Skip to main content

How to Write A Survivalist Character During The Apocalypse

Hello friends!

It's been a while... The last two weeks have been kind of nuts. The entire world is freaking out, everything's been turned upside down. Last week was rough... I had wanted to write out a birthday blog post and do something special on here for turning 22, but then everything happened and I was too stressed and I forgot to write anything, so that's kind of a bummer. I guess I could do it this week, but I feel like something else is needed for this week. I was thinking I should write some meaningful, hope-filled blog post. Write about what's going on in the world... but then I realized, everyone is already doing that. Social media is saturated with hope-filled positivity. And don't get me wrong, that's great! It's needed right now. To be honest though, Sunday night and into Monday I was getting pretty fed up with all the positivity. I think I was just overwhelmed and stressed, but I got pretty bitter and told my mom I was sick of hearing all this positivity. For five minutes, I just want to be mad at everything that's happened. I don't want to be positive or making the best of the situation. I just wanted to sit in my frustration. And I did. For five minutes Sunday night and Monday morning. And then I took a deep breath and went back to making the best of a bad situation. Here's my one serious thing I'll say on here: Right now, it's Ok to be mad and frustrated. For five minutes. Maybe even ten. Feel what you need to feel. You're allowed to be disappointed about cancelled plans or frustrated because all this is interfering with your life and your schedule or mad because you had things you wanted to do, had been looking forward to doing and now you have to wait or postpone them. Give yourself five minutes to feel all that, but don't get trapped in it. Feel it all, take a deep breath and then move on with your day because it'll all work out and be OK and it really is important to find a silver lining, especially right now.

So, all that said, this blog post isn't serious, meaningful or overly deep. To me, writing a blog post about post-apocalyptic and survivor characters in a time where it feels like we're living in the set up of a post-apocalyptic book is funny, so that's what I'm going to do. I hope you find it funny or at least amusing - and maybe even a little helpful - too.

You know those characters that we love to hate or just, you know, love to love? The ones that only ever look out for themselves? The selfish ones who, at one point or another, you can't really blame for doing a selfish thing because they're just trying to survive? They make you question everything and reevaluate your own morals (or at least they do for me haha). They make you sit back and think... can I really judge them for doing that thing because if I was in that situation, would I do the same thing? Or would I be better? Yeah, I love those guys too. I don't think there's a single cockroach character (the ones who just don't seem to wanna die! They can survive anything) that I don't either love to love or love to hate.

One day, I'd love to write a character like that. They just seem so fun to write! But for now, I guess I'll stick with just enjoying them. If you want to write one, however, and don't know where to start, here are some examples of the best survivalist characters and how they were written. There's lots of different ways to write them and so many different paths to take them down. I don't know about you, but I learn best through examples, and since I don't have a lot of experience writing characters like these, I thought it best to just give you an overview of a few characters who survive anything. There's three kinds of survivor characters that I came up with. The ones who never change, the ones who are stuck in the middle and the ones who find redemption and change for the better.

The Ones Who Never Change

 Katherine Pierce from The Vampire Diaries 

Ahh Katherine Pierce. Katerina Petrova. One of the best female villains I've ever seen (besides Tess Mercer on Smallville, of course). A lot of people don't write female antagonists right, but the writers of TVD totally did Katherine justice. She's selfish and mean and manipulative and vindictive. But most of all, she's a survivor. Katherine get's a moment of sympathy later in the series. You feel for her and for a second you think she's going to do the right thing. Like literally, for a second. And then you remember oh wait... she's Katherine. She never does the right thing. Katherine doesn't get a redemption arc like Murphy. She doesn't get someone she cares about and that changes her for the better. Katherine is just Katherine. You love to hate her from beginning to end.

One way to write a survivalist. Again, make sure to make them at least a little sympathetic. Even for just a minute. Give the readers something to relate to, or they'll fall flat. But, just because awful things have happened to your character their whole life, doesn't mean they have to do the right thing or find redemption. They can be survivor, selfish, mean to the bitter end. Just make sure they're either entertaining or funny to watch or give them a trait or two that people can relate to. Katherine is glamorous and sarcastic and entertaining to watch even though she's doing awful things to people most of the time.

The Ones Who Keep You Guessing 

 John Murphy from The 100

This list wouldn't be complete without John Murphy from The 100. He is the ultimate survivor. His friends literally call him a cockroach several times throughout the series because he can survive anything! Murphy went from character I just sort of hated, to a character I loved to hate, to a character I love to love. He started off a real jerk. Like a truly awful person. He's killed. He's done awful things to survive (let's be honest though... everyone in The 100 has done awful things to survive so, really, who are they to judge?) Really... he's never stopped being selfish. I mean, he cares about his friends now and would do anything to help them, but also... it's still hard to know if he would choose himself and Emori (his girlfriend) over his friends if it came down to it, you know? He becomes less selfish overtime and I think a lot of that is due to Emori. Murphy cared about literally nothing and nobody for a long time. When he met Emori he was pretty much on a suicide mission. He didn't care if he lived or died and didn't think anyone in the world would care either. And then he met Emori... and he started to care about her and then suddenly he couldn't live without her and then he was willing to die to save her. I think that whole subplot between him and her and their journey together made Murphy an even more sympathetic character than he already was and allowed him to become less selfish.

So, I'd say, one way of creating a survivalist character is to take them through a transformation and one way of doing that is through love. Give them someone to care about. Don't make them totally loveless and friendless. Everyone's got someone they care about, so for your selfish character to have someone they would die for makes them relatable.

The Ones Who Find Redemption and Change for the Better 

James Cole from 12 Monkeys

Cole! I love Cole so much!! He lives in a post-apocalyptic world that is hitting a little too close to home right now... A virus happened and wiped out more than half the world's population. I love the show so much and the pilot of the show so much... I thought it would be funny to watch the first episode in the midst of our own pandemic, but... I ended up turning it off five minutes into the show because again, it hit a little too close to home for me right now haha But back to Cole. He's the hero of the story. The protagonist. But he's also a survivor. He's done awful things to survive. At the beginning of the show he's a pretty morally gray character. His morals are skewed from growing up in a world where it's every man for himself. As the show goes on though, he starts to find himself. I can't say it's all because of Cassie (the second protagonist and love interest). It's just a natural development of the story and everything Cole sees as he lives in the past before the virus hits. He grows in compassion and his moral compass rights itself slowly. He gets a redemption arc and by the end, he's not the same person he was before. He wouldn't sacrifice one man for the good of thousands. He wouldn't throw someone under a bus just to save his own skin.

Redemption arcs are the literal best. If you can or want to or if it fits the story, give your survivor a redemption arc! They need it. I'm the kind of person who wants to see the best in everyone and in every character. I have a hard time believing that a person is condemned for the rest of their lives and that they will never be able to change. Redemption is a powerful thing.


Those are three different kinds of survivalist characters. All three of them are fun to read about, write about and watch on TV. All of them are entertaining in their own ways. I hope this is helpful for those of you who may want to write a survivor character. But let's be honest, right now, we don't need any more people who are out for themselves. We don't need selfishness right now. Let's all try to be a little less like Murphy, Katherine and even Cole and be selfless, positive and supportive of one another. Help those who need help. Pray for the people in your little corner of the world and for the people all around the world. Feel what you need to feel, but don't let it rule your whole day.

I hope you all have a great week!

How have you been with everything going on? (Let me know if I can pray for you!) Who are some of your favorite survivalist characters? 


  1. The timing on this is perfect! Not only about coronavirus, but I'm working on a dystopian novel that involves a lot fo survivalists, but I am really unsure about how to write them! I will totally use these tips.

    I tend to want everyone to be happy all the time and never sad at all. But, sadness is an emotion, too, and it is absolutely okay to be sad as long as you can pick yourself up again. Stay safe and healthy!

    1. That's awesome! I'm glad this was helpful for you! :D

      For sure! As long as you can pick yourself up afterward and not let it run your life, it's OK to feel what you need to feel. You too! :)

  2. I allowed myself time to be a bit frustrated by everything too. It does suck.
    Katharine is so entertaining!

    1. It does... But it'll all work out in the end. :)

      Yay another TVD/Katherine fan! :b She was one of the best antagonists!

  3. So much truth to what you said in the intro. It’s good to give one permission to feel their emotions. I’ve been an emotional roller coaster lately too. Honestly, video games are helping me get through this. Stay safe!

    1. I'm glad you have video games as a distraction and something enjoyable to get you through this! It's important to have something that's just fun to get lost in sometimes. :)


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

How to Write a Negative Character Arc

Anyone else love reading a train wreck? I find negative character arcs refreshing and fun to read and watch because not a lot of people do them. Like I'm a sucker for a redemption arc. I love characters that start out horrible and bad and "irredeemable" and then slowly redeem themselves and become the good guy. But from time to time I just love watching a good character go bad. Call me evil but I hope I'm not the only one who enjoys this. I've actually wanted to write this post for a while after rewatching Merlin last year and then over the past month me and a friend were rewatching Star Wars and I've always enjoyed the prequels because of Anakin's downward spiral. Also the last season of The 100, you watch as Octavia completes her journey to becoming one of the meanest, worst antagonists in the show. And that's saying something. The other day I really thought about what other characters who have negative arcs there are but I honestly couldn't th

June Thoughts

 Happy Wednesday and happy June first!  I'm writing an actual post for the first time in months! If you've been following this blog at all (first of all, thank you! I appreciate you and your dedication!) then you know that I've hit a bit of a dry spell recently. My depression has been pretty bad these past few months and while I've been flourishing at my creative writing, my blog writing hit a dead end. I know what it is. My words on here felt meaningless and pointless. I think that's the depression talking, convincing me that there's no point in me being on here even though for the past few years I've loved writing on this blog even back when only one or two people read it. In 2020 I started writing more about faith stuff on here, which was great and I hope I touched people through those posts, but over the past few months (even in 2021) I've been struggling with my faith a little. I'm in a better place now, but it was shaken at the end of 2020 and

Introduction to Heart of Xion

Happy Wednesday!  It's been a hot minute since I wrote a blog post on here that wasn't a monthly wrap up. To be honest, I'm still struggling with major burn out when it comes to writing on this blog, but I'm going to try and ease myself back into this blog thing by posting about my WIP that will be coming out in August! This is a standalone (clean) NA fantasy set in the same world as Desert Flower.  It feels sudden to me, but to be honest, I've tentatively been thinking about publishing it this year for a while. I feel like I tried to talk myself out of it by saying that publishing four books in one year would be too much. That its overkill and I don't see many other indie authors in my genre doing this... but that was my only argument against publishing Heart of Xion this year. I figure why bother sitting on a draft that I plan to work on and edit this year anyway and wait to publish it? I also have a bunch of other drafts that need editing/working on in my bac