Tips for Developing a Rich Post-Apocalyptic Landscape
by A.J. Paquette
- Know what you’re getting into: Awareness is a forerunner to knowledge, and the first thing to get you going in the right direction is to understand the scope of your undertaking. Will you need to create a world from scratch? Will you be building onto the existing “real” contemporary world? Or is it some mix of the two? Taking the time to understand your options, your limitations, and your boundaries within the story you are plotting will set a solid groundwork for you to take off from in your world building.
- Do your research I: Some authors like to be aware of what’s already out there on their topic of choice, while others prefer to avoid any potential overlaps for fear of being influenced. Knowing how ideas and storylines tend to swirl in the ethos, I would personally much rather know what’s there, so I can avoid treading on any other stories’ toes through lack of awareness. So I tend to immerse myself in my chosen topic to the greatest extent possible; knowing what’s out there is helpful both as a touchstone for accepted lore, and as a way to avoid unconsciously mimicking something you may have had no idea was out there.
- Do your research II: Once you have your parameters set and are aware of where you’re going and where not to go, that’s the time to start filling in the gaps. Very important—do not skimp on the research. The reading world is full of experts, and you don’t want to be caught out on something that could have been easily verified before publication. Research is not always easy, not always fun, but is almost without fail ultimately rewarding—and can also take you down some paths you never would have considered but which end up perfectly suiting the story and bringing it to a much better place than it would have otherwise been.
- Consider all the options: Research is essential, but that alone is not enough. Make sure to follow every thread of information, wherever it might lead. Consider the consequences of your world-building, how each element affects the next, and how they will all come together and fold into your world. Your world should be a fully interconnected ecosystem, every element building on and feeding off another in a well-rounded and organic way.
Bow to logic: Here’s something I’ve learned—anything you have even the slightest tickle of a question about will eventually be brought up as an issue by someone, somewhere down the line. So don’t cut corners, especially in plot- and story-logic. Make sure everything checks out. Listen to your external readers, and make sure you don’t justify your own logic so much that you ignore potentially vital input.
- Color outside the lines: Above all, the magic of writing is the act of creation. So don’t forget to have fun as you go along. Along with the broad strokes of your world-building, leave time to paint in some just-for-fun details, which will not only bring a smile to readers’ faces but will also serve to deepen your character and add layers. Plus? You’ll enjoy your writing time that much more if you include time to let your hair down and go a little crazy.
A.J. Paquette has been writing stories since early childhood. She and her sister would spend hours creating masterpieces of stapled paper and handwritten words, complete with pen-and-ink covers and boxed illustrations.
The road to publication was long and winding, peppered with many small successes including: a variety of national magazine publications, being a 2005 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award honoree, and receiving the 2008 SCBWI’s Susan Landers Glass Scholarship Award, for the book that would later become Nowhere Girl. Her first picture book, The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies, was published in 2009.
She now lives with her husband and two daughters in the Boston area, where she continues to write books for children and young adults. She is also an agent with the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?
Meeting up with three other teens–one boy seems strangely familiar–Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth. They’re working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana’s mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can’t remember anything?
- Author will be sending out all prizes for the giveaway.
- Ends 11:59 p.m. on July 4th
- Giveaway is US/Canada.
- Must be 13 or older to enter.
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