And on the pedestal, these words appear: My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.
So, fair warning, while I have read some post apocalyptic novels I am not widely read so if all of these have been done before I do apologize. But, as requested, some post apocalyptic story prompts:
1) I had seen nobody, heard nobody, for 452 days. I hadn’t heard music since before the world went to shit. So the tinny blare of Dolly Parton’s “Son of a Preacher Man” had me more than a little startled.
2) “If you’re the Anti-Christ, why are the zombies attacking us still!?” “It wasn’t a Christian apocalpyse was it? Radiation stole my life purpose.”
3) Jack was a famous post-apocalyptic writer. Cannibalism, grey skies falling, deep undertones of existentialism, the quintessential lot. He reveled in the misery of the worlds he created and the tears of his readers. It was all well and good until he ended up trapped in his latest bestseller - Husk. Surviving the wasteland was bad enough without letting anyone know it was his fault.
4) “You’re a girl. She’s - she’s an actual girl.” “And who the fuck are you then, Peter and the end of the world lost boys?”
5) The androids sat in a solemn circle around the conference table, human faces flickering in the hologram between them. “I believe the ship that landed contained the survivors of a violent species called homo-sapiens. They will need to be managed, we are only just beginning to clear up their mess.”
6) “You know, when I said I was literally going to hell for this, nobody was supposed to actually take that literally.” “I just got my head sliced off by one of the four horseman, I don’t care about you being a grammar nerd.” “So what now, we Dante Inferno our way up to Heaven?” “You want to break into Heaven? This is why you’re literally in Hell.” “Well, I don’t want to be tortured for all eternity, do I? And it’s not like going back to earth is in an option is it?”
7) The cannibal sprinted through the dead forest after his prey, eyes gleaming, hunger tugging at his bones. Tonight, was the night of the wild hunt. His favourite night of the new year.
8) They were supposed to leave together. Or maybe she was supposed to die. But she survived, and she was waiting when the ship came back.
9) They slept under the earth like corpses ready to rise for judgment day, waiting for the air to be clean and for the sky to change from purple to yellow like a healing bruise. Everyone knew not to wake the dreamers at all costs.
10) Money was a story of an old world, now, if you needed a new oxygen tank or food, you sold your body parts. Bones were handy, eyeballs could do a month’s rent, clean lungs were worth a small fortune. But hearts, oh a strong heart was the most valuable currency of all.
11) Those who still remembered the world before were considered blasphemers and madmen. The punishment for liars was swift.
12) The radiation kept their minds alive forever, even when their bodies were no longer whole. Trapped in the dust and the rock, like fossils as the world changed and began to grow again. Nobody knew they were still conscious as they began to mine.
Writing post-apocalypse/dystopian future can actually open a large range of possibilities and original ideas but there are some things we should try to keep in mind. The problem with this genre is that is a heavily research-based genre, it requires a lot of information so a lot of things can slip up or be forgotten.
Limits of the Body - This is something that seems to be largely forgotten unless in extreme situations. Yes, humans are tough, but they are also weak. We have that balance of nature within us. People can keep going whilst in a lot of pain, but something like a headache could knock them senseless. I knew someone who got shot in the leg and ran three miles because he thought he had been hit by the brick. The second he realised he had actually been shot and was safe to do so, he collapsed in pain. Quickly establish what your characters can and cannot do.
Children - Children are more robust than so many people give them credit for, they wouldn’t make it to adulthood otherwise. Children are emotionally stronger than they are physically but many children have a lot more endurance for their size than adults because they have to keep up with adults. Two good examples are The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
Hygiene - Namely with periods and stuff. It is hard work keeping the body clean, so personal hygiene will be poor but people tend to stop caring at a point when they realise how hard it is to maintain. A lot of people would revert to old fashioned methods of vagina health as well, so people would use reusable cloth or diva cups. The only book I know of that covers this is The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.
Simple Killers - More people died of the Spanish flu than in the First World War (source). It is surprising how often it is “little things” that kill people off. An emotional death does not have to be all that dramatic, no bloody death or major killer. Something as simple as a small cut that festered will kill someone if not treated correctly. An asthma attack, diabetes, things we see as treatable would make quick work of us without medical aid. Also most deaths are really simple and sudden.
World Limitations - What is this obsession with guns and everything happening in the summer and unlimited cans of food? No, let’s be honest, none of these are realistic. Guns will not last, can goods will be snatched up by the shop loads, most natural disasters will happen in spring or autumn. Remember to do the key thing, make your world real and people are more likely to believe it.
Take a Page - Who are most renowned for their post-apocalyptic stories? British pre-1950s authors. Why? Their worlds are real, the possibilities of what could happen in those worlds are real. Some where and still are scarily accurate, they looked at the current and possible state of things, creating a world too similar to our own. Great examples like 1984 by George Orwell, The Death of Grass by John Christopher, The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, Soylent Green and the Mad Max Series.
The post apocalypse is
actually way better than society before. But years later, things are starting
to slip back into what it used to be.
We all know those tired clichés. It’s time to kill them. Take one of them and turn them on their heads or at least these will hopefully keep the errors out of your writing. If you think of any other way to change them up go right ahead. Happy hunting!