Today I'm lucky enough to share a great guest post from Megan Crewe author of today's featured book, the Way We Fall. Part of what I loved about Megan's book was that it really made me think about what I would do in a similar situation. How would I react, what moves would I make, how far would I go? So when Megan agreed to write up a guest post I knew exactly what I wanted to ask her and I was super excited when she jumped on it! So without further ramblings from me....
The Way We Survive
When Kate suggested that I talk about the different ways that people respond to a crisis like the epidemic in THE WAY WE FALL, I jumped on it. One of the first things that appealed to me about writing an apocalyptic story was the opportunity to see how my characters would behave when pushed to their limits in a desperate situation. Thankfully, the real world hasn't yet faced a catastrophe as destructive as the "friendly flu", but we've certainty seen that people may do all sorts of things during less global disasters.
When faced with a major crisis, I think there are three main choices people must make that determine their chances of surviving:
Active vs. Reactive
Some people, when faced with danger, spring to action. They start looking for ways to protect themselves, to reduce or eliminate the danger, and/or to help others. They try to anticipate what might happen next so they can prevent things from getting worse, or at least be prepared for it. Most of the characters in THE WAY WE FALL take this approach most of the time… because the characters who aren't taking action generally aren't very interested to write about. ;)
But the truth is, taking action can be scary, especially when the full extent of the danger is unknown. So it's understandable that when a catastrophe looms, some people just react, defensively. They may let themselves pretend nothing's wrong and go about their lives until the problem reaches their doorstep. They're deluding themselves, but it lets them feel secure for a little while longer. Or, instead of looking for solutions, they may focus on laying blame--determining who they think is responsible and complaining about that rather than doing anything constructive. It makes them feel powerful to be able to accuse someone else of making mistakes, but takes a lot less energy than trying to figure out solutions. You can see this sort of behavior, to some extent, in Kaelyn's Uncle Emmett.
Generally speaking, people who take action are more likely to survive then people who just react, simply because they're more taking steps to ensure their survival.
Self vs. Community
Are you going to rely completely on your own abilities to get through the crisis, or are you going to band together with others in a united front? Which you choose is going to depend on how much faith you have in your own abilities, and how much you trust the people around you to support you. People who believe they have enough skills to get by on their own, or who think others are more likely to hurt them than help them, tend to stick to themselves or a small group of loved ones, like Tessa (in the beginning) and Kaelyn's mother. Those who believe in strength in numbers, and who may doubt their ability to get by on their own, congregate with other like-minded people, as Gav and Quentin do.
There are costs and benefits to both positions. You can get a lot more done in a group, but you also run the risk of being betrayed (as Gav learns). In many ways, sticking to yourself is safer. But it may only be safer in the short term. If the catastrophe is the sort with far-reaching and permanent effects, people will need to band together if they want their lives to be about anything more than hand-to-mouth survival. One person alone can't run a hospital or keep a power station running.
Help vs Harm
In the midst of a disaster, whether you're on your own or part of a group, it won't be long before you have to decide how to deal with people who aren't your immediate allies. This isn't so much a choice between two opposites as a sliding scale. At one extreme, you have people like Kaelyn's father and Gav, who are willing to put themselves in a lot of danger to help everyone around them. At the other, you have the island gang, hoarding supplies for themselves and hurting or even killing anyone who gets in their way. But most people aren't at one end or the other. Most people, like Kaelyn, make new choices in every situation, deciding it's okay to steal this person's possessions but not to attack that one, running from a person who's obviously infected but bringing food to people who probably aren't.
Is one approach more likely to keep you alive than the other? Again, I think it's a question of short term vs. long term survival. Being brutally aggressive may keep you alive in the short term, but pretty soon you're going to have a lot of enemies. And you have no guarantee that your equally brutal allies won't decide they'd rather have one fewer person to share the loot with and turn on you. On the other hand, the more you help people, the more you risk getting hurt in the situations they need helped out of, or of encountering someone who's just tricking you with the intent to harm. But you'll also end up having a lot of people eager to help *you* if you run into trouble yourself. And there's the question of your own self opinion. Will you be happy being alive if to stay that way, you had to do horrible things to others? For some, death would be preferable to turning into a person they'd despise.
It's hard to know how exactly you'd react in a crisis until you're actually in one. But if you're curious to know what type of survivor you'd probably be, check out my survivor quiz based on the events in THE WAY WE FALL: http://www.quibblo.com/quiz/
Here's hoping none of us ever has to find out for sure!
Thank you so much to Megan for joining us for Best I've Read!
Don't forget to check out all the other participating blogs:
Best I've Read 2012
Portrait of a Book
Books Complete Me
Once Upon a Twilight
Cindy Thomas, YA Author
I Am a Reader, Not a Writer