There are two types of writers in the world: those who write as close to reality as possible, and those who write as far removed from reality as possible.
Me, I am the second kind. I write what I like to read, which is mainly horror, scifi and fantasy as well as any experimental genre or genre-crossing you can imagine.
And yes, that involves zombies. I have been asked many times what it is about zombies that fascinates me. I think anybody who has ever watched (and enjoyed) an episode of iZombie can answer that question:
Zombies are cool!
…and weird and fun! They provide a perfect scenario for contemplating the question of “what if…?” which we writers love so much.
So, I thought I’d give you 5 good reasons why I think every writer (looking to write as far removed from reality as possible) should be open to the idea of writing a zombie story one day.
They’re not real!
Ok. First let’s be clear that I am aware of the fact that there are people who are convinced that zombies are real and that a real-life zombie apocalypse is entirely possible. Sorry guys, I am not one of you. However, that’s exactly what makes zombies so exciting to me. Somebody (a genius) invented them. And countless people have been inspired since to re-invent, endorse, modify and understand them. Zombies (much like vampires, werewolves, mermaids, harpies and other mythical creatures) are the putty that writers can use to mould fantastic, unimaginably innovative stories. The rules are what we say they are. Within our manuscripts, these creatures become our creatures.
Zombies can help shape your characters
Character development is a b*tch! Excuse the French, but it’s true. Every writer I know (including myself) has been through this: you come up with an awesome character. He/ she is going to save the world (or whatever world you have built for them to save). The million dollar question: how do you get them to step up to the mark and overcome their inner most fear(s) to do what you invented them to do? One answer to this is: put them in a flight or fight situation where not stepping up to the mark would mean certain death. Zombies can be an elegant solution for that.
Zombies can help with world-building
As everyone who has ever tried to invent an entirely new world will tell you: it’s a massive challenge. Not only do you have to come up with the way this world looks (and find a way to describe it that doesn’t result in pages and pages of descriptive text), you also have to invent the government and politics, social conventions and acceptable behaviours, weather, history, legends and myths, fashion, celebrities and so on. You get the point. Now, using a world infested with zombies, can help you lean on reality whilst still being able to enjoy the thrill of world-building. I’d call that win-win.
Your work becomes part of the legacy
I recently watched a documentary of the history of horror movies. Whilst the programme did of course refer to all the big horror movies of the century (i.e. Night of the Living Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead and many more) I realised that zombie movies hold an important place in the horror hall of fame and I am convinced that a similar standing will also one day exist for the great zombie novels (a hearty shout-out to Mira Grant). I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind being part of the zombie novel legacy. So, ready, steady, WRITE!
There is still a lot left to explore
With the amount of new zombie novels, movies and TV programmes out there, it may seem as though every possible story has already been written. Looking at the awesome twists and turns in The Walking Dead and the cult-status of hits such as Shaun of the Dead, it’s easy to throw in the towel before even committing a single word to writing. But consider this: the human imagination is boundless. Creativity has no limit. The potential of the human mind is infinite and nowhere near fully explored. So, hereby I give you my 5th good reason for why writers should have a heart for zombies. If you don’t agree, I challenge you to give me 1 good reason why your novel or short story can’t be the next big zombie hit.
Image Attribution:By psyberartist (dark child) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons