Let’s talk about tropes
Maybe you’ve already published a post-apocalyptic or dystopian book, and you’re selling like hotcakes? Then you must have dealt with some major tropes of the genre, congrats! You’ve probably hit the exact tropes of your reader niche. Yet, you did it with an original touch to offer a unique reading experience.
Let’s face it, readers expect to find familiar elements but they don’t fancy a rip-off. The latter leads to acidic one-star reviews and public shaming.
Who is Your Comp Author?
Tropes? That sounds like we authors just imitate the big names of the industry. No, the fans who pick up our books, crave zombies, nuclear war, oppressive government, and a handful of friends surviving against the impossible odds (or fighting each other to the death). But they also enjoy different plot styles, writer’s voice, and a novel approach to a trustworthy concept,
Check out the bestsellers in your genre; pick a sub-genre you love.
Then start wading through the reviews from five to one star to find what you have in common with that particular bestseller. Remember to choose an indie author who didn’t publish yesterday but manages to sell hundreds of copies a day after the feeding frenzy of a book launch has turned into grease calm.
Don’t know the sales amount of your comp author? Use: https://kindlepreneur.com/amazon-kdp-sales-rank-calculator/
What do their reviews say?
- “Loved the action…”
- “Great characters…”
- “Meticulous research, realistic…”
- “Nothing new but entertaining…”
- “I hated the violence…”
What do your reviews have in common with the big indie names? If you haven’t written your story yet, it doesn’t matter. You have a reading history: what do you admire & love? Do you want to write like those authors? Then research why readers buy their books. It’s all spelled out in the reviews.
Science Fiction is a broad category. It encompasses Star Trek (Space Opera) and The Walking Dead (Zombie Apocalypse), and Military Science Fiction, not to mention aliens and colonization. In some areas, the books and movies close in on Fantasy or Romance. Some authors mix genres deliberately and manage to sell but I wouldn’t recommend that if this is your first book.
Not all post-apocalyptic fans look for zombies (who doesn’t love zombies?) Well, fans of The Hunger Games, for example. YA fighting arena is a separate field.
The level of fact-checking also varies from one sub-genre to another. If you write Military Science Fiction (or anything about the military) be sure to check your ammo, tactical terms, and ranks! Or you’ll be heading for those one-star reviews. Hard Science Fiction is another tough category. If your post-apocalyptic novel wants to attract the hard science nerds, double-check your A-bomb’s radiation particles and their half-life.
Common Post-apocalyptic Tropes
- What caused the apocalypse? This question offers a thousand origin stories: nuclear war, deadly virus epidemic, drought, flood…
- What happened before, during, and after the cataclysmic event. You can form ideologies, alternative history paths and legends told to those who weren’t around to see the event.
- Characters: if you’re a fan, you’ve seen it all. Take TWD: what a diverse group of survivors! The main character must have an origin story and the end of the world offers beautiful ways to change a character (character arc, remember?). The people around you: your family/friends, colleagues: how would they change after a nuclear war? How would your granny react to zombies?
- Rebuilding: who controls it? Shall the survivors get a society they dreamt of or is it another nightmare? Do your people just carry on, as usual, weathering the storm?
Here’s a list of great tropes & cliches to recycle:
- Science Fiction movie tropes: https://screenrant.com/post-apocalyptic-sci-fi-film-movie-tropes/
- Tv Tropes, What happens after the world ends: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AfterTheEnd
- The Apocalyptic Cliche Index: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ApocalypticIndex
Nothing stops you from starting a string in Quora, Facebook, or Reddit. Ask which cliches people love or hate. Goodreads has plenty of post-apocalyptic and sci-fi-related book groups. Everyone seems to hate a cliche but you might ask: “which dystopian tropes you like,” or “which author recycled the chosen one- cliche best?”