Tag Archives: post-apocalyptic

New Year, New Novel

As promised, today I’m going to give you an update on how the planning for my new novel is going. I have to warn you though. I have been busy, so this post is going to be a long one.

The working title is The Reluctant Hero, as you can see by my new Word Meter on the right. I’ll probably leave the Dirty Little Freaks meter there for a while just because I am proud of having finished it. I did get that last story done before the end of the year, and it wasn’t too terrible. It was about a woman who was lost and stumbled across a secret laboratory. She was taken prisoner and injected with a serum that turned her into a superhero. That’s about it. There are a lot of unanswered questions in the story, like how did she get lost in the first place, who was running the secret lab, and where they all went while the serum was doing its work. If I ever figure out the answers to those questions I might revisit that story, but meanwhile at least it served its purpose as a writing exercise.

Now, back to what you are all waiting for. The new novel!

All right, so the first thing I had to do was decide what I wanted to write about. As I told you last week, my only real idea was to write a story using the old theme of the reluctant hero. Someone who was pulled into a dangerous situation and forced to step up in order to save not only himself, but the whole world. Or at least more of it than would normally fit in his pajamas. So the first thing I needed to do was figure out who this guy was.

I started with a character sketch. I don’t mean a picture, although that will probably come in at some point. No, I mean a description of the character, including name, age, general appearance, and most importantly, his history and personality.

My main character is named Alexander Lunde. I chose the first name because it actually means “defender of mankind” in some languages. Or, at least, that’s what my Scrivener name generator told me. The last name is pretty much just random, except that I thought he should be of Norwegian descent. Just because.

I won’t get into his height and weight, eye and hair color. The important details are that he is a widower. His wife died in “the disaster” and he blames himself, so he lives alone, cutting himself off as much as possible from everyone else. If you want to get into the psychobabble, I suppose that he has low self-esteem and doesn’t feel like he deserves to live among other people. Another reason for his life as a hermit could be that he can’t stand the thought of losing someone else close to him. So he pushes people away, and generally comes across as a grumpy old man.

So that’s where I started. Now, you might have noticed a couple words in quotes in the description above. That was my next step in figuring out where I was going with this story. What, exactly, is “the disaster”?

Well, I decided that I wanted to write a post-apocalyptic tale. That meant that there should be at least the remains of technology available in the ruins of civilization that were still left standing. However, I also like the ideas of magic and monsters. Urban fantasy and paranormal romance are high on my reading lists. So what kind of disaster could I come up with that had both science AND magic?

And, if at all possible, dragons.

My brain struggled over this for a while, and finally, out of the storm came this little gem. A comet passed extremely close to Earth, and billions of people went outside to watch as it neared the closest point. Unfortunately, those were the people who died. The comet gave off a strange form of radiation that killed everyone that saw it. The radiation also triggered a reaction deep in the Earth’s core that rekindled a magical force that had been largely depleted over the centuries of humanity’s history. After all, the legends of gods and fairy tales had to come from somewhere, right?

So now I’ve got a man with a past. What about the world of the present?

My next step was to figure out what was going on right now. I had to determine what the world was like in order to figure out how my story would fit in to it. After all, if my reluctant hero was going to have to save humanity, I had to at least find out what he was saving them from.

I already knew it was going to be post-apocalyptic, so that gave me a start. Few people, primarily gathered into small communities, largely either living off the land or scavenging through the ruins. With the magic influence, I decided that along with the bandits that would undoubtedly threaten any travelers, as well as established communities, there would also be fantastical monsters. Goblins, ogres, creatures of both dreams and nightmares, and, most importantly, dragons.

Another thing I had to decide was where it was going to be set. Of course, like most of my books, I decided to set it close to home. Personally, I think that Madison, Wisconsin, would be a fine place to live if most of the people were gone. Especially the idiots in that fancy domed building downtown. There are also plenty of farms and wooded areas around the city that would be excellent places for the survivors to use to start over and support themselves. There are even a few state parks where my hero could live without being bothered.

And there is also the UW campus. Let’s face it, if magic came back into the world, can you think of anywhere better to set up a school of wizardry than the research facilities of a major metropolitan university? It was a perfect place for people to gather together to start researching how to use the new forces of magic that were now available to all.

And that gave me the idea for the plot. These new wizards, just figuring out the “science” of magic, could easily cross one of those lines that are better left uncrossed. In the fantasy books I have read, one of the biggest dangers of using magic is summoning a demon. When dealing with evil creatures from another plane, not only does your spell have to be perfect, but you also have to have an iron will in order to keep body and soul together. Otherwise, what you end up with as a monster terrorizing the neighborhood while bloody chunks drip down the walls of the summoning chamber. Not good.

So I have a hero, a setting, and a climax. Now, how was I going to get Alexander from being a hermit to saving the world from a demonic invasion? And where were the dragons going to come in?

The answer, of course, is to bring in other people. I had to force him to spend time with others in order to be in a position where he had no choice but to be a hero. And who better to transform a grumpy old man into a loving “grandfather” than a little boy (or girl)?

Here’s the rough outline of the plot that I came up with:

Alexander is out hunting and finds a small family en route to the campus that is being attacked by bandits. He saves the family, but the father is injured and the bandits got away with most of their supplies. He reluctantly takes them in while the father recovers, which gives them time to bond with him, despite his efforts to push them away.

After the father recovers, the two of them go into the local town to restock the family’s supplies so they can continue their journey. On the way, they find a dragon’s egg, which they pick up and bring into town. Unfortunately, the dragon tracks them there and attacks the town, killing the young father before it, too is killed.

Alexander goes back to his house and breaks the news to the young wife. She is upset, and Alexander feels really bad. After she calms down, she tells him that she still wants to continue her journey, and she makes him promise to take her. He still has the dragon egg, and decides to take it with them so the people there can study it.

This part needs a bit of work. They get to campus and he sticks around while the girl gets settled with her family. At some point he discovers that the wizards are experimenting with summoning spells. He goes to watch and that’s when all hell breaks loose. Demons start flooding through the portal, and Alexander is hurt badly while trying to fight them off.

The ghost of Alexander’s dead wife then appears to him and tells him that it isn’t his time to die and that he needs to keep fighting or the young mother and her children will die. Her spirit then takes over the unborn dragon egg, which then hatches and helps Alexander fight off the demons and close the portal.

In the end, Alexander, the baby dragon, and the little family go back to his cabin in the woods and live happily ever after.

It’s pretty rough, and as I mentioned, I know there are some problems with the plot, but at least it is a starting point. I welcome any comments, criticism, or suggestions that will help me make it better.

That’s it for today (whew!). I’ll see you next week with another update on my planning. I hope to be able to work out some of the weak spots in this outline and fill in some gaps with a list of the scenes I’ll need to use in order to make this a decent novel. Later!

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August 4 – Wrecking my House

One of the thoughts I had last month was that I should make my blogs more topical, and I realized that I haven’t been doing that. So today I’m going to try to put my thoughts down on a specific subject: Death and Destruction.

I’m not talking about the current political climate, although that was also a tempting subject. What I want to discuss is the Apocalypse. You know, the way the world is going to be if the Republicans keep leading us down their road to ruin.

My first story was about how a demon invasion caused the end of the world, and how a group of people fought to bring it back from the brink using magic (and a few dragons). My current short story project is set in that world, post-apocalypse, with a young woman being hunted by a demon. To write this story, I have to imagine how the world would look twenty years after The End.

There are a lot of resources you can use to help you if you want to write a post-apocalyptic story. Movies like Mad Max, The Road, The Book of Eli, and Terminator: Salvation. Other books, like S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse series. (I’m drawing a blank on other post-apocalypse books right now. Please leave a comment if you can think of any). Essentially, the trick is to take a modern setting and apply a thick helping of the law of entropy.

In my case, I am using my current workplace as the setting. It is familiar to me, so I can include a lot of details about the building. For example, I know that the building is six floors, with a mechanical penthouse on the roof. I have been everywhere in the building, including the penthouse, because I was part of the construction project and have had more access to the space than any of my co-workers.

The building is a basic concrete and glass brick, with stairwells on each end and one in the middle. There are four passenger elevators in the middle, and one freight elevator on one side. A loading dock in the back gives access for deliveries, and the front entrance corridor extends through the building to the employee entrance on the back. A parking lot surrounds the entire building, with a marsh on the north and east sides.

The first thing I did was break most of the glass on the outside of the building. I left several cars in the parking lot, but they have been left alone so long all their tires are flat and they are starting to rust away. Any exposed wood in the interior has started to rot, and all the cloth from the chairs and cubicle panels are moldy and tattered. Dust and dirt is everywhere, and vegetation has started to reclaim the parking lot.

The people are different too. The society has devolved into a hunter-gatherer system. More of a tribal civilization, where people have to work together in order to survive. Electrical appliances are rare and treasured. Most batteries are dead, so electrical appliances are run by hand cranks or generators. Ammunition is also precious, and hunting is done by bow, spear, and knife.

So that’s my take on working in a post-apocalyptic world. Your ideas may differ, depending on the cause and extent of your apocalypse. I hope these ideas spark some of your own. See you next week!

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August 1 – New Month, New Goals

Today marks the start of a new month. I didn’t get a lot done last month, so I think it is time for me to set some goals for myself. The first goal will be to finish this short story/novella that I am writing about a huntress who finds out what it is like to be hunted. It is a post-apocalyptic horror story, and I’m still working out what kind of character development needs to be worked into the tale, but I have most of the plot figured out already. I started it a few weeks ago, and have been working on a major rewrite this last weekend. I have the edits about halfway done, and have already chopped about 1000 words out of the first draft. I want to finish it and have it ready for submission by the end of August.

Speaking of submissions, I heard last week that the editors of the Big Book of Bizarro (the ones that bought my short story “Losing Control”) have been working hard on getting the final proof done, and are hoping to have the author copies (and payments) ready in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be sure to post an update as soon as I have my copy. I’m also looking forward to spending my payment on additional copies for family and friends.

I have been thinking about goals recently, and I am starting to wonder whether or not I should have stuck with the ROW80 group. I miss the support I always had from them, and it wasn’t that hard to keep up. Kait is also cool with letting participants post updates with however best works for them. She also says that you don’t necessarily have to join at the start of the quarter, so I may pop back in if I start jonesing for my friends.

That being said, my second goal is to spend less time on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and other social nightmare media websites, and spend the time on writing. I also need to spend more time on my exercise bike. Being a writer means a lot of sitting as I write, and I need to get more exercise. Maybe I can use my Dragon Naturally Speaking software to do my writing. The only question is how well the software will be able to recognize my speech if I am out of breath from my workout. I’ll also need to figure out where to put my laptop so that I will be able to see the screen as I ride. Does anyone have any thoughts/experience with this problem? I have heard about people setting up a treadmill desk, but I’m not so sure about a bike desk. On the plus side, it is a recumbent, so I’ve got that going for me.

So that’s three goals for August:

  1. Finish short story/novella “The Hunt”
  2. Cut back on social media.
  3. Get more exercise.

That’s about enough for now. I’ll be checking in again on Thursday. See you then!

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Filed under About Me, ROW80, Submissions, The Writing Experience

July 25 – Life Is Interesting

I didn’t get a lot of writing done this weekend. Saturday my wife and I spent the day with family. First we went to spend some time with my family as we celebrated my brother’s wedding anniversary. My dad made steaks and we had a nice lunch without too much excitement.

Then we got in our little car and drove to Chicago, where my wife’s cousin was getting married. It was an outdoor wedding, and the only things that kept us all from melting in the heat were the fans/programs that everyone kept in constant motion. The bride was beautiful, the vows were sweet, and love was in the air.

And of course it was followed by an open bar.

And a ton of Greek food.

And dancing. I’ll never forget the dancing.

To make a long story short, I don’t drink, but it was certainly an experience watching other people partake. We left just before 10:00 PM, after the cake was served, and we made it home just before midnight. Long drive, little car, I was exhausted.

I thought about writing on Sunday, but I just couldn’t get up the energy to do it. Instead I spent most of the day parked in front of the television, soaking in other people’s stories and letting my mind consider possibilities for my own.

But today I wrote. I wrote a few paragraphs at work while I was on my break, and tonight I challenged myself to write 1000 words. I met that goal just before starting this post. My post-apocalyptic horror short story, “The Hunt”, is up to over 3800 words now, and I am getting into the meat of the matter. For now I’m just going to write it. After the story is done I’ll see what I can do to trim the fat and look at what kind of word count it will fit into.

And then I’ll see if I can find a market for it.

I like the story so far, and I am pleased with how it is coming out. The main character is speaking to me and the descriptions are fairly vivid and set the tone well. Hopefully I’ll feel the same way after the story is finished. I shared the first half of what I have now with the only person in my critique group that showed up last week, and she liked it too. I’ll let you know on Thursday what the rest of the group has to say when I share it with them tomorrow.

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