IT WON’T DIE: My struggle with zombies


I don’t want to write a zombie story, really I don’t. The genre of horror doesn’t jive with my style. I’m much more of an action/adventure writer. I want my characters to fight back against untold terrors rather than just scream and hide. I’ve tried to write zombie stories in the past and they turn out to be more like Resident Evil than Night of the Living Dead. My characters are fighting against the hordes of undead and bandits rather than dwelling on the psychological horrors.

Yet these ideas keep popping up.

It stems from being a fan of zombie movies and having an active imagination. If I’m in any situation for an extended period of time I start thinking of zombie scenarios. These ideas evolve as my life and work change. When I was working as a private investigator the plots were mostly centered around isolation, darkness, and resourcefulness. Anyone who tells you that being a private investigator is cool has never been one. If you work solo then you’re going to starve and if you work for an agency you wind up doing security. Contrary to popular belief there isn’t hardly enough of a demand for tailing cheating spouses. If you get really lucky your firm gets an insurance contract and you get to investigate cases of fraud. I was a Class Level 2 which meant I was one step up from being a Mall Cop but not licensed to carry a gun, hence the resourcefulness working into the plots. I also was stationed at isolated corporate locations in a cheap uniform so I spent a lot of time alone in warehouses with a target painted on my head surrounded by stuff people wanted to steal. You know that guy who dies before the opening crawl? Yeah, that was me.

I am incredibly grateful that I’ve moved on from that job. Now I’m in the healthcare field where there is plenty of demand. I’ve seen some interesting things and attended some fun training sessions preparing for all sorts of disasters. Given my active imagination I can’t help but shift things to a zombie story.

I don’t want to write about zombies, they’re played out but this opening scene keeps playing in my head over and over. With each time it gets sharper like that one line of a song repeating in your head until it finally clicks and your remember the rest… or it just drives you crazy.

What is all this leading to?

1. What signs would the beginning stages of the virus (before zombification) present?
2. How would emergency services interact with these opening steps?
3. Is containment an option?
4. If containment is an option (isolated outbreak), what next?

With zombies being so prevalent in media, how do you make your version worth reading/watching/buying?

1. Look at what is out there-
Not just The Walking Dead but look at the indie movies, the comics, the books. What about these projects works, what are their downfalls, what is just tired?

2. Avoid Gimmicks-
They are a crutch and the creative equivalent of that creepy guy who wants to give out free candy. It could be the best candy in the world but then your teeth itch and you really need some more but he’s charging now.

3. Are they alive or dead?
Best shown in The Morning Star Strain series by Z. A. Recht (the first two books). If the initial cause is a virus then the hosts are alive, for a time anyway. Living and dead infected behave differently, as they should.

4. Push the genre
There are books, movies, comics, webcomics, and tumblr series out there. The characters drive the story. Yes, zombies are the main attraction but they aren’t the reason people stay. Your characters and what they go through is what people want. Sure, it’s cool to think how you and your friends would do but that thought fizzles. Take a look at it started out as a group of friends and it has turned into so much more.

5. Unnatural disaster
The core of a zombie story is just a weird force of nature. If you need a real life correlation just look at the news during hurricane season. For a Hollywood shine check out the disaster movies that people love to make. Instead of a volcano, tornado, or tidal wave think of how it would translate to zombies.

6. Keep Your Logic Intact
You made the rules to your world, keep them or break them on purpose. Changing how things work on whim will turn off your audience faster than a diaper commercial during late night broadcasting.

7. Learn from the failure
Visualize a landfill or a dump if you’re a country boy like me. Everyone knows that guy who goes to drop off trash and comes back with a trailer full of stuff. His furniture might not match and his garage looks like a medieval torture chamber but after some industrial strength cleaner and a little shine it’s still good.
This is now you. The content out there is the landfill and you’re about to dive in to the landfill that is zombie media. The genre is begging for good content that anything halfway decent gets praised.

I’m serious.

Have you read Zombie Fallout? It’s crap. It is a series. With fan. It is first-person tripe with unlikable characters and it wasn’t worth the trip to the library. Don’t get me started on Brian Keene.

The Walking Dead? The comic is the same formula on repeat. The show? It’s good but not great.

Crossed? Splatterpunk meets 28 Days Later with none of the charm.

Go back and watch any ‘Of The Dead’ series by Romero and tell me how subtle and nuanced the commentary was. Land of the Dead didn’t even make sense.

This needs further discussion.



1 Comment

Filed under Rant, Writing

One response to “IT WON’T DIE: My struggle with zombies

  1. So what you are saying is I need to write horror stories to appease my demons. And give them some free-range time too.

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