Television, books, and movies seem to be overwhelmed with stories about the apocalypse, but why has it become so popular? Obviously, these types of stories have existed in the past, but it has exploded in the past few years. I started thinking about what the fascination could be and why we’re so interested in the apocalypse. Why is there such a big draw toward stories about the end of mankind?
At first, I assumed that maybe people are feeling unsatisfied with how the world is now, so the apocalypse would sort of give us the chance to “start over”. Perhaps people are bored with their jobs, annoyed with paying bills, etc. and they want to live in a world where all you had to focus on was your survival. Maybe the apocalypse would give most people an equal chance to be happy. Then I started to think that’s a bit morbid and there must be more to it than that. Worrying about your loved ones’ survival, fighting diseases without medicine, and living without technology wouldn’t exactly be paradise. We’ve evolved to live this way because it gives us the best chance of living a happy and healthy life (although not everyone benefits from this). However, the idea that we could live in a much simpler world is something that could be appealing to readers.
From a writing standpoint, penning a novel about the apocalypse provides incredible creative freedom. I started writing one because I wanted to see myself as a main character. I wanted to see what I would do if I was in a situation like that. How would I survive? What would I do? Where would my boundaries lie? Writing about the apocalypse allows us to explore mankind’s deepest issues. Thinking about how far people would go to survive is fascinating and thinking about what YOU would personally do is sometimes frightening. I think readers also like to put themselves in the minds of the main characters of these novels.
Exploring creative freedom further, through apocalyptic novels writers are able to create a whole new world—even if it has to be somewhat based on our own world. We can turn our world into something different and explore different themes. Even if an apocalyptic novel has villains like “zombies”, the antagonist often becomes mankind in general. Fantasy provides this element, but apocalyptic novels feel more real. They usually feel like they could actually happen. That’s appealing to readers because it’s also terrifying. Technically our society could end at any time, so it all seems possible.
Now that we’ve hopefully starting thinking more about our own novels, here are a few tips on writing a great apocalyptic novel:
Pick a theme
Many apocalyptic novels or post-apocalyptic novels revolve around some sort of theme. You still shouldn’t preach to your audience, but you should try to have a point-of-view. Think about what you’re trying to say with your novel. Is your story a commentary on how people treat each other? Are you talking about violence? A good theme will help people relate to your story on a deeper level.
Choose your monster
These types of novels can be overwhelming if there’s too many “monsters”. Decide what you want to be the main antagonist. Disease? Other people? Zombies? Vampires? Weather? There are many factors that could lead to a post apocalyptic situation, so take the time to figure out where your story is going.
Know the rules of your world
Whatever rules you make for your world, you need to stick with them. If it’s in the future and there’s different technology, make sure it’s all the same throughout. If your zombies contracted a disease somehow through a specific way, keep it that way. Know your world just as well as you know your story.
Don’t forget your characters
The weakness of many post apocalyptic novels is usually character development. I know the situation of your novel is interesting, but you need to take the time to figure out your characters and what they want. Survival will probably be one of their worries, but you need to develop it further. Where are they going? How will they get there? Character development is always important no matter what the premise of the story is.