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Ashes to Ashes- Post Apocalypse Story

Discussion in 'World Building' started by SmokeScribe98, Mar 8, 2014.

  1. SmokeScribe98

    SmokeScribe98 Minstrel

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    Hi, I've left writing for quite a while now due to pressure from my GCSE revision but I've been contemplating what I want to write about when I get back into the swing of things. So far I've managed to create a short story which I think with some further polishing could be to a high enough standard to publish, I've also drafted some ideas down for a fantasy setting but after a while I realised just how daunting and overwhelming the task of building a world from scratch is, especially for a new writer. So after immersing myself in post apocalypse media, The Last of Us, The Fallout series, Metro for the last month or so I thought I could give it a shot myself.

    I've always loved post apocalypse stories for their different takes on things and the emotional struggle of the characters throughout it. After starting to watch The Walking Dead yesterday, a series which to my information has a colossal fan base I was rather disappointed that it followed so many zombie flick clichés. Unfortunately for me creations like The Last of Us and Fallout are some of the few to add a truly unique spin to things and serve as my inspiration to write a truly compelling post apocalypse narrative. After sharing the reasons why I disliked The Walking Dead I was told by my friend "could you do any better?". But you know, I think I actually could.

    Anyway, I was wondering if anybody here has any advice for anybody going into writing for the genre? I'm very passionate about it and thus far I have a few themes I fancy playing with but any input from you would be greatly appreciated.

    Themes I've come up with thus far include:
    1) A 1980's setting: I absolutely adore the 80's and honestly the idea only came to me when I was listening to Horse With No Name by America and imagined it playing as a man mounted on a horse trots through some desolate wasteland. With this setting we not only have fabulous music but a number of different political divisions that could carry on even after the end of civilisation, everybody wants to rule the world, right?
    2) A unique apocalypse scenario: I've seen the same apocalypse scenarios repeated time after time. Zombie takeovers and nuclear wars being the most prominent scenarios. But wouldn't it be better if it were something a little more special? One of the ideas buzzing around my mind at the moment involves a mission to either Europa or Mars, now what if something was picked up in one of these missions? Perhaps there is something in the water that they brought back? Something contagious..
    3) A character who isn't a bad-ass This is another common theme in apocalypse scenarios. The protagonist survives the apocalypse and usually immediately after killing his first zombie he can for some reason kill thousands of them brutally and violently without any guilt or deliberation. Why not have a character cling on to his beliefs and ideals for as long as he can instead of give them up the minute he gets in trouble? Why can't we have a character use strategy and stealth when combatting zombies and other enemies?

    Anyway, they're my ideas so far, love to hear your feedback. Grazzie.
     
  2. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    One thing I haven't seen thus far is a post-apocalyptic "fantasy" story; though there may be some out there. Even something as relatively mundane as small-pox or it's magical equivalent could reduce the populations of sentient creatures dramatically. That could give way to a necromancer raising the diseased bodies of the dead for zombies. I could see the racial enmity set aside for the sake of destroying the corpses of their kin that are suddenly trying to beat down their door. In comes the character who isn't bad-ass, maybe he's a chemist or nerdy sort that invents an easy way to kill the critters, but no one believes him, so he has to test it out himself.
     
  3. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    I have a world that you could call post-apocalyptic, though post-cataclysmic would probably be more accurate. It actually draws far more on Robert E. Howard's Hyborian and Thurian Ages than any current post-apocalyptic franchises.

    This world used to have a bunch of advanced civilizations sprawling across its surface, but after one mysterious global cataclysm, they all collapsed into ruins. Thus humanity reverted to small tribes and chiefdoms. Nonetheless they still regard their ancestors' ruins as hallowed ground they fear to trespass. I designed this setting because I thought it would be cool to have tribal people living in the shadow of their ancestors' eroded and overgrown civilization.

    Unlike your stereotypical post-apocalyptic setting, this world isn't predominantly wasteland. It has forests, jungles, grasslands, deserts, and so forth just like any other living world. It also enjoys an abundance of wildlife. If anything, wild animals are among the biggest threats to humanity (well, that and inter-tribal warfare). There are no zombies however.
     
  4. SmokeScribe98

    SmokeScribe98 Minstrel

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    Good advice. I kind of want to lean away from The Walking Dead attitude to things and have actual factions popping up. Something similar to Fallout New Vegas in that it's set a good few decades or centuries after the actual apocalypse. Doing that allows me to have allowed things to develop a fair bit.
     
  5. SmokeScribe98

    SmokeScribe98 Minstrel

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    I really think I'm on to something here so hearing your ideas would be wonderful :D I'm also finding it particularly hard to find an actual location that could be suitable. I want to try and avoid the U.S because it is so dreadfully overused but unfortunately the 1980's is a very American (at least Western) theme. I was also wondering whether to make it traditional 1980's technology or whether to make it more a 1980's future setting. By that I mean how the future was envisioned in the 1980's (anybody who played Far Cry 3's Blood Dragon dlc will know what I'm talking about).
     
  6. Tanihatu

    Tanihatu Scribe

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    Just on the point of Walking dead, I would say that if you watch it all the way to season 4 you will see that it is very character driven and the zombies are a mere side issue.

    Im not saying that the series doesn't have flaws but it has been part of my world building process when looking at character interaction and how you can get past the usual 'kill all zombies/run away' part of the genre.
     
  7. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    I have a post-apocalyptic story as well... set barely 10 years after the world calmed down somewhat. Cities are in ruins, most of mankind is back to living in small villages in remote places, except those that still linger in the cities. I didn't choose a particular "place" for the story to be set; since it's a city and could be anywhere (it is a fictitious city actually) with a climate and terrain similar to Oregon or Washington (or parts of China/Japan). I did this so I don't have to worry about getting the "feel" of "Seattle" or "Los Angeles" or "Tokyo" wrong. I could have it feel as I want it to and focus on the human struggle instead of the piddly details of location.

    I don't have zombies either... I find them lame and lacking in any redeeming qualities; they pursue, eat and that's it. I think if you base the struggles off of the human elements, it could make it a grittier, more realistic story. You still need conflict of some type, but that could be found among other humans just as easily as with zombies.

    I think another advantage of using a place you create, rather than one that already exists; your technology level can be whatever you want it to be without worrying about whether something was available in that particular place during those particular years. Also take into account though, with the loss of civilization inevitably comes a loss of technology as well, since much of it relies heavily on electricity that may not be readily available anymore. My story had a "modern" tech level before the end, but now it's more like the 1940s and 1950s tech wise. A few basic machines (for infrastructure mostly), semi-automatic weaponry, basic explosives and what not. Vehicles of every type are a thing of the past since no one has gas anymore. You get the picture. Just set the location up as you want it and don't worry about a specific place.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2014
  8. SmokeScribe98

    SmokeScribe98 Minstrel

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    Problem with creating it from scratch is that I want to stick with this 1980s setting. I do agree with you on the zombie-front though as I do believe they can get a little repetitive although they can sometimes be done to a good standard.

    However it does raise the question on how else I can destroy the planet? For some reason I have a very strong idea for an opening scene, humans rushing to the window on either a moon colony or space station, David Bowies "Space Oddity" playing in the background as they watch the Earth fall apart. I want to involve space somehow in the apocalypse as its something that I find incredibly interesting and the idea of watching everything you know crumble in front of you from a desolate distance is something that I find incredibly harrowing and amazing. Any thoughts?
     
  9. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    A few scenarios come to mind, though some seen in movies in one way or another.

    The Smiting: The earth gets peppered by enough small meteors that the dust it generates blocks out the sun for two years or more without the devastating effects of a single massive "extinction" sized meteor or piece of space junk. Plants and animals would die right along with humans, meaning food will become scarce and we ALL know what hungry people are capable of. Likely it would bring about mass hysteria and people would die by the millions, even if no wars start over the last remaining resources.

    The drawback to this is you'd need to have a centralized location with at least a bit of food so the main characters don't starve running around doing their thing. I suppose even that could serve as a plot device though, with the government still operating greenhouses using artificial light, it could give at least a little food to those that are left.

    The Invasion: Alien invasion along the lines of War of the Worlds... outmatched, overpowered humans getting used for food until such time that they either simply move on or are destroyed by the humans (or in the case of WotW was bacterial infections since they didn't take it into account). The benefit to something like this would be obvious; the plant and animal life would remain intact for the most part, giving the remaining humans some natural source of food, especially if your story is after the fact and nature has had at least a little time to reassert itself as the dominating force on the planet.

    The Battle: Two different alien species are engaged in a battle in the system and the earth gets blasted and peppered with debris from the battle. The radiation from the weapons and impacts of the destroyed vessels kill 60-70% of all life on the planet. This would leave what's left pretty much resistant to the radiation and life would continue, though without most of technology they would have in the 80s.

    The War: Even without nuclear weapons (another popular apocalypse trope) wars that span the globe can be devastating. Imagine world war 3 with the weaponry they had in the 80s, it would likely be a wholesale slaughter of a sizable chunk of humanity. Governments would fall, the world-wide economy collapses and without the technology and medicine, disease would run it's course.
     
  10. SmokeScribe98

    SmokeScribe98 Minstrel

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    I like each one of these scenarios but The Smiting and The War seem like phenomenal ideas. Looking at it really there are so many possibly apocalyptic scenarios that I'm surprised zombies and nuclear war are so insanely over used.
     
  11. SmokeScribe98

    SmokeScribe98 Minstrel

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    A super volcanic eruption is another possible threat that could work well.
     
  12. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    Yeah, it could. I actually use something similar in a new time-travel story. It is basically a company setting off an ecological disaster when expanding their geothermal operations too far. It formed a super volcano at the source and several others across the globe went off also. The time traveler has to go back and basically kill the founders of the company before they can cause the problem.

    In my post-apoc though, it was "the war" scenario; where one by one the governments collapsed due to economic factors, being attacked, famine from the "scorched earth" tactics employed many places and rebellion from the disenchanted masses wanting what the government seemed to be hoarding.
     
  13. SmokeScribe98

    SmokeScribe98 Minstrel

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    The war scenario could work pretty well. Perhaps a global revolution something akin to the anonymous and occupy movements today could cripple nations across the planet leading to wars and anarchy worldwide. I'd still like to incorporate space into it somehow though.
     
  14. nightbug08

    nightbug08 Dreamer

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    Perhaps 'primitive' space stations could be a part of all this? Average Joe sees his government pouring money into this station that is meant to be a better life, and then he gets there and it's even worse than earth? So maybe the stations revolt and accidentally crash themselves into earth? Or perhaps some sort of orbital factory has an industrial disaster and ends up venting all of it's raw materials at Earth, it's raw materials being a fleet of small asteroids and left over spaceship garbage. If we left the space age long enough we might get some sort of directed sun-beams to power solar cells, and if one of those gets of course goodbye planetary crust.
     
  15. SmokeScribe98

    SmokeScribe98 Minstrel

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    Good idea, a solar flare is another possibility.
     
  16. chaos

    chaos New Member

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    i like the unique apocalypse and when the charactar isn't OP it just gets boring.
     
  17. SmokeScribe98

    SmokeScribe98 Minstrel

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    You think it will get boring if I have a protagonist that avoids killing?
     
  18. eliec

    eliec Dreamer

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    Wouldn't Shannara or Shadowrun be examples of that?
     
  19. eliec

    eliec Dreamer

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    Not at all, I'd love to read about a guile hero who outsmarts his opponents rather than smashing their heads in.

    As for the setting, why not use some kind of Lovecraftian cataclysm? Door to the Beyond opens, people go crazy everywhere and start destroying indiscriminately. Some people are immune, others go mad but recover. The Door stays open for a few years, long enough for the world to be ruined, then closes again just as mysteriously.

    Now it's been decades since, giving you enough time to get factions and some resettlement, but people are still living in scattered enclaves. Most are just trying to survive, but some are trying to figure out why the Door opened and how to prevent another incident (or maybe cause one in hopes of controlling the forces involved)
     
  20. SmokeScribe98

    SmokeScribe98 Minstrel

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    Oh my that sounds amazing eliec. Lovecraft is by far one of my favourite authors and I have been meaning to incorporate some satanic power as the antagonist to a fantasy novel I've been working on but since that's not working perhaps it would be better fitted to an apocalypse scenario. Perhaps there is an expedition to Mars or Europa that discovers water and they bring it back, perhaps something lurks in the water that slowly infects the minds of those that are touched by it or perhaps the crew of a nuclear submarine discover something unspeakable amongst the depths of the ocean?
     

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