The post-apocalyptic genre has been around since early nineteenth century where people were afraid of plague and wars. And growing number of films around the genre shows that people love to know what happens in an apocalypse. So, it is necessary for post-apocalyptic world building to create a world of your own.
When you hear about many ways in which apocalypse can happen there are certain elements which stays the same. The death of many people, collapse of society, new way of living etc. So, when you build your post-apocalyptic world these things should be explained as people expect these to happen.
However, the way in which the catastrophic event took place can be different compared to other fictions. Classic example will be “The Walking Dead” where the zombies took over the world and the survivors are struggling to be alive.
1.Post-Apocalyptic World Building
When you write a fiction, there is no format which need to follow. You can write anything from top of your head. But it should be a series of well built stories that are put together.
You are creating a world with new features and way of living. There should be a lot at stake to give the effect of that catastrophic incident had on people. Consider the following things while building your post-apocalyptic world.
1.1 Cause Of Apocalypse
Ok the world is ending. But how? It should have a strong premise on how the world is ending. There are a lot of ways in which that can happen. Zombie apocalypse, nuclear holocaust, climate change, war, robots taking over etc. Like this there are endless themes which already exist in the fiction for the apocalypse to happen.
The main reason to build a cause is because you can add many layers on top of that. If you know why it is happening, then you can set the objective of what all are the problems people going to face because of that. And the effect of apocalypse in their living pattern is also one of the crucial elements to create a reason for apocalypse.
So, by doing this you are telling the audience or readers how the world will work from here on and the possibilities of survival of people.
1.2 Timeline Of The Event
When you build an post-apocalyptic world, it is necessary to fix on the time in which it is happening. When I say time, I mean when did the apocalypse happen. Does your story begin the next day after the apocalypse? Does it begin a year after it? Or is it about to happen.
So, setting the timeline of events is key to build your world. Only if you know about the timeline. The story can move forward and setting can be done. Suppose if it is about to happen, then the story might start with a quick introduction as to what is coming and the characters in the story will be in preparation mode. If it starts one year after the event, then the pace of the story will change. The survivors will be the main characters. They know what has happened.
1.3 Daily Lives Of Characters
In fiction, especially if it is after a apocalypse. The normal routine of the people will completely change. No standard three time meal a day. No proper infrastructural facilities. No proper jobs. The lives of the people will turn into a fearful living.
Though they survived the catastrophe. The impact of that incident will be in the minds of the people. So, your protagonist should have a want. The whole story should revolve around the objective of a protagonist. While portraying their daily lives. You can create a visual impact among audiences by showing how tough it is to adopt to this lifestyle.
1.4 Scale Of The Event
In fiction, an apocalyptic event can occur in different scales. Meaning that the impact of the event can vary. This means that you need to mention the survivors after the event. If the event had a so big impact and the number of survivors are in thousands. Then the human interaction chances are very little considering the size of the earth. On the other hand, there are some events which will have a different kind of impact but would have millions of survivors.
Depending on the scale of the event. The decision making ability of your characters in the story can change. The plot can change from forming groups among the survivors to finding other survivors. As a fiction writer you have the liberty to choose in which direction you want to go.
1.5 Let Imagination Flow Around
Yes, you need to specify the details to give a clear understanding among viewers. But you need not fill their mind with each and every minute detail. But you need to make sure that the omission of that part does not affect the story plot and don’t confuse the readers.
You can let the viewers think about the fictional world themselves. And leaving certain elements out in open will be a topic of discussion which creates even more fun plot for the story than you can imagine. Also too much information might bore the audiences.
1.6 Mention Infrastructure And Resources Available
When the world has suffered from a catastrophic incident. The main question which revolves around the minds of the audiences is what is still there?
Only when they know what infrastructure are still undamaged and can be utilized for future purposes. Then only the characters can plan their survival plan. You need basic resources for survival. With the limited availability of these resources, the needs of the people will change. There will be a lot of internal conflict. People may start to fight themselves for survival.
So, if this question is answered. Then you can easily plot the difference in character behavior before and after the apocalypse. There will be a drastic change as to how they approach life. Therefore selecting what is there and what is not there is very important for the plot.
1.7 Relevance To Current Society
Even though this would seem like it doesn’t make any sense. Creating a world that has nothing to do with the real world and happening in a time which we don’t know when it’ll come. But in somewhere if you can tell a socially relevant ideology through your fiction it can have a great impact on the masses.
It can be include things like the problem with the way we live in the present lives and its impact in the future. Or it can also showcase the importance of humanitarianism over any other factor which exists currently. If you are writing a dystopian novel or movie then you can explore the themes of oppression, mass poverty, anarchism as these are the battles which will be faced in the future if we go into a dystopian society.
If you deal with topics like mass unrest, societal breakdown and large deaths. It will alarm people if not find solution but atleast gives that space for the people to think about that. As long as you make the viewer or reader think about your work and engage in debates. Then you have created a perfect post-apocalyptic world.
With a lot of movies and series like Mad Max, Tomorrow Land, Don’t look up etc. The need for writers to think about the concept of apocalypse have increased. It poses some problem which already exist or coming in the future as a cause for the world to come into a really bad position where it might end. This catastrophic global event will create a change in the overall lives of the people.
How they live? what they eat? Where they live? Are they alive? What to do next? these are some of the basic questions one might pose when they talk about post-apocalyptic world. So, when you are building this world, you need to make sure that the answer for those questions are mentioned in the fiction. You need to let your minds flow through the air and think outside the box as to what and all might happen if the world is going to end.
By specifying certain details you are making sure that your audiences are not confused. And by not revealing certain information, you are letting them imagine their own version of the world which you have created. You can be the decision maker as to what you want in that world.
This genre of novels, movies, series have made the people overthink on whether there is a possibility for it to happen. But it still remains as a sub genre to sci-fi. And now it has got the name of speculative fiction. The writer need to make sure to incorporate the tips provided above in the article to make the story more interesting and set up a perfect world of yours after a catastrophe which lead to mishap in the civilization.