Deja Vu Blogfest can be found below.  I missed that it was going on until late, so I'm adding it to the post that was already on here.  


Perhaps you've heard, or maybe not, but the world is ending Friday, December 21, 2012, or so say the Mayans (or at least the people who have decided this is what the Mayans had to say).  How am I preparing?  Why, by having a party! Come join Chuck, of Apocalypse Now, and myself for the Choose Your Own Apocalypse Blog Fest, next Friday, December 21, 2012.

Assuming the world doesn't end until later in the day, it should be quite the party!

You see, while many people think the world really is going to end on Friday, the 21st, most of them can't agree on HOW.  Will it be an alien invasion?  Zombies? Collision with a mighty meteor?  The super flu?  Solar flares?  Oh my, there are so many ways the world could conceivably end, but what we want to know is how you, yes YOU, think it will happen.

The rules are simple:
1. Choose your apocalypse
2. Sign up on the linky below
3. Tell us how you prepared for your survival amongst everyone else's demise
4. Describe your apocalypse and how it's going down
5. Make sure the badge is displayed on your blog
6. Visit your fellow survivors and see how their world ended

Other than that, make it whatever you'd like!

We've only got a week before the world ends, so please help get the word out!


DL Hammons is running the Deja Vu Blogfest today, where we get to re-post our favorite post.  In a fun coincidence, my favorite happens to concern writing post-apocalyptic fiction.

Originally posted May 28, 2012

You've envisioned a world where some large-scale event has wiped out hordes of humanity.  Your characters are alive in your head, probably struggling to survive.  You can see the blighted landscape all around you.  What do you need to do now?

There are a few things that must be part of your post-apocalyptic story, or you have no story.  Let's take a peek.

#1. An apocalyptic event.  That's right, you can't have a post-apocalyptic world without something that got them there.  What will yours be?  Viral, bacterial, natural, man-made, space-related or nuclear?  These are all options, and there are probably plenty more.  Did the swine flu get out of hand?  Was it helped by humanity or just one of those things that happens in nature?  Did the Earth tilt too far off its axis?  Did nuclear Hell flame rain down upon the continents?  There must be a reason the people in your story are stuck in this particular landscape.

#2. A time frame.  Are they living through the event or has it already happened?  Is it fresh or decades down the line?  You have to know when it happened and what stage humanity is in to really tell your story.  If it happened decades ago, the landscape is going to be significantly different than if it just happened yesterday.  Quality of life will also probably be very different.  If they've been coping for decades, they probably aren't struggling to find food or water sources as much as if it just happened and everything is tainted or burning.  If it's a new problem, there will be mostly individuals and small groups, whereas a length of time may mean there are established towns/cities.

#3. A fully realized landscape.  World building is important in any story, but you need to build this post-apocalyptic world so that people see your vision of what it looks like.  They must know what your characters' reality looks like.  Are there fires raging?  Or is everything underwater?  Are there bodies everywhere?  Or has nature reclaimed what once was solely hers?  Let us know what it is your characters are looking at.  Make sure it makes sense for passage of time and the particular event that occurred.

#4. Strong characters.  We need to believe that these people can make it (or not, as the case may be).  It must be a real struggle.  We have to care whether they can survive, one way or another.  Maybe we hate this guy so much that we question why he survived, when better people died.  Maybe we love this character and desperately want to see her rebuild her life.  Whichever characters you have, we must believe in them, and they must have a mission, of sorts.  Does Evil Guy want to take over what remains of the world?  Find natural resources to survive?  Or just be left alone?  Does Lovely Heroine have a child to fend for?  Is she just trying to find a home she can call her own?  What drives them?  What are they trying to accomplish?  This is important in every single kind of story you may write, but don't get so intent on your world building that you forget your characters.

#5. A purpose.  Alright, we get it.  The world has ended.  The apocalypse has found us.  Whoopty-doo.  What is so important about this world that you just have to tell the story?  What are we going to take away from this?  I'm not talking about a moral (necessarily), but just a life story that means something to us when we read it.  A violent post-apocalyptic world, where survivors are constantly under siege, does us no good if we don't come out of the story feeling something.  Perhaps you want us to know that humanity will always find a way to thrive.  Or that love will always pull someone through.  Whatever it is, make it part of your story.

There are many elements that are important in a story, but these are just a few of the top ones to keep in mind when writing a post-apocalyptic tale.  Now that those stories are becoming more popular, it's important to keep them high quality.  Want to read a story that takes something familiar and turns it on its head, all the while showing us the strength of humanity and the power of good versus evil?  Read Stephen King's The Stand.  Watch Book of Eli for another viewpoint.  There's also The Road, Mad Max, Water World (hey, I'm not saying these are all good), The Postman, Jericho and The Walking Dead for movies/television shows.  For books, this link should take you to a comprehensive list of classic post-apocalyptic stories.  Of course, The Hunger Games and Forest of Hands and Teeth should be on there.  Also, I read Without Warning by John Birmingham recently, on a whim, and I enjoyed it.  It was more a political/government/military-type book that took on what happened in those facets, so different than I'm used to for this genre, but also quite good.  I don't know how The Marbury Lens and The Maze Runner are qualified, but I'd consider both to be sort of post-apocalyptic.  We really aren't sure with The Maze Runner, but we get a sense something big must have happened, and in The Marbury Lens, the alternative world he visits via the lens seems quite post-apocalyptic.  Both are excellent books, though be aware that The Marbury Lens can be graphic or disturbing, despite being Young Adult.

The short of it is, fully realize your story so we can be drawn into it, feel for your characters, smell the fires, feel a sniffle coming on as everyone dies of the Hulk of flu bugs.  Watch some of these movies or read some of the books (or both) and figure out what you like in them, so you can duplicate that, in a sense.

In your opinion, what are other important aspects of a post-apocalyptic tale?  What books or movies might you recommend?  How do you envision the apocalypse?  (Wait, don't tell me!  Save it for the Choose Your Own Apocalypse Blog Fest!)

May you find your Muse.

* Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887; Viktor Vasnetsov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
** Stalingrad after the battle; See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
***The aftermath of Hurrican Camille. Ruins of Texaco gas station with Rambler automobile, Biloxi, Mississippi, 17 August 1969


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a fun idea for a blogfest! My last posting day will be December 19, but I'll gladly mention this fest next week for you.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Alex, thanks! Too bad, I would have liked to see what your apocalypse was, but totally understand.

mshatch said...

sounds like fun, let me give it some thought and see if I can come up with how I want the world to end and me to survive!

Huntress said...

So many possibilities, so little time.

Spanj said...

This sounds like so much fun! I've blogged about it on Tumblr, so that will get it around a bit!

Unknown said...

Man, I so want to do this blogfest (the hilarity is already tugging at me), but I'm not sure I'll be able to squeeze it in (lots of travel the next couple of weeks ... and other things). Definitely going try to read/comment on all of the entries, though. Sounds like too much fun--unless zombies, etc. really do get us all next week. Either way, you'll probably find me smiling as it's just my way. ;-)

Andrew Leon said...

Well, it does sound fun, but it's so close, I don't know if I can work it in. I have so much to do right now!
If I get an idea, I'll come back.

Cherie Reich said...

Sounds like a fun blogfest, but I already have something planned that day.

DL Hammons said...

I like how your Deja Vu post ties in directly to your blogfest! Very clever. :)

Thanks for taking part today!

Gossip_Grl said...

Great posting and tying in the two I agree was a great idea! I've tried not thinking about the whole apocalypse, but I like your posting on it. :/

Chuck said...

Shannon, I'm plugged in! After a really rough day at work I think I experienced the first wave of the Apocalypse!! I have something up shortly.

farawayeyes said...

Purpose or purpose more than general survival is so important in a dystopian type story. So often writers think it's interesting enough that the characters simply struggle to survive. That's a little obvious. I want to see a great purpose, of course they want to survive, but for what?

Dianne K. Salerni said...

After reading a CNN article about luxury underground bunkers, I had an idea to write about a group of people who were conned into moving into one, believing the world was ending. I abandoned the story about 5 chapters in for all the reasons you mention above.

A fake disaster is not as interesting as a real one. People locked in the bunker cannot experience real loss or trauma. They were weak characters to start with, because they were foolish enough to be conned. And they had no purpose in the story, other than to eventually figure it out.

FAIL. All around. And a lesson learned for me.

Lydia Kang said...

I need to read some of those books you listed to round out my apoc reading list!

baygirl32 said...

I'm in on the blogfest :)

michelle said...

Post-apocalyptic stories? I need to read some of these, since I'm sorely lacking in that department. This means I don't really qualify for your blogfest. You've provided a great list of books for anybody requiring "post-apocalyptic empowerment..."

Anonymous said...

An excellent post with excellent tips. Thanks!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Neat idea to tie your deja vu post with your blogfest. As much fun as it would be to imagine the demise of all life as we know it, I'm afraid I won't be around the computer to play with y'all. Have fun, though!

Another really good post-apocalyptic book and movie is "On the Beach." They came out in the '50s, and I can still remember how chilling that movie was.

KM Nalle said...

I love me a good end of the world story. The Stand is probably my favorite. It was the first end of world book I read when I was a teen and I suppose in some way it's the measuring stick I use when reading other stories of the same nature.

I loved Jericho and my addiction to The Walking Dead still surprises me since Zombies aren't my thing.

Christine Rains said...

What a fun blogfest! I don't think the world will end on the 21st. Unless they're blown away by my cover reveal! Ha!

Nicole said...

Good tips! I especially like #5.

JJ said...

Shannon: I am your newest follower from the blog fest. Cheers!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

In movies, I don't think you can beat 2012 unless there's one where the whole universe implodes.

I might have to sign up for that blogfest!

Trisha said...

OK, definitely got to sign up for this, though right now I have no hilarious ideas for what to say in my entry! But I'm sure inspiration will strike between now and then :P said...

What a fabulous idea!
Love the post.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Marcy, no apocalypse ideas?

Huntress, I know! Wish I'd thought of it earlier and everyone would have had a lot more time.

Angeline, I appreciate it! I've not been introduced to Tumblr yet.

EJ, nothing wrong with being cheerful during Armageddon!

Andrew, sad sigh, no ideas, huh?

Cherie, a cover reveal!

DL, that's my favorite post from last year, but it was awesome that it tied in so well. It gave me a kick.

Gossip_Grl, aw, sorry. It is scary to think about, and hard not to have an occasional "what if" doubt.

Chuck, that definitely sounds like a bad day of work if it's like the apocalypse! I've had those days...

Farawayeyes, excactly! There does need to be more than just survival. Interlaced plots. Aren't we surviving every day in one way or another?

Dianne, ugh, sorry, but lessons like those are probably important for us. I've had things like that, where I finally go, "What's the point??"

Lydia, there are some good ones in there! I hope you like them.

Baygirl, woo-hoo!

Michelle, haha I like it: post-apocalyptic empowerment.

Ibdiamond, thank you!

Susan, not sure I've heard of that one, so I will look it up, thanks!

Kari, you reminded me that I've been meaning to see if they have Jericho on Netflix. I do love The Stand.

Christine, looks like it wasn't enough to end the world, but it's still an awesome cover!

Nicole, thank you! That is the one I think it's easiest to overlook.

JJ, delighted to have you here!

L. Diane, so glad you did! I'm watching 2012 right now.

Trisha, and it did!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Madeleine, so glad you joined!