Notes For My Future Novel About The Last Man On Earth

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Following an apocalyptic disaster, main character finds himself completely alone — but it’s the good kind of alone. Disaster should be sufficiently devastating to wipe out all human life on the planet yet not cause main character, who has always been kept down by others, any further hardship.

Plague seems like best way to go. It eliminates the people but leaves everything else, including main character’s CD collection, intact. Fortunately, the infection can take no hold on him. At first he assumes it’s merely some natural immunity — an incredible stroke of luck in an otherwise disappointing existence — but as the story unfolds he’ll come to realize it’s much more than that. There’s something about him that is inherently better than other people, as he’s always suspected. He deserves to survive. Not so with everyone else, whom he won’t miss one tiny bit. (Be careful not to let this lack of sorrow, this certainty that they all got what was coming to them, impinge on main character’s likeability.)

He soon abandons his apartment, which was too small anyway, and conducts a perfunctory search for other survivors. He neither expects, nor hopes, to find any. His real reason for leaving is to escape the bad memories. Two weeks ago he came home early and caught his wife and supposed best friend in bed together. Plague should be particularly unkind to these two characters, who die regretting their unthinkable betrayal of main character’s trust. But it’s too little, too late. They’re dead now.

Eventually main character’s search takes him to one of those mansion-like houses he saw once while driving through Connecticut, and which he claims as his own. (The house, not the state, though of course both are his for the taking.) This is his very first act of materialism ever. Before the end of civilization he didn’t get paid enough to be that way, despite being the only one at the office who knew what he was doing. Promotions never seemed to come his way. It was all politics. A popularity contest. But they’re corpses and he’s still here. Who’s Mr. Popularity now?

About the corpses: think of a way to negate the unpleasantness of having them spread out over the cities and towns, polluting main character’s air with their stench. If the plague originated in outer space, it could conceivably disintegrate the bodies over the span of a few hours, leaving the world fresh and clean for main character yet allowing him just enough time to strut through the corpse-filled streets feeling smugly superior. (With likeability again in mind, limit this gloating to five or six chapters.)

Although the Space Plague has its way with mankind, it should leave dogs alone. Unlike people, they’ve never been anything but warm and loving to main character, and on one of his stops to gather canned goods, he comes across and adopts a friendly black Lab. Possible names: Shadow or Smokey.

Midway through story, main character encounters a group of flesh-hungry mutants whom he must wage war with until he finally succeeds in destroying them all. Unfortunately, battling deadly mutants on a daily basis has not only desensitized him to the act of killing, but encouraged it. Therefore, in the final chapter, when main character meets another band of survivors who are just regular people striving to rebuild society, he slaughters them without hesitation.

But it’s not his fault. Not really. Living in a world ravaged by the Space Plague and murderous mutants (who devoured Smokey, by the way) is what made him like this. Not to mention, he’s always suffered more than his fair share of humiliations and difficulties, including a childhood that wasn’t the greatest. But mostly it was all those people — seemingly everyone he ever met — determined to make his life just a little bit worse than it already was, if that’s even possible.

The point is, at novel’s end main character is still the hero, the good guy, and he gets to live the remainder of his years in uninterrupted peace, completely alone. (Make sure to emphasize, in case some readers haven’t figured it out yet, that it’s the good kind of alone.)

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