Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Challenges Of Writing Apocalyptic Fiction

When I first started writing Black Earth: End of the Innocence, the first book in my Black Earth series, I was really only aiming to tell the back story leading up to my other series, Expired Reality. I simply wanted to tell the story of how the Earth broke apart because of evil and how society ended up on the planet of Anaisha, where Expired Reality takes place.

Boy, was I naive. I've been working on the second book in my Black Earth series for months now and I've slowly realized that the scope of the story is bigger and more challenging than I ever could have predicted.

By the last page of End of the Innocence, I have the setting all laid out for a nation that is being ruled by a power hungry president and ravaged by 'stars' that have fallen from the sky. Only thing is, the stars aren't really stars, they are vessels that have unknown inhabitants and intentions. So when the second book opens up, I have a nation - world - that is destroyed for the most part aside from sanctuary zones that were set up by the President, areas that NASA stated would be safe from the falling 'stars'. I have one of my main characters, Daisy Pierce, about to be executed per laws the President put in place because of the falling stars. And so the chaos begins.

Trying to write about a nation that is falling apart, led by a megalomaniacal president, ravaged by a strange alien entity isn't even the most challenging part of all of this. Trying to dive into the other characters, the ones that are trying to find out where Daisy is being held and are striving to rescue her; the characters who are trying to take down the President and bring democracy back; the characters that are trying to populate Anaisha before Earth is destroyed; the character that is traveling through time to save the world - these are the challenging parts.

In a world that is crumbling at the feet of an evil it has never seen or experienced before, I find myself having to close my eyes and wonder how I would react if I saw demons running through abandoned schools or the military being disintegrated by uncanny villains. When looters and murderers are the very least of everyone's problems and the President is being led by a strange adviser that may or may not be from Earth, I have so many questions I have to answer and even more that I simply have to ask through the fictional muse. I love to leave questions in the mind of the reader, questions that one may or may not have the answer for. Why not leave some things to speculation? Isn't that the fun of fiction, especially sci fi/fantasy?

One question I find myself pulling out of my characters is this: If the superficial reasons we have for keeping our morals and ethics intact were suddenly stripped from us, would we still hold on to those morals and ethics? Some would...others wouldn't. That's the fun of writing apocalyptic fiction. When the world is crumbling, who are the heroes and who are the real villains? The answers sometimes surprise me.

One very good reference I am finding for how apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction is written is Stephen King's, The Stand, the novel I am currently reading. The scope and detail that King included in The Stand is one of profound depth and simplicity. He looks around and sees how the world would be if something devastating happened and simply details his encounter. Brilliant.

As I strive to finish this novel, I find my perception of my series as a whole has been changed drastically - in a good way. That's one reason why I decided to revise the books in my Expired Reality series when I am finished with this novel. Sort of like what King did with the Dark Tower series. I finally see the framework as it starts to come together as a whole for both of my series and realize where it is I really want to go.

Getting there is half the fun. The other half? Allowing my characters to boss me around along the way, allowing them to whisper dark nothings in my ear and point out the things that I fear, the things that I hope for. They are after all simply extensions of me, the author, and all I really am is an observer to the end of the world...

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