Starting my first comedic and satirical series. Welcome any advice or critique.
Dear reader: if you are reading this guide, you are most likely aware that you are a background character. However, if you have stumbled upon this book by chance (highly unlikely) without looking at the cover, there are many simple ways to verify your existence as a background character.
There are a few questions you need to answer. Are you a beautiful individual who happens to be in great shape? Are you a person with almost no personality traits except the description of "perfect" etched into your very soul? Are you willing to help people no matter what situation they are in because you are the living embodiment of kindness? If the answer is yes to any of the questions above, you are most likely the protagonist of the story. While you may suffer mental or physical damage, your life will never be in serious danger, because you are under the protection of the holy plot armor. If your answer is no to all of the questions above, then you are eligible to apply for the position of a background character at the local DMV. The results will likely be sent to you in zero seconds, and don't worry, the approval rate for becoming a background character is 100%.
However, before you get too excited, you must also check for other traits. Is your natural hair a different color than the people around you (eg. pink, blue, red, the color of the rainbows)? Does your hair naturally form geometric shapes that have puzzled mathematicians for centuries? Do you have hidden powers that you never knew existed until moments of danger? If any of the description above is applicable to you, you are suffering from anime protagonist syndrome. Please get it checked out the next time you go to the doctor, stop reading this book and go on a journey with your friends who have similarly weird hairstyles.
Now that we have confirmed your existence as a background character, welcome to "How to Survive an Apocalypse as a Background Character: the Incomplete Guide". I hope you have a wonderful time here, and maybe pick up a few useful tips along the way.
Chapter 1: How to Live Past the First 5 Minutes
As an average person of society, you likely have already prepared something to survive an emergency situation. If you have already packed a complete bag full of essential items you will need to live for a few months, unpack that bag. Those will not be useful in an apocalypse, be it zombies or robot takeover or natural disasters. What you need to remember at all times is that you are the background character. You are born with a special ability, which allows you to die within the first five minutes of the series offscreen. So Let's be honest: you are basically dead before the apocalypse even started.
Just like the tens of thousands of deaths added to the shock value, you will be written out of the story before you could even appear before the audience. Stop fantasizing your heroic yet tragic life living alone in a decaying world, your current objective is not to survive, but to elevate yourself above the other background characters. No matter how hardworking or sympathetic you are as a person, the writer is never going to explore that because they are lazy.
Be especially careful if you are wearing certain outfits and hanging out at a specific location. For instance, wearing a suit in a crowded building, wearing a police vest near a police car, wearing a dress around a quiet neighborhood, and wandering anywhere near one of those descriptions above (including but not limited to the ones listed above) . If you are one of the people mentioned above, there is a good chance you will appear before the screen (yay). However, this comes at a hefty price, as you will likely be given five seconds of screentime, and die in the most horrendous way possible before the audience can even remember your face.
This is where this guide comes in handy. The first chapter is all about surviving past the first five minutes, and you are going to learn exactly how to do that. If you still think food and water are the essential items for surviving a disaster, please reread the first two paragraphs of this chapter. What you need is wisdom, and there is a lot of training involved. Please be mindful that those activities are highly dangerous and even illegal at times, please proceed with caution.
The most important skill is simple yet omnipotent: identify the main character. While this might sound hopeless, locating a single person out of the 7 billion people in the world, that could be further from the truth. In reality, the main character is closer than you think. While you will see TV broadcasts announcing a worldwide emergency, please don't take it seriously. The people on the other side of your continent are not actually suffering because they don't exist, likely due to budget restraints and lazy writing. In fact, at the current point of the story, only the city or town you are residing in exists, new areas can only be unlocked as the story progresses.
Now that we have narrowed the protagonist's whereabouts down to one specific location in the world, you need to find him or her. If you remember the description of the protagonist from the prologue of the story (beautiful, fit, kind and perfect), you are good to go. You may raise concerns as to where they are at a current moment, but there is nothing to worry about. They are likely around the corner. In fact, they are probably waiting around the corner for the story to begin so they can start saving people.
What you need to do now is to get yourself ready for the catastrophe. Do you look like the average person you can expect to find at any random location? If so, then you require a total makeover. If you are a boring and timid person, change your personality to someone pompous and loud, so you can be noticed more easily. If you are wearing suits, consider switching to leather jackets and jeans, with as much color on them as possible. Don't worry about the coordination of clothes, make yourself stand out as much as possible. Remember to wear a camouflage bandana, so you look more battle-ready than the average joe.
Sunglasses are good against direct sunlight, but their real purpose is to make yourself marketable to the protagonist. Please consider wearing them, especially if they are reflective. They also provide some degrees of plot armor, protecting you from being killed off in the first scene. Sunglasses are like a location marker for the protagonist, and they will likely spot you first if you happened to be wearing them. Remember to stand around a crowd of people without sunglasses, in order to prevent the protagonist from having a sunglasses overload.
Everything is almost ready, but it is now time to look at your biological features. You are at high risk of dying if you are a straight white male, because that is probably who the protagonist is going to be. Considering changing your race, gender and sexual orientation for the best combination. If you are a scrawny person, start lifting those weights now. You need to be as helpful to the protagonist as possible, and start transitioning yourself from a character to a plot device. This way, the writer will have a harder time killing you off, maximizing your survival rates. Now that you are ready for pick up, let's move onto the next phase.
Chapter 2: How to Live Past the First 5 Episodes
If you have done everything chapter 1 has provided you with and was picked up by the protagonist with his jolly band of friends, congratulations! You are now a functional member of society, which is a large expansive network of people close to the protagonist (rarely larger than 10). The society is marked by a rigid hierarchy, consisting of members from the higher ends (the most amount of screen time) and members from the lower ends (the least amount of screen time). The number people receive on the hierarchy is based on the order they were picked up by the protagonist and the degrees of their attractiveness. In other words, you are a side character now!
If you were the second or third one to be picked up, congratulations once again! You have nothing to worry about for a while. However, the earlier doesn't always mean better. If you are the first one the protagonist picked up, beware of a lethal value dangerous to all members in the hierarchy: shock value. If you happened to be first, you are probably going to be killed off in a brutal way so the protagonist can grow into a more perfect being. If you see the protagonist extending a helping hand to you when there is nobody else in his crew, run away! Circle around the block and go back to the protagonist once he has a few people in his merry group of friends.
Despite how useful this book can be, you likely won't end up with second or third in position, since you are not the only one who has read this book. There are other people who are faster than you and live closer to the protagonist, because they have made preparations all their lives for this very day. They have already secured their safety spots, but unfortunately the same could not be said for you. For the sake of extending the length of this book, let's say you are one of the unimportant side characters (position 6-10).
To understand your current position, we must dig deeper into the meaning of the "unimportant side characters". While there have been countless ancient records of those mythical beings (random characters) who appear out of the void (nowhere), the modern dictionary likely has it defined in one sentence: you are expendable. While being a side character is a major step up from being a background character, you are still at high risk of dying. Why? Because you can easily be replaced. With how things are currently going, there is a fierce competition between side characters, and you are one of those competitors with a future that is not so bright.
So how do you escape the muddy swamp known as the grave of unimportant side characters? It could easily be achieved by climbing up the social ladder. Don't be discouraged if your opponents feel far more virtuous, caring and useful than you because they are not, you have to keep in mind that they were background characters just a few moments ago. Even when things are dark, there is hope at the end of the tunnel: they are just as replaceable as you are! Clench your teeth and as*holes, because it is going to be a wild ride!
The first rule of thumb is to make yourself appealing to the audience. Make yourself memorable to them, make them feel attached to you and your personality. This can be done through helping strangers, showing care for your comrades and most importantly, being useful to the protagonist. If done right, the writers will have a harder time of removing you from the cast. While genuine emotions are preferred, you can certainly get by with fine acting skills. If you think changing your whole personality is too much work, consider signing up for a local drama class now! Good acting takes you a long way in an apocalyptic world.
There is only one correct answer for the best personality to have as a side character. You have to be caring and soft when dealing with the other side characters, while strong and decisive in the time of crisis (in other words, boring on a different dimensional plane). However, remember not to take your acting too far, and make sure you never overshadow the protagonist. If you ever steal the spotlight from the main character, you have essentially received a death sentence. The point to take away from this paragraph? You have to out-bore the other side characters.
However, the best personality can also backfire on you. If every side character has the best personality, you are back to square one. This is when you need to add an element of uniqueness to your personality, a new level unexplored by other characters. While swearing is usually frowned upon in many stories, don't be afraid to whip out the **** or the ****, if you are feeling bold, you can also use ****** ****** and even *** ** * *****. It's also okay to combine those words, you are in an apocalyptic world, who cares about grammatically correct swear words? A bushy beard and a jagged look is best suited for those personalities, so dress accordingly. Those unexpected elements might boost your character writing, and you can stand out more.
You can absolutely go the other direction as well. You can achieve a generic level of uniqueness by barely talking at all. Just remember to wear all black, have a scar on your face and hold something long like a spear or a sniper rifle. It is absolutely necessary that you have a tinge of sadness in your deep dark eyes, and emit an aura of eternal solitude wherever you go. Speak nothing more than you need, and always save your friends in silence. You are now the emo kid of the gang, and you are essentially irreplaceable.
Life is easier when you are a female in an apocalyptic world. If you happened to be attractive, there is no need to go through the trouble of creating a personality. Wear as little as you physically can. Forget those protective armors the guys are wearing, a dirty (but clean enough to be attractive) crop top and a pair of short jeans is going to get you a lot further than those muscle guys. No matter what you do, even when in time of crisis, look your prettiest. You need to be a damsel in distress for the protagonist to rescue, and add to his personal harem of hot women he has found on the side of the street. Dont worry about others, The guys in the crew don't exist as members of the opposite sex.
If you cannot outshine the boringness of other side characters, and you are not an attractive female you just have to patiently wait. There will be an event when an unimportant side character is going to be put through mortal danger. There are early warning signs for this event, such as "I am glad everyone made it out alive" and "I will tell you when we get back". Upon hearing those early warnings, there are ways to tell who the individual is going to be. Try to find the person with the most amount of spotlight in the story currently, bonus if they are going through a flashback to their childhood. That person will most likely be the unlucky participant of the incident.
In the event that you are the unlucky person, there are ways to prevent a tragedy from happening. Avoid the camera for that episode, don't look back on your life and avoid eye contact with the protagonist as much as possible. Those are all catalysts to initiate the event, and without them, the event cannot start (not enough emotional value). Think about this as a game of hot potatoes, but instead of throwing around hot potatoes, you are playing russian roulette with all six bullets intact. Pass it on to the next person and don't look back, because there is no way in hell you would want that back.
Now that you have identified the subject of this joyous occasion, sit as close to the person as possible. There is going to be a time of great crisis, and you need to be right there with them. In all likeliness, they are going to experience a life or death situation, and their fate is resting in your hands. Sounds like a big responsibility? It is, but you will definitely benefit from the pay off. Remember those acting skills you had to practice earlier? It's their time to shine! When the said person is going through all that ordeal, remember to try to save them with all your might.
The success of you moving up your rank greatly depends on your flexibility, an important trait that few side characters actually possess. You must not be afraid to use opportunities when presented with them, and learn from the mistakes of others around you. However, you must also be cautious when the moment is unripe. If you jump the gun prematurely, you might end up as the traitor, and given a death penalty because good guys (protagonist) always wins. Never drive yourself into a corner blindly chasing chances, and identify the correct moments to improve your personal image. You have now grown a lot from the nameless blank template, keep up the good work!
Chapter 3: How to Live Past the First Season