Post Apocalyptic Writing Prompts To Help You World Build

post apocalyptic writing prompts

World Building - Post Apocalyptic Writing Prompts

When it comes to dystopias, especially post-apocalypses, it can be hard to know where to begin. But, with some post apocalyptic writing prompts, you can begin turning those awesome concepts into story ideas ready for use in your next piece.

So, no matter if you are writing a short story, flash fiction, novella, or a full length novel, I hope these writing exercises and prompts help you.

Let's delve in!

Historic Post Apocalyptic Writing Prompts

A good place to begin looking for inspiration is history. There are periods of time that could be considered dystopian such as:
  • The great depression of the 1920s
  • The oppression of Nazi Germany and its rule
  • When the Spanish Flu swept across the world
  • The oppression of India by the British Empire
  • The slave trade
Taking a closer look at these times and the measures people had to go to for their own survival can help inform your own stories. The events that led up to these atrocities can also be analysed to help you build your own world.

And not all post apocalypses and dystopias need to be set in the future. Alternate histories are a great way to have a new take on real world events - bringing your stories closer to real stories in the real world.

Using history to learn about social concepts, structures, and how dystopian conditions can arise in the real world can help inform you when building up these aspects for your own worlds.

Sci Fi Post Apocalypse Writing Prompts

When it comes to the sci fi genre and the apocalypse, there are many different tropes that you can implement into your story ideas. But it is vital that you have your own unique take on these tropes, or risk falling into the trap of using the trope to write your story.

It is also important not to cross the boundary into science fantasy (unless you want to, of course). The best sci fi post apocalypse stories use technology we currently have - or will soon have - to build into the apocalypse or have caused it prior to your story beginning.

So, for example, think of aspects such as:
  • Nuclear technologies; such as power plants, nuclear accidents, or nuclear bombs.
  • Existing Artificial Intelligence; but rather than the A.I. itself being the main apocalyptic threat, the A.I. should be a tool used by a third party. So, for example, A.I. and big data facilitating the rise of a one world government.
  • A lack of technology; our world is so dependent on tech nowadays that a sudden absence of it could bring about the end of the world. Maybe begin thinking along the lines of a mass viral infection event, a huge magnetic storm, or even the development of Quantum Computing (and the Quantum Apocalypse that their programming power can present).
But just like every kind of sci fi story, you need to ensure that you don't let your idea drive the story. Keep it character driven!

Other Types Of Apocalypse

But we can't forget about other famous apocalypse types like the zombie apocalypse, alien invasion, or something more supernatural like demons, the rapture, and ancient evils. But most of these types of apocalypse will have conventions that are paramount for the genre and it can be easy to stick to these conventions because they work.

There is nothing wrong with that and it is a great place to start. However, just because there are conventions doesn't mean you need to follow them all of the time. With that said, here are some more miscellaneous prompts to feed your creative mind:

  • The cosmic horror apocalypse. Lovecraftian horror, as it is sometimes called, is a great place to dabble for ideas of your own. Begin to study the 'Old Ones' and start to imagine what it would be like if they finally arose (like it is often eluded to in cosmic horror). What would happen if these 'Old Ones' finally got their way? What would happen to the death cults that succeed in bringing them back? What would happen to everyone else? 
  • The Alien Apocalypse. This one is often a fan favourite of the post apocalyptic genre but it can often be easy to make it too dire. How could humanity win against such a superior force? Why even invade if they stand a chance of losing? These are tough questions to tackle as a writer but if you go for this story type they are a must. Think about what brought the aliens here in the first place? Why can't they co-exist with humanity? Why even invade in the first place?
  • The Mutant Apocalypse. The often forgotten cousin of the zombie apocalypse, this type of apocalypse holds so much room for the development of ideas. Are the mutants feral? Or maybe the mutants cause a caste or class system? How do ordinary people react? Will they be outlawed or clench power over their less evolved peers?
  • The Religious Apocalypse. This one is a very touchy subject for many people for obvious reasons. But what would happen if the rapture began? Will it be true to certain holy scripts? Or diverge entirely? What moral system will you choose? 
Try taking a look at some of these apocalypse types and take short notes of aspects that of are particular interest to you. It is very possible to combine ideas from different sub-genres to help build up your own ideas. For example, what if a mutants are seen as the coming of angels? Or, what if aliens are ancestors of cosmic horror's 'Old Ones'?

A Final Note

There are so many concepts out there to help you build your ideal post apocalyptic world and it can be very easy to get lost in world building. Use these ideas as a spring board into building your world but keep it simple. 

Worlds that are too complex from a philosophical or societal angle will be hard to write about - and hard to use to tell compelling stories. Now get researching and have fun!

Or, if you feel like it, take a look at Lore's home page for our most recent articles. We are also over on Twitter, so feel free to join the conversation there!