Author Topic: Post apocalypse women and girls  (Read 10279 times)

Offline mangyhyena

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Post apocalypse women and girls
« on: August 16, 2013, 12:39:23 PM »
I'm writing a post apocalyptic series of novellas featuring a young girl (10 years old when series begins) who is struggling through a post apocalyptic world.  Parents are dead.  Her aunt is her guardian and the only family she has when shtf.  Aunt will die at some point before she's 13.  I'll just get this out of the way now.  Her aunt was a prostitute before the collapse.  No, I won't be showing details as this is a YA series, but it is what it is and I intend to deal with it using the utmost care.  The main character will not become a prostitute, but her aunt needs to keep them fed and she does what she knows to provide for them.  It is what it is.  They'll journey from community to community, searching for a safe place to live as the series progresses, learning as they go.

Now, in that circumstance, what womanly things does her aunt need to teach her during the time they're together?  (Sorry, I didn't know how to phrase that better).  Women face a few different issues than men in this situation.  (Issues not meaning good or bad,  just things that need to be taken care of) Pregnancy, birth control, feminine hygiene, STD's, yeast infections.  What else?  If it were your 10-13 year old daughter and you feared she may wind up on her own if something happens to you, what info would you impart about her body and how to take care of it, or about being a woman in this screwed up world?  I assume you wouldn't want her not knowing something important as she enters her teens, should she wind up on her own, so I'd imagine there would be a frank discussion that would happen sooner than normal.  Take it from that angle and give it straight between the eyes, so to speak.  Just be frank.

Hunger, self defense, shelter, ect are issues all men and women have to deal with in this scenario.  If you think a woman or girl needs to deal with some of these issues differently than a male, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Also, is there anything you've noticed is missing in apocalyptic fiction as pertains to female characters?  What makes you roll your eyes and say to yourself, "Yeah right.  I call BS," while reading parts featuring a female character?

Hope the premise doesn't offend anyone too much, but I need to know these things if I'm going to write these characters well.  Both my daughters are under 10 and my wife is sick of hearing about the story, so I'm reluctant to ask her much more.  Again, I intend to handle these characters with taste, but Id rather not shy away from real issues a woman or girl would face in this scenario or candy-coat things too much.  If done properly, it shouldn't come across as offensive.  I want realism.

The companion series features a boy roughly her age in the same world.  These two series will cross over from time to time as these two main characters grow up.  I'm fairly confident about writing him because I'm a man and my son is 10.  I'll be writing these two series for years and putting them up at Amazon as ebooks for $2.99.  I'll also be co-authoring non-fiction, how-to manuals on survival techniques and technology featured in the novellas, for any readers who might not be familiar with what they see in the series and want to know more.  (I'm sure I'll be contacting certain members here and elsewhere in the hopes of teaming up on these non-fiction reports and manuals)  Wood gasifiers, methane digesters, water purification and desalinating, container gardening, survival sprouting, trapping/hunting, herbal medicine, ect...  This will consume the next decade of my life whether or not I ever sell enough ebooks to make a living.  It's my way of showing folks survival skills, permaculture, alternative energy, different food production techniques, and the importance of self sufficiency.

Yes, I'm ambitious.  Think 'Patriots Surviving The Coming Collapse,' by James Wesley, only on a larger scale over the course of many novellas.  Mine will focus more on the characters as they journey across devastated America and use accompanying non-fiction manuals to impart the dry information so the stories can flow.

Just for fun, what is this character's name?  She comes from a middle class family, is of European and Asian descent, thin-framed, with a bit of a rebellious streak.  Her family would have seen her as strong-minded or maybe too Americanized.  She'll grow to be a strong match to her male counterpart over in the companion series---her future husband many, many novellas down the line.

From time to time, I'd like to run scenarios by you all to get your opinions, if that is all right.  Thanks in advance for any help or insight you all have to offer. 

Offline Oil Lady

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Re: Post apocalypse women and girls
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2013, 01:26:43 PM »
First off, a lot depends upon how the aunt feels about being a prostitute. Some sex workers (be they here in America or abroad -- and "here in America" includes the various counties in Nevada where prostitution is not only legal, but there are sex worker unions to protect them) are utterly ashamed of what they do and wish they weren't doing it. While others don't really care although they might not talk about their vocation over lunch with friends. And others see it as a valuable service they provide. Is she ashamed? Is she trapped into this lifestyle with no way out? Is she deeply fearful that your 10-year-old MC will likewise become a sex worker one day soon? It may be possible that this aunt will maybe vigorously endeavor to steer the niece as far away from that choice (or fate) are she possibly can. Consider the father from The Road.  He knew he was dying, but he lived every moment for his son. And during the final few weeks before his death he was still fretting about how ready his son was (or wasn't) to survive on his own, not caring at all for himself. So perhaps the aunt is trying to mold her niece into a profession which will not involve sex-for-hire.  And even if shame isn't an issue, the damned diseases that a sex worker is capable of getting when there are no condoms available (I assume there are no condoms in a post SHTF world) would be enough to dissuade anyone from considering this vocation.   

On other matters, regardless of how you answer the above question about shame (or lack thereof), such a woman is going to be more keenly aware of "the ways of men" than the average woman. She will probably be very protective of her niece when it comes to other men seeing the 10-year-old and possibly offering the aunt money for a go-around with the child. She will also pay close attention to how savvy (or how silly and ignorant) that 10-year-old is with her own childlike knowledge of men (or even of other boys). She might or might not be TOO protective of the girl, possibly allowing herself to get too angry with the girl at times if the girl unknowingly does something that a man might interpret as sexually provocative. Such overreactions might happen if the girl is playing on the grass and doing summersaults or cartwheels, and her shirt falls down revealing her chest, or her skirt flies up, or the cuffs of her shorts might be too loose so that her underwear can be seen up those cuffs. Here's a personal story from when I was 7 (it's a freebie for you, dude). I was playing outside at a friend's house in the dead heat of summer. My female friend was also 7. Along with my friend and me we played alongside my younger brother, age 5, and her younger brother, age 6. Those two younger boys both got so overheated that they shed their shirts and kept on playing while shirtless. Now I had never seen anyone do that before, and since I was also getting overheated I decided to do it also. My friend's mother was very cool about it when she saw me. She called me over and told me that it's usually only boys who take their shirts off in public and that girls pretty much never do that at all in public. I nodded and the shirt went back on. Nothing more was said of it.  Your aunt character might or might not be cool-headed in her reactions to trying to protect the girl from doing things she doesn't truly understand. But please, for the love of the Political Correctness God, please be very careful here. You can NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER imply that it was in any way the victim's fault when a sexual assault happens. Ever. So you cannot wander off into the territory of the aunt saying "It'll be all your fault if some sicko attacks you!" unless of course it is part of your story to debunk such thinking. It is a truly unpardonable sin in fiction (and in journalism, and in courts of law) to step into the forbidden territory called "Blame the victim." Don't do it. Don't do it. PLEASE don't do it.

I'm sure I'll have other things to add. For now, this is what I can leave you with.

Offline mangyhyena

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Re: Post apocalypse women and girls
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2013, 04:46:17 PM »
I appreciate that last warning.  It's a point well worth mentioning.  It's never the victim's fault, ever.

The aunt wasn't working legally as a prostitute.  She's not proud of it, but she's not ashamed to the extent it influences every aspect of her life, either.  She's fairly pragmatic about it.  She has no survivalist skills, but she knows how to get a meal in their stomachs.  It's not the first time she's been hungry.

This is her sister's daughter.  The aunt is willing to sell herself, but dead set against her niece having to do that.  She is selfless in this regard.  It's something she's doing for her sister, as well.  There's a story for the aunt that includes her sister's attempt to help her out of a pretty bad situation and it'll come out in bite-sized pieces as the series progresses.  Every character, even supporting characters, has a detailed back story.  I couldn't write them convincingly if they didn't.

Yes, the aunt will overreact if she sees her niece do anything men might see as sexual.  She also is more astute at profiling a person, or summing them up quickly.  When the aunt passes away, the girl will be overly mistrusting, even around those who have shown they can be trusted.  It'll be an issue at some point because in the end, you have to trust someone.

I will handle the more controversial aspects with care.

Offline hedgewitch

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Re: Post apocalypse women and girls
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2013, 11:35:50 AM »
You ask what makes me roll my eyes in most SHTF fiction, well here it is, When you have just had a horrible scene of fighting or running or some sort of major event. And the writer acts like the girl/woman just cant wait to get it on with the guy. like right there. or the guys wife dies, who he is distraught over loosing and in 3 days he is sleeping with someone else. Really, this bothers me, I have noticed this in a lot of the books in this genre.
you ask, that's it, looking forward to your books they sound great already.

Offline mangyhyena

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Re: Post apocalypse women and girls
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2013, 11:50:38 AM »
You ask what makes me roll my eyes in most SHTF fiction, well here it is, When you have just had a horrible scene of fighting or running or some sort of major event. And the writer acts like the girl/woman just cant wait to get it on with the guy. like right there. or the guys wife dies, who he is distraught over loosing and in 3 days he is sleeping with someone else. Really, this bothers me, I have noticed this in a lot of the books in this genre.
you ask, that's it, looking forward to your books they sound great already.

I've noticed this myself.  I think it's because the author is writing it as an events driven story,  not a character driven story.  Just my opinion as to why the characters don't act like real people at times.  Maybe the author is so goal oriented about presenting the next piece of action that real characterization gets overlooked in favor of keeping the rollercoaster ride flying along.
To me, the emotional journey is the rollercoaster ride and the big events are just the directions the ride takes.
Then again, I'm not a best selling author, so take these opinions for what they're worth.

Thanks for the response.  I'll be careful to stay in character as I write.

Offline mangyhyena

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Re: Post apocalypse women and girls
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2013, 08:02:10 AM »
Back to the original question.  If it was just you and your 13 year old daughter, and you feared she might wind up on her own if you die, how would you prepare her for that possibility?

What would you explain to her, aside from basic survival skills?  She has big physical & emotional changes on the way as her body matures.  She can't afford to make mistakes in this environment like the ones commonly made by teens today.  Getting pregnant at the wrong time in this setting could mean the difference between life and death, for instance. Ditto with a bad choice of boyfriend.

In this situation, what do you explain to her and how do you go about explaining it so she'll have a fighting chance if you die?

Offline Oil Lady

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Re: Post apocalypse women and girls
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2013, 10:03:28 AM »
What would you explain to her, aside from basic survival skills? 

Disguise yourself as a boy, and work very hard at getting away with this illusion for as long as possible --months or even years if need be.

Offline Here Again

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Re: Post apocalypse women and girls
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2013, 01:31:19 PM »
Agreed, I'd likely council my daughter to dress and act as a boy (within reason).  I would be keeping my eyes open looking for another "mentor" for my daughter (assuming I knew my death was coming).

She'd need to hide her monthly flow, how are you planing for her to "deal" with that?  Are there store open from which products can be purchased?  $ from ??  Aunt have a stash of fabric to make needed supplies?  Someone teach her about moss and wool? etc.

In the generations before bras were available, women bound their chest.  She will need to learn how to do this to make herself more flat chested ....to pull off the "I'm a boy" ruse.  Nothing gives away a girl trying to be a boy like a bra line.

You said the aunt won't have much "survival" knowledge, then some one will need to come along and teach this girl something that will allow her to feed herself - either a skill to sell/ trade, foraging, etc. 

Character's name.....Euro-Asian....."too American" for her parents' taste....first thought was Emma.

Offline eronious

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Re: Post apocalypse women and girls
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2014, 02:16:02 PM »
My biggest critique of some of the prepper fic I've read is that the females are very two dimensional.  It's almost like prepper dudes have never met a real girl before.  *snark*

Have you read/seen Walking Dead?  The comic has most of the women written really poorly and they tend to just be these poor dependent creatures that who are always falling down when running and dumb stuff like that.  The writers on the show have done a much better job of making these characters more believeable (take Carol or Maggie for instance).  However, going too far the other direction is equally jarring (Michonne).  Now I'm ok with your characters screwing up or not knowing things, but make that equal please?  Especially if your main characters are kids. 

So if I found myself in the aunt's place, the first thing I'd teach my niece would be to kill a threatening adult male and ask questions later.  Females are always victimized in WROL scenarios and a sex worker would know that.  I'd teach her to be suspicious and cold as soon as possible.

I'd also teach her that sometimes doggies and kitties are food.  I'd teach her that hygiene is life.  I'd teach her to put caches in places in case she were robbed.  I'd teach her how not to be tracked. 

Now as for the stuff I think you're really asking about, look up something called glad rags.  They are a throwback to the old cloth style of feminine pad.  They are bulky and take forever to air dry, but would probably be the most useful piece of feminine hygiene equipment you could have in that sort of scenario.

Also, I wouldn't worry overly much about things like yeast infections.  Those are usually aggravated by an overindulgence of sugar intake and often stem from a lack of male hygiene, if you know what I mean.

You know what would suck?  If you wore contacts.  Why don't we ever hear about someone who has a problem that would be minor in today's world but a huge hairy deal in TEOTWAWKI? 

don't forget to give your young female characters moods they can't explain either.  And I would caution you against glossing over too many of the harsh realities.  I don't think you do readers a favor by rescuing them every time something bad is about to happen to your characters.  If you're uncomfortable putting it into words on the page either because you don't want to go there yourself or because your intended audience is too young, lead them to the scene then drop it and let them fill in the blanks.  How someone deals with something horrifying is part of what real life, especially in the horrible times, is kind of about.

Offline janinec

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Re: Post apocalypse women and girls
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2014, 07:27:11 PM »
Good luck trying to get a 13 year old girl to dress/act like a boy. 13 year old girls are very proud of their blossoming bodies and trying to get them to cover them up or bind their chests would be one hell of a problem, even in a survival situation. It wouldn't be until something happened that you could convince her, even then you would have trouble, teens think they are indestructible remember!

How willing she would be would depend how she viewed the way men treate her Aunt. If she wants power over men she would want to use her body to its best advantage, she would see the way her aunt uses hers. Just a thought.

I have three teenagers and I teach them self defence, how to grow a garden, set traps and snares, dress game, identify edible plants, and how to use medicinal herbs. Basic in field stuff spit poultices, laying on leaves etc.

Girls are not going to use reusable pads until all disposable sources have run out. I myself use reusable pads - rad pads and my girls want no part of it.

Just my thoughts.

Good luck with the book, it sounds interesting.

Janine

Offline Oil Lady

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Re: Post apocalypse women and girls
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2014, 09:12:29 PM »
Good luck trying to get a 13 year old girl to dress/act like a boy. 13 year old girls are very proud of their blossoming bodies and trying to get them to cover them up or bind their chests would be one hell of a problem, even in a survival situation. It wouldn't be until something happened that you could convince her, even then you would have trouble, teens think they are indestructible remember!


I think you are describing girls who have been raised in a safe and loving environment, raised to be at ease with their identities as well as their bodies, raised to be confident and optimistic and generally positive about the world and their place in it. 

One good scare or trauma will easily wither such a blossoming young lady into resorting to almost anything. Seeing one of her friends come home half dead from the kind of a rape that could very well happen in a land WRoL would do it for most girls. 


Offline janinec

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Re: Post apocalypse women and girls
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2014, 12:34:31 AM »
Yes I totally agree with you Oil Lady, as I said most teens think they are indestructible and it takes something major to shift that.

Janine

Offline notmyrealname

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Re: Post apocalypse women and girls
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2016, 11:40:19 AM »
Hi Mangyhyena, I'm just going to suggest that for this girl, it's going to be the relationships and values that are passed to her that are the most important.  Girls in their pre-teen and teen years are very concerned about having friends and fitting in.  What will her social life look like post apocalypse?  Who was she in school before then?  A sports kid?  A kid with not much direction?  A teacher's pet?  What was her home life like and what were her parents like?  Was she being raised well before things changed?  Did she have other role models before things changed, like a favorite teacher or coach or best friends? a beloved pet?   What were her achievements and failures and early life lessons?  Did she like to read?  Is she capable, is she outgoing or shy?

So much more to it than the puberty stuff.  Make her a deep character.

I would think a young person is more fearful and unsure than an adult that has more experience.  Kids make mistakes and they don't know what they don't know.