Picture yourself as a woman trying to survive in a world gone mad. All you’ve known about
security flew away with the blast from Yellowstone. If you never paid attention to the
survivalists, your cupboards are empty, your water contaminated, and your prospects slim.
Whether Yellowstone explodes or terrorists set off a dirty bomb, a disaster lurks right around the
corner for America—it isn’t if—it’s when!
Imagine a world where trucks slide off the highways unable to deliver necessities. Air traffic is
nonexistent. A panicked population overloads the electrical grid and it crashes. Rioting breaks
out, as people loot and plunder to save themselves. Two-thirds of the farmland will never
produce another crop for several millennia. Mankind reverts to the caveman days. It’s the
survival of the fittest. Shelter, weapons, water, food, and sex rule the minds of men.
As an author, I had to weave the characters I develop into a world as described above. Can you
imagine the internal tension they would face, wondering who to trust—if anyone? For this
reason I research, outline, and develop the world of my novel before I drop my characters into
that world. I have nothing against pantsers—those who write by the seat of their pants. That style
of writing wouldn’t work for me.
Great novels tighten readers into knots with tension—both internal and external. There are two
types of women in Yellowstone—women who are protected by men and women who are preyed
on by men. If a woman’s protector dies, another man steps into his role. In this world, the woman
may not have a choice of who her next husband might be. And this is among those who have
prepared for a disaster of this magnitude.
Once I’ve reached this point in my research, I’m ready to outline my characters. What will be the
background of my female lead, the person through whose eyes most of the story is told? What
beliefs does she hold that will be rattled to the point of collapse? Where will her inner strength
come from, her faith, her bloodline, or her will to survive?
I decided on this picture of a Creek Indian girl as my protagonist. While looking at her, I
developed my character sketch, giving her the profile of a woman who can withstand adversity.