June 22, 2012

Keeping Busy (Outdoors) - After the Ending

Surviving the end of the world isn't all it's cracked up to be. Survivors often experience guilt and displacement after being ripped from their homes, losing their loved ones and navigating an unknown world in the hopes of remaining alive.

One might find themselves entertaining desperate thoughts of loneliness and uncertainty, especially living within the unfamiliar ranges of Mother Nature. Emotional breakdowns are not uncommon among survivors post-apocalypse and thoughts of suicide sometimes lingers in the back of their minds, the invitation to ease struggle or suffering a titillating possibility.

But alas, there is hope! There's plenty to do After the Ending, so cheer up!

When you're not scouting the perimeter of your safe haven, foraging for food or killing off Crazies, you can pass your time agreeably by doing any of the following things if you're living in the wild:
  • Build a fort or tree house 
  • Install a rope or tire swing 
  • Find hidden shapes in the clouds 
  • Go berry tasting - (Caution: this could result in death) 
  • Swing through the trees like Tarzan 
  • Establish a bug or animal hospital 
  • Go rock climbing 
  • Dig for gold 
  • Skip rocks (if there's any sort of body of water) 
  • Give yourself a tattoo using a bird's feather and black berry juice 
  • Go on a bear hunt 
  • Bird watching 
  • Plan a safari 
  • Go hiking 
  • Tie-Dye your clothes using vines as rubber bands and berry juice as dye 
  • Make mud pies 
  • Make a broom out of pine needles 
  • Whittle wooden sculptures 
  • Make Arrowheads 
  • Search for the elusive Bigfoot and hope he's friendly
  • Throw stuff off a bridge

Keeping Busy (Indoors) Edition Coming Soon!

June 4, 2012

Ultimate Field Guide to Crazies AE - First Edition

Survivors Beware! You may have been lucky enough to live through the H1N1/13 pandemic, but that doesn't mean you're safe. You can always run and hide in hopes of surviving, but it's better to know your opponent and how to defend yourself.

What happens post-apocalypse is a crapshoot. Every world is different, except for the fact you don't know what you're in for (although, generally speaking, it's never fluffy bunnies and merry-go-rounds). Worst of all, you don't know what you're up against until it's running after you with crazed eyes and a pitchfork or screaming like a suicidal banshee.

Our world is one of death, spontaneous genetic mutations, chemical imbalance and infection all resulting in some seriously disturbed individuals.

Here's what to expect After The Ending...

Crazies: [kray-zeez] proper-noun/plural Individuals who survived DNA damage caused by the H1N1/13 virus resulting in an adverse reaction of psychological instability.
Crazy: [kray-zee] root word/adjective/proper-noun - mentally deranged, demented, insane

Classification: Clueless Wanderer
Species: Homo Sapien
Region: Global
Origin: Infected by virus; Survived
Symptoms: Appears unconcerned with the world outside their head; Frequently disregards need for shoes/clothes; Possibly experiences tactile numbness
Dwelling: Anywhere and everywhere
Weakness: Is easily defeated through most means of defense due to their incoherence and lack of strength as a result of malnutrition.

Species: Homo Sapien
Region: Global
Origin: Infected by virus; Survived
Symptoms: Mindless aggression; Compulsive breaking and entering; Seeks out violence
Dwelling Abandoned houses and buildings in towns and cities; prefer locations with larger populations of survivors (potential victims); Frequently under the leadership of a Megalomaniac (who provides a steady stream of people to hurt)
Weakness: Noise -Loud, high-pitched sounds confuse them making it difficult to focus or follow orders

Classification: Manipulator
Species: Homo Sapien
Region: Global
Origin: Infected by virus; Survived
Symptoms: Easily agitated; Conceals aggressive intentions and behaviors; Uses victim's psychological vulnerabilities to determine effective tactics; Willing to use sufficient level of ruthlessness and cause harm to the victim; Generally covert and sneaky.
Dwelling : Groups of survivors (more targets to choose from)
Weakness: Entitlement -They're greedy and moody leading to irrationality and unexpected outbursts that expose them for who they really are, often times giving them away and turning their followers against them.

Classification: Megalomaniac [meg-uh-loh-mey-nee-ak]
Species: Homo Sapien
Region: Global
Origin: Infected by virus; Survived
Symptoms: Delusions of grandeur; Desire to rule the world; Finds excessive pleasure in dominating/hurting others
Dwelling: Fortified facilities surrounded by their sycophants (usually Grunts) and prisoners (people with abilities)
Weakness: Hubris -Their pride and arrogance affords them little to no patience when interacting with intelligent individuals. Intellectuals are threatening and unnerving so they often times reveal too much information resulting in their demise.

Classification: Paraphillias [par-uh-fil-ee-uhz]
Species: Homo Sapien
Region: Globally
Origin: Infected by virus, Survived
Symptoms: Recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies; Sexual urges or behaviors generally involving the suffering or humiliation of one's partner (generally non-consenting persons)
Dwelling: Abandoned buildings, submissive population a plus, tend to stay together
Weakness: Lust -Easy to lure using the object of their affection

Classification: Reclusive Kleptomaniac
Species: Homo Sapien
Region: Global
Origin: Infected by virus; Survived
Symptoms: Only goes out in full dark; Collects a specific item or type of item compulsively (i.e., shiny things)
Dwelling: Dark, cave-like spaces
Weakness: Light -Bright light burns their eyes and confuse them presenting moments of temporary weakness

June 2, 2012

Guest Post - The Bookshelf Muse: Frustration, Your Novel's Best Friend

Thank you to Becca and Angela for being our first guest bloggers! Creating characters in a post-apocalyptic world has been a labor of love. Thankfully, our efforts have been aided by the geniuses behind the Bookshelf Muse who's bountiful writing tools and expertise has helped make this process a little easier. 

We found this post both comical and enlightening, as Dani and Zoe, our survivalist characters, are frequently SUPER frustrated. Enjoy!

Frustration: Your Novel’s Best Friend
By: Angela Ackerman

You're thinking that title must be a typo, aren't you? It isn't, I promise. :) Frustration is awesome.

Sure, as writers, we want NOTHING to do with this emotion. Between critique partners ripping the guts out of our manuscripts to form rejections to a book review that compares our writing skill to that of a lobotomized hamster, frustration awaits at every turn.

We develop coping strategies to avoid it: pep talks before opening email. Chugging Diet Dr. Pepper by the six pack. Sucking on the sweet innards of M&Ms, pretending each one contains a Muse's orphan tears and gives us writing superpowers. *coughs* What, you don't do that? Erm, yeah....me neither.

So, on the keyboard side of things, frustration sucks. But on the page? MAGIC.

Frustrationthat hair-pulling, chair-kicking delightis what drives our novel. It juices our plot, makes our characters twitchy and unfulfilled, and glues the reader to the page. Keeping characters from their goals creates Frustration (AKA Tension, the Heartbeat of a story).

So while WE try to avoid this emotion, it's important we make sure our CHARACTERS don't.  In this state a character reveals who they really are. Frustration is emotional GOLD, forcing them to ACT, which pushes the story forward.  

Of course, no two people express their Frustration the same way, and neither should characters. Understanding their Emotional Range (how they express emotion and to what degree) is key to creating believable emotion. 

When up against a wall, a character might:

Retreat inward
Run from the problem
Try to manipulate/influence
Give up
Get angry
Vent out loud
React with violence
Feel depressed
Lay blame
Seek revenge
Take out anger on others
Berate themselves
Ask for help
Analyze what happened in hopes of understanding
Fall into a bottle, feed an addiction, drink orphan tears
Act like it doesn't matter
Bounce back & try again

Do Reactions Fit the Character? 

A hardened criminal character isn't going to ask for help or have himself a weepy moment. A skittish, shy teen isn't about to rant and rave in the middle of the school, and I doubt a kindergarten teacher would whip out her AK-47 to get her rage on. These things don't belong in the character’s Emotional Range.

Who our characters are at their coretheir values, their sense of self, their confidence levels and insecuritiesdictate how they behave. The hardened criminal is gonna get himself some revenge. The timid teen might blame himself or simply retreat inward. Our kindergarten teacher would rethink the situation and maybe ask for help. Or jump back in because of the try, try again conditioning she promotes in the classroom. These reactions fit their personality types and so are believable to the reader.

Responses to frustration must evolve as the stakes rise, but stay within a logical range. Just like a thermometer, a character's reactions become more and more extreme as the novel progresses until the frustration causes them to explode. But, depending on the character, that explosion will come across differently. The teen might grow frustrated enough to break his silence and open up about what's happening. The criminal may become so blinded by revenge that he takes ludicrous risks, putting his freedom in peril. The teacher could sweep everything off her desk or even quit her job.  In each case, the reaction is extreme, but remains believable because it stays inside that character's Emotional Range.

So the next time you're frustrated as a writer, sit your butt in front of the keyboard and write. Pass it on to your characters and your book will thank you for it. :)

And if you need more suggestions on how to express a character’s frustration, check out Angela’s book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression. This resource comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each. Written in an easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them. This writing tool encourages writers to show, not tell emotion and is a creative brainstorming resource for any fiction project. 

Angela Ackerman writes on the darker side of MG & YA. She blogs at The Bookshelf Muse, a description resource hub for writers, and is co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, now available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords. The PDF can be bought directly from The Bookshelf Muse.

June 1, 2012

The Ten Essentials For Surviving The Ending

Hikers and backpackers are well aware of the classic "Ten Essentials," items which all outdoor adventurers keep handy to avoid any untimely deaths. Though it varies slightly depending on the source, here's a generally accepted list:

1. Map
2. Compass
3. Sunglasses and Sunscreen
4. Extra Clothing
5. Headlamp/Flashlight
6. First-aid Supplies
7. Firestarter
8. Matches
9. Knife
10. Extra Food

My husband and I are seasoned backcountry backpackers, but recently we learned the value of following this long-standing protocol. We headed out on a winter day-hike in Yosemite and, stupidly, brought only one of the ten essentials (sun glasses and sunscreen). Well, unless cell phones count as flashlights...then we brought two. The hike, it turned out, took several hours longer than planned and we had to skitter the final few miles down a snow-covered trail in the dark. Like, DARK dark. And COLD. At least the stars were pretty...

The point is, the Ten Essentials for outdoor adventurers are extremely, well, essential. Thus the name, duh. Should've known, right? At least we learned our lesson without dying the aforementioned untimely death.

So, what would be on the list of "Ten Essentials For Surviving The Ending"? Let's first consider the obstacles and dangers facing the survivors of that blasted virus:

1. Almost everyone is dead, so there's not a whole gang of folks with specialized skills to lean on. The survivors must fend for themselves.
2. ALL survivors are affected in one of two ways by the virus: a) they're totally nutso, or b) they've gone through spontaneous genetic mutation resulting in a preternatural ability.
3. Without humans to maintain things, the infrastructure we so readily depend on rapidly crumbles (i.e., electricity, gas, internet, phones, etc.).
4. Necessary supplies like food and clean water are no longer being produced or maintained, though with the drastically decreased population, plenty of packaged food is available for the taking. Shopping spree anyone?

Whether you're ex-military or ex-graduate student, you're going to need a few things to help sure you survive in the crazy new world, post-virus.

Ten Essentials (for surviving The Ending):

1. Water Purifier/Filter
2. Knife, Gun and Ammo
3. Stockpile of Packaged and Preserved Food
4. Medicine (antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, fever reducers, tetanus and rabies shots, EpiPens)
5. First Aid Supplies (especially for stabbings, breaks, and gun shots)
6. Portable Solar Panels and/or Solar-powered Generator
7. Maps (road and topographic) and Compass
8. Lighter/Flint & Steel and firestarter
9. All-weather Clothing and Boots
10. Tent (you never know when the crazies might run you out of your post-apocalyptic home)
(Bonus) Animal Companions!