Novel Research

GWU Student Develops Original Piece of Genre Fiction as Part of Project on Postapocalyptic Fiction

A Gardner-Webb University senior English major has developed an original piece of postapocalyptic fiction as part of an intensive research program for undergrads.

Aaron Hilton (Winston-Salem, N.C.) was one of 10 GWU students who conducted research during the summer term with a grant from the GWU Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. The students worked 40 hours a week for five weeks on their projects, which they are required to present in a professional forum. Each one had a faculty mentor or collaborator who worked with them. Hilton’s mentor was Dr. Chris Davis, GWU Professor of English.

For his project, Hilton studied dystopian/apocalyptic fiction and worked with Davis to develop an original piece of postapocalyptic fiction. “As with any genre, postapocalyptic fiction is a complicated affair with many connections to other genres,” he explained. “I discovered some literature that presented unique scenarios and unearthed sub-genres of which I was formerly unaware.”

During the summer term, Hilton focused on completing an original piece of work in the genre based upon his survey of the field. “I spent a lot of time reading other works within the genre to see what techniques other authors employed in shaping their own narratives,” he offered. “I then turned to my own writing and applied some of the observed techniques. I did a good deal of reading about weapons and survival techniques to make my story believable.”

His research process involved guidance and feedback from Davis. “Dr. Davis encouraged me to try some new approaches to creative writing which were incredibly helpful in overcoming the dreaded phantom ‘writer’s block,’” he shared. “Dr. Davis remains a co-adviser for my thesis project which is a continuation of my summer work.”

For Hilton, the hands-on aspect of the research process was extremely rewarding. “This project presented me with a chance to dive into the world of writing around which my major revolves,” he reflected. “I see this as a potential kick-off point for a publishing career and necessary experience should I wish to pursue a teaching licensure in creative writing.”

Hilton offered a poster presentation on his summer work during the North Carolina Honors Association Conference last month in Charlotte. “My findings are also contributing to my English thesis research,” he explained. “As for the book itself, I intend to pursue publication.”

Overall, he believes more students should consider taking part in the research program. “Take the opportunity!” he encouraged. “Participating in research programs is an enriching experience. I received an education I would have missed otherwise.”