How To Write A Fictional Pandemic

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How to write a fictional pandemic

How to Write A fictional pandemic (zombies or otherwise)

This is a step by step game-plan of how to plot out the virus that ravages your fictional world and creates a dynamic enemy for your heroes to battle against.

A blog by arabella k. Federico

*Disclaimer: This blog is for education and entertainment purposes ONLY. This blog post is 100% fictional and by no means is giving any formal advice on covid19 or the treatment of covid19. This blog is not meant to give advice, suggestions, or any other type of reference to the current global crisis of Covid19. For more information about Covid19, contact the CDC or your local health department.

It's not an ending, but a beginning

 To begin, in every pandemic novel, if we’re talking about Zombies or not, needs its virus. Your job in this first step, is to nail down what type of virus you want. DO you want Zombies? Do you want a virus to turn people into Vampires? Or do you simply want a super aggressive respiratory disease that kills 8 out of 10 people? Decide. Do your research on how diseases work and what they look like. This is basically your Antagonist here, and like in my Antagonist series, you want a formidable foe. That is your virus. 

Pandemic girl

origin story

 Like all good things in writing, your virus needs an origin story. It needs to come from somewhere-even if that somewhere is a complete mystery to your characters and audience, YOU need to know where it came from. Viruses don’t just pop up out of thin air, some chain of events occurred to spawn it onto the world. Who created it? Did it crawl out of a lab, or come from a mysterious bite or a tiger? Subsequently, what happens next? 

the road to hell is paved with good intentions

For example, that saying: “The road to Hell was paved with good intentions.” Well, it’s one you should live by when creating this pandemic because it’s a great way to rationalize creating something so awful. Perhaps you have a character who’s a scientist trying to create a new drug to cure a deadly, awful disease. Then let’s take it further with the internal conflict and say this scientist character has a close family member with this disease. They’re being pushed by a powerful need to save their loved one, which therefore causes them to make selfish decisions and mistakes. All that can (and better) lead to the creation of this virus. Coincidently, you can see here how many different ways there are to give this virus personality through its creation.

Pandemic Snow White zombie

a slow progression of downhill fuckery

Yes, it has to happen. It must. Alternatively, this is also the fun part! This is the part where you figure out HOW your virus got from point A-its origin story, to Z-the complete downfall of this society. Or Zombies…whatever floats your sadistic boat. I don’t judge. Remember, where ever you start your novel, if this shitshow is either the first part of the book or all backstory, you need to know how the downfall of your world happens. 

the details matter

Firstly, how is this virus transmitted? Through the air? Mucous membrane or blood? A bite? Figure it out. Secondly, what about the incubation period? In the Zombie film “World War Z” it takes about 15 seconds to transform into full Zombie. But in “The Maze Runner” series, that process takes days. Most viruses don’t take their awful hold immediately, and it’s something to know about when crafting the rules of your virus. Thirdly, the goal of every virus is to spread, to survive. How is it spreading from human to human so rapidly it becomes a pandemic? Also, continue to ravage your fictional world?


location, location, location

Where are your viruses starting point? Not its origin, but the physical location from where it breaches its previously unreachable prison? Additionally, where does it grow legs, and put on amour, and go to war with the human race? Does this virus consume just a country? The entire planet? In how long does it take? What’s the way it got across continents? Follow the spread of disease from its physical location.

The grand fall

Decide, how does your society begin to crumble? Most of us that are conscious in 2020 will relate to this one the most, at least in some of the earliest stages of a pandemic. Who and what shuts down first? What is prioritized and how does this affect your characters and their lives and internal conflicts? In addition, when does the government completely cease? When it is everyone’s life for themselves and the people are left on their own? There’s no going back from that moment, and therefore it’s one to memorialize. 


now what?

In conclusion, you now have a whole new world. Does this world look scary or simply bare, and why is it more difficult for your characters? Do any unique aspects are they forced to abide by now that wasn’t their previous realities? What’s changed? Any new dangers and how is that psychological impactful on your characters? This is all for them, let them be affected. Even if this isn’t your starting point, it’s mandatory to shows how this virus has made the world different.

In closing

Lastly, this is a simple blueprint for you to follow; not gospel. I’m sure there are things I missed, and things you’d like to add or subtract. Do it. This is merely a path spread very close together to show you the way to writing a pandemic effectively in your story. We’re all living through this right now collectively. Chances are the market is going to shift for books like this, if not now, then after it’s all done. It’s a weird cognitive dissonance humans have where they seek the things that once caused them some type of pain or suffering. 
Now may be the time. 
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