Writing Your Survival Story, by Heliwr

Story telling has been around ever since God created man. Someone who can tell a good story is often a popular guy. While some stories are purely for entertainment purposes, others are instructive. Of course those of us who are children of the King know that the Bible is the greatest story ever told and is both entertaining and instructive. For those ‘Preppers’ who like to read there is a plethora of “Post Apocalyptic” novels to choose from in bookstores or at the Kindle Store on Amazon. Some of these disaster visualization books are quite well done, while others… not so much. Most of us who read these sorts of books do so not only for entertainment value but also to see if there are any ideas or hints that we may be able to glean from the pages to help us with our own TEOTWAWKI plans.

Now, I’m an avid reader and read both fiction and non-fiction books. I love history, especially American History, and believe that we have much to learn from the past if we only invest the time to learn. Any topic that has to do with Self-Sufficiency or practical How-to Skills is also tends to capture my interest. However, part of me is naturally drawn to the ‘End of the World’ / ‘Post Apocalyptic’ genre. I think everyone, Believer and Non-Believer alike, are drawn to these types of stories because, just as God has created all of us with a ‘hole inside of us that only He can fill’, all people have an innate sense that the world is not currently as it was intended to be. Therefore, we all have an inexplicable longing to return to some form of ‘The Garden’ where we are given the chance to live in a new world that has somehow been reborn and is ‘cleaner’ than what we currently live in (or at least a chance to remake our immediate part of it). The idea of ‘starting over’ after some kind of apocalypse holds the hint of this promise and therefore movies like Planet of the Apes; The Hunger Games; The Postman; The Road; the Jericho television series; The 100 on Netflix (and many, many others) appeal to vast audiences.

What about you? Have you ever written your TEOTWAWKI story? Sure, we all think about different scenarios and what we will do in certain situations, but just thinking about something is not a very good way to plan or prepare. When you write something down it has a way of focusing your mind on the subject you are writing about. In the military, when missions are given and lives are on the line, WARNOs, OPORDs, FRAGOs… are written out, issued, copied down by those receiving them, and then plans are made. In the Corporate World reports are written, put into PowerPoint format (or into a binder/portfolio) and then presented. Writing something down is a good way to identify the issue or goal, then plan for it in an orderly and detailed way.

Getting Real

Now we’ve all read the stories about how, when the EMP hits, the hero is in his off-grid home that he has hardened against just such an event and his 50 year supply of food is safely secured in his basement. Of course, he has also constructed a separate underground complex akin to Raven Rock, underneath the mountain that he owns behind his retreat, stocked with enough gear to supply a Battalion sized element from the 10th Mountain Division. Naturally, he plans to outfit the platoon of Rangers that just happen to be living next door to him with all this gear, and in so doing, ensures their undying loyalty for eternity… This is NOT the kind of story I’m talking about! You are the hero and you only ‘have what you have and know what you know’.

Sure, we would all like to live in the American Redoubt with our entire tribe and 10 years worth of food, but where do you currently live and what kind of preps do you actually have in your possession at this moment? We are talking about writing a story for educational purposes, not entertainment. You have to be brutally honest with your current state of readiness/abilities and not fantasize about what you wish you had/knew.

A Likely Scenario

My suggestion is to pick your most likely/favorite TEOTWAWKI scenario and write a story about it. You would of course play the protagonist since you are the writer. Your family, friends, tribe, neighbors, rivals, street gang down the road, etc… will be the supporting characters. Remember, we want to learn from this so do not put yourself into the most advantageous circumstances or pretend that once TSHTF you will somehow miraculously become the ‘World’s Luckiest Man’.

Start your story as if beginning a ‘normal’ day. At some point during that day, begin your scenario. Are you at work? How far is your commute? How do you get home? Does your car still work or are you walking? If driving you need to account for traffic/accidents/how much gas is in your tank….. If you’re walking, what will be waiting for you at home once you complete that 4 hour, 75 mile ruck march with your 65 pound ‘get home bag’ on your back? NOW WAIT A MINUTE! We said realistic. If you’re 75 miles from home how long will it really take you to walk home and what do you really have in your vehicle at this very minute that you would be able to use? Maybe you’re only 20 miles from home. How long will that take you? Do you know how many miles you can walk in an hour? How about with a pack on? Do you know how many miles you can walk before you have to stop because your body quits or your feet are so blistered you can’t continue?

And beyond you, there is the world around you, to consider: What types of neighborhoods will you have to go thru? How will other people be reacting? When you get home does your wife have your emergency plans up and running or is she still trying to figure out what happened? Has she remembered to fill up the bathtubs and sinks with water? Did she remember the six (6) 32 gallon rubber trash cans you have in the rafters of the garage and fill them up too?

What is your 14 year old son doing? Sure, you’ve been training him since he was 5 and he has stayed pretty serious about his stated career goal of becoming a US Army Ranger since he announced it at 11 years old, but he is still just a 14 year old boy! Good boy or not, he still has hormones raging thru his body which cause his brain to shutdown at regular intervals causing him to occasionally act like an imbecile. Be realistic in how he will deal with the world being instantly/dramatically changed.

What about your 17 year old daughter? Is she home or was she at her part-time job working at the layup barn when TSHTF? Yes, she is great with horses and other animals but she is also never without her iPhone. If that doesn’t work how will it affect her personality and performance? Be honest. Does she melt down or Cowgirl Up? You know your baby girl better than I do so honestly assess this and make plans in your story to deal with it.

New Arrivals?

You also need to think about when others start arriving at your door. Of course your adult daughters are going to come with the grandkids and their husbands. That is the plan after all. One son-in-law is in the medical profession and is a ‘casual prepper’ so, while somewhat lacking in practical skills, he is aware of what needs to be done and is willing. What about the other son-in-law? While he is a good guy he is the epitome of Normalcy Bias. He has no practical skills but is young, smart, and strong. Do spend your time moaning and complaining about him or have you made plans to use him the best way you can until you can get him up to speed? Write it out in your story, seriously considering what his reactions will be to your direction/influence.

Then you have the ones in your story who will just show up at your door. Ones who you didn’t invite but, even though you practiced scrupulous OPSEC, were smart enough to discern that you are the kind of guy who will ‘know what to do’ in this kind of situation. Writing these things down, as opposed to just thinking about them, will really make you focus on the problem and therefore induce a cognitive process that could give you options that you hadn’t considered before.

Hunker Down or Bug Out?

What about those of you who are fortunate enough to already live at your retreat in the American Redoubt and are fairly well set up? Are you going to sit tight and wait for your people to come to you or do you have a child away at college you will have to go get? Or an aging mother that does not live with you and your conscience requires you to go get? Have you made a plan for that? How will you get there? Low key Minivan, your trusty old gelding, or your Leather Personnel Carriers? What will you wear, full combat loadout or blend in with street clothes? What will you take? How much will you need to take? How will you transport it? How long will the trip take?

Then, there are considerations like these: What are the likely challenges you will face on the journey? What are the stay-behind personnel supposed to do while you’re gone or do if you don’t come back? Every smart backpacker has a check-off list for their gear that they go thru before each trip. This written list ensures they do not forget anything yet also causes them to look at a document and evaluate if they really need to carry that item. Say you’re up near Porthill, ID and your kids are at school down in Boise. Do you have enough gas to get there and back? If walking, how will you resupply (because you surely will not be able to carry enough supplies on your back)?

Risk Mitigation Through Storytelling

Do you see what I’m getting at here? In writing down your story, and being brutally realistic about it, you can identify holes in your plans and take corrective action now. You will also have the opportunity to work scenarios a few different ways to give you options. Use your imagination. As I intimated above, do not count on “luck”. However, I will always remember a Sergeant I had in the Army who was fond of saying, “Luck favors the prepared”. If you have a certain skill set or knowledge base, don’t be afraid to use it in your story. By doing so you may discover new ways that these things can benefit you in a collapse scenario. Or, think of a couple of things you need to do now so that they will be a benefit then.

Really, this is just one way to “War Game” a scenario but this way gives you something tangible to work on and manipulate. Then, once you’ve done that, you can let one of your inner circle read it and get their feedback. (That will of course then require a rework of the ‘story’ since they will bring up things you haven’t considered). And, don’t forget, one story = one scenario. You can write multiple stories for multiple scenarios. Maybe others in your tribe will write their own and then, at one of your training weekends, everyone can engage in ‘Story Time’ by reading out loud what they have written. This would undoubtedly result in a lively discussion.

Only God knows the future and we are told to not worry about tomorrow. However, this is not a license to lay around and not work, any more than it is a license to neglect making plans to take care of our families, tribe, widows and orphans.

Disaster Visualization

Again, this is only one intellectual exercise to vet your prepping plans. There are many more out there. However this one also has a “visualization” aspect to it. Studies have shown that ‘visualizing’ your performance in a certain situation helps condition you to react properly when actually placed in that situation. And who knows? Maybe when you get done, your story will be good enough to publish, become a Best Seller, and make you enough money to buy a mountain of preps and move in next door to a platoon of Rangers in the Redoubt!


  1. The writer for ‘One Second After’ had a good model for telling a story. Reading that for the 1st time was sobering – so many aspects I had not considered.

    1. Have you read the book Lawless by Bryce Smith? It was just published this year. It is about a police officer who is a prepper and it follows him as society breaks down. It is super interesting and very informative.

  2. A local friend of mine recently published a book much like this. More or less “regular” people and how they deal with an economic crisis similar to the one in Rawles’ Patriots. Book is called Turn Red Tomorrow. I got a paperback from Amazon but I believe there’s a Kindle version as well.

  3. The scariest part of my life these days is the two annual trips from my home in the Redoubt to visit my elderly dad in southern California. The plane ride back north is always such a relief.

  4. How timely this article is I only wish it had come out 3 months sooner since I submitted a manuscript to a publisher for a book I wrote. It took me about 2 years or more writing as my time permitted and I finally got the nerve to submit it to a publisher. Surprisingly much of what is covered in this article quite by accident I covered. Do I have a New York Times best seller? I doubt it but if it is reasonably well received I left the book end where I could pick up with a second book.

      1. JIM if it holds up it will be “Nomads” I don’t think anyone has covered this angle but I haven’t read all of the survival books out there.

    1. @OldAlaskan

      No need to market to neighbors, relatives and aquantances. They will turn on you and be horrified with who you are as a Prepper. It is only a lose situation.

      You must write well enough to market to the general public.

      Like JWR stated, no one knows who he is in his community, even in his town comings and goings for incidental supplies. I’m referring to the interview he did at his home a few months back.

      No one knows in the Redoubt that we are Preppers and have boo-koo food, medical, and guns and ammo. We play dumb all the time. The neighbors are over all the time and we just state we needed to leave the major city as why were here. When they bring their guns down and shoot on our property – we ask “now how do you fire this–that trigger?”


  5. Heliwr, you’ve laid down a challenge. I like to write, & just may take your challenge. In my experience, when I share my vision/hopes/expectations, it can lead to others supporting that vision/hope, but if shared with the wrong individuals, it can lead to suspician or criticism or build up expectations to an unrealistic level. There’s value in sharing one’s vision & hopes, but pray about who to share that with, b/c ur survival story will be very personal. Share it with the wrong person, say someone w/ loose lips, & their acquaintance may look to steal your preps, or show up 4 days after TEOTWAWKI hits, expecting u to feed & protect his family. So I’d recommend praying about who to share ur story with, b/c it will likely reveal aspects of ur plan/vision/expectations. As for myself, I see myself sharing my story only with closest family members & perhaps 1-2 prepper friends. If one is in a prepper group w/ all trustworthy members, then share it w/ them. If u have limited funds, u may consider sharing it w/ a prepper consultant such as JWR, Tess Pennington (if she does consulting), Daisy Luther -these are names who’ve written trustworthy prepping articles/books. Now, if you’re as OPSEC obsessive as I am, one may want to get a written agreement from a consultant, promising to keep what u share confidential. Thanks again, Heliwr!

  6. If anyone tries to publish ur survival story, I recommend changing names of ppl & places, for opsec reasons. Ask yourself, do u want ur extended family, neighbors, friends, etc knowing that u’ve published ur story? The risk is that your published story reveals details & your level of prepping, to ppl that you don’t completely trust. I work with the public to some extent, & over the years, have learned, thru trial & error mostly, what parts of my life I want to share & reveal, & which parts of my life I want to keep personal & confidential. But sometimes, it’s still not clear.

    1. When I started writing the first thing I decided on was a pen name. I never wrote about my own situation but the last thing I ever wanted was name recognition. I have 77 published titles.

      Anyone can publish in e-book or paper book form on KDP and other indy publishers and do so with no cash outlay.
      Good luck everyone.

  7. A work of fiction or just thinking through a scenario? FEMA has a strategic foresight initiative that looks at trying to identify future issues. This sounds much like strategic foresight at the individual level but probably more fun.

    If your going to do this start with assumptions. Are your assumptions reasonable or are they disaster myths based on Hollywood drama?

    I read a lot of dystopian fiction, both new and old stuff. There are lessons in fiction but I find many times that there are a lot of bad assumptions. I read one story were there was no electricity but furnaces still ran. Another character ate a night home cooked meal of eggs and bacon and jumped on his ATV to travel everywhere. And perhaps my biggest pet peeve is all the free time that is available in a lot of the fiction works.

  8. this is hands down one of the best suggestions I’ve read in one heck of a long time. Just thinking the question, “what would I write…. what would my story be?” alone has made me thing and think hard about the reality of the day-to-day, minute by minute living and doing of ‘it’. The first question of course came to me as “what is ‘it’? as regards the cause”.

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