Mar 17

Thursday of the dead

Back to the mechanics of my novel today and a little rant about plot vs. characters.
I never really liked the idea that a book was character driven OR plot driven. It’s a common idea in the writing community but I suppose I never understood the concept. Surely a book can be both?
The book can be driven forward by plot where action drives the characters or it can be character driven whereby the character moves the story forward BUT that’s not how decisions are made in life.
It’s not event THEN decision or decision THEN event, things are muddled and confusing and bewildering. I know I’m taking to the two concepts to extremes and that one doesn’t mean you completely neglect the other but I am weirded out every time someone asks me the question:
Real writer: “Is your book plot driven or character driven?”
Me: “My book has words!”
But anyway that’s my hang up, what I really want to talk about is plot AND characters.
My plot is fairly explodey-actionriffic and at times it feels a bit like the characters aren’t getting much chance to catch their breath.
 
Now I know that action should be followed by moments of calm in order to allow the reader to absorb the novel, and that if its all action then the pace will have to ramp up so much as the novel goes on it will almost be vertical by the end of the book, but hell…it’s the Zombocalypse! It’s not a church picnic; there haven’t been many opportunities for the action to slow down as the characters flee for their lives.
Saying that, my characters are still getting plenty of chances to show their true nature, and there are enough ‘quiet’ sections for them to have all the heart to heart, convenient nod to the reader explanation talks that I need to get the point of my book across (that was mostly sarcasm before anyone complains).
I apologise for the crapness of this post…it’s been a long week!
Feel free to ignore it or perhaps read some of my more interesting posts from Zombie Week 2011! Either way here are some quick questions to help me with my research:
  • What would be your skill to offer the world after the outbreak dust had settled? (Bearing in mind hairdressing and call centre skills wouldn’t be high on the priority list)
  • Could you kill a loved one if they were infected? Or would you leave them to roam?
  • Could you kill yourself if you were infected? Before you turned? Or would you rather live out every second of your life and risk becoming a brain muncher?
  • Would you still persist with survival if you saw your entire family killed?
Sorry for the morbid questions but like I said before it’s that type of genre!

13 comments

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    • CharmedLassie on March 17, 2011 at 12:52
    • Reply

    I don't think I'd be very useful to the collective to be honest. I have no skills to help me come the Zombocalypse, because writing and spreadsheets will be a little redundant. Perhaps I'm one of the sacrifices they toss back to placate the hungry hordes as they all run.

    As for whether I'd kill a loved one… No, I'l let them go and hope they didn't eat me later. As much as I would like to say I'd kill myself for the protection of others I think I'd deny what I was until it was too late.

    I'm really getting into this.

    • Steven Chapman on March 17, 2011 at 12:58
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    Thanks for the comments, Lucy. I'd like to think the 'unskilled' were put to use in manual labour applications but as I'm a big fat fatty I wouldn't even be any good at that!

    I'm undecided if I could kill a loved one or not. I suppose it all depends on how close to the kill you have to be. A gun might be easier than a knife, and even easier than a bit of cheese wire or a spoon!

    If you're really getting into this then you might enjoy some of my A-Z posts through April, I don't exactly have a lot to talk about so I'm sure most of the letters will be related to my zombie novel 😀

    • StForce on March 17, 2011 at 13:02
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    I could write about what happened and help repopulate the earth.
    No, I would love them to much. I'll let someone else, do it.
    I wouldn't kill myself because I would love to be a zombie. I might chop my arm of or something.
    Of course I would fight to surive! Even if I'm te last human on earth I'll put up a hell of a fight!

    I apologise for the crapness of this post…it’s been a long week!

    That made me smile.

    • Jo and the Novelist on March 17, 2011 at 13:35
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    No I never understand "real" writery folk when they talk about that shit either. I'm all "Er, I didn't even know that I was writing a novel until about six months into writing it." I also hate it when people talk about narrative.. Gah.

    I don't really have any kind of special skill to offer come the zombapocalypse… I give good hugs, I can make a nice cup of tea, and I can give you a filmography of most directors and actors like I'm some sort of walking/talking version of imdb.com. Actually, that last one's a pretty annoying trait if you're the poor sap watching a film with me… "Isn't that Ted Danson?" etc.

    I'm not sure if I could kill a loved one if they turned. I mean, the obvious answer is yes, but you never know how you're going to deal with something until you're faced with it.

    I'd probably kill myself. Yes.

    I don't know about that last one. I mean, I'd say 'yes' but I'm a bit of a quitter, truth be known. If there were no Malteser's left on earth, then definitely.

    • iZombie on March 17, 2011 at 13:43
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    kill a loved one… hmmmm.
    as for the questions, no matter how strong i think i am. i believe i would die in the first wave, my luck i would break my neck walking to a shelter. i am feeling if a true outbreak did happen we would all revert to every zombie movie we have ever seen and what was their winning solution might be. in most cases, all failed… much like the dinosaurs…. final score… humans zero, earth one!

    • Cat on March 17, 2011 at 13:57
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    Honestly I am not sure I'd be much use, I can order people around but Zombies tend not to listen (mind you neither does anyone else really).

    As long as someone gave me a gun I could shoot someone I loved, or at least I would hope I could.

    Nah I'd leave it for someone else to shoot me through the head, don't think I could take myself out.

    Look at it this way it might be a crappy post but at least we know you aren't a zombie…..yet

    • Steven Chapman on March 17, 2011 at 14:15
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    This comment is from my good friend, Nick Denton (the legendary illustrator!), check out his website http://puredenton.carbonmade.com when you’ve finished reading his thoughts on zombies!
    ———————————————————–
    My main skill would be non linear thinking, the ability to think through around and all up and about any problem quickly, weighing up dangers and such. With that I would include resourcefulness in the area of fixing and bodging other than that id say a strong will to survive. 😉

    I wouldn’t kill a loved one unless they were a direct threat to me or someone else I cared about who wasn’t infected.

    I would let myself start turning before I flopped my head onto a spike.

    Yes, I would carry on, as I may still be useful (physically or emotionally) to someone else down the road.

    • DAVE@PHOTOCHAPS on March 17, 2011 at 17:03
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    Tough one that. It's hard enough realising your hamster is gonna be paws up on the botome of the cage one day without having to worry about if you could lift up the double barrel and pop him before he tears the bars of his cage apart to get at your throat. Malleting a blood crazed budgie or squishing a roaring (slow moving) goldfish underfoot I might just manage, but I'm not so sure I could cope with the dogs sad eyes as I start the chain saw and line up behind the collar. Oh.. you meant loved ones as in Wives/Husbands/kids? Yeah no worries!

    • Anthony Cowin on March 17, 2011 at 17:38
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    I think my skill would be to rise up and be the zombie messiah. I'm quite adapt at being adored and worshipped so that fits in with my skill set.

    On a more practical level I'd organise the Zombie Olympics. The sprint wouldn't be too exciting and the marathon would last for weeks, but imagine how many javelins and shot-put could be landed on zombie bystanders.

    Could I kill loved ones if they were infected? Man there are times when I think about it when they only have a cold and complain too much so yeah, no problem.

    • Arlee Bird on March 17, 2011 at 18:52
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    Well, that was one helluva strange post. I hate to even think of the questions, though I do love those zombie movies.

    As far as the character-driven vs. plot-driven novels, I think there are both and various shades toward the center. I can definitely think of novels that are focused on the action and direction of the plot and don't really delve into characters that much and I've read novels that really didn't have much story, but were mostly character studies that dealt with pretty mundane activities, but delved into the minds of the characters. I think most novels are more toward the center of the two.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

    • Steven Chapman on March 17, 2011 at 20:29
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    Thanks for the comments, guys and gals. It's interesting to hear different opinions on the kind of stuff that pops up in my novel. All your answers are useful in building character profiles and ensuring the characters all act as naturally and believable as possible…or as natural as you can act during the zombocalypse!

    Yeah, I tend to specialise in strange posts, Lee and even stranger (or arbitrary pics), my mind doesn't really like working in a linear or logical fashion. Think of my posts more of a quick peek inside my jumbled mind if you will 😛

    • Fiona Faith Maddock on March 18, 2011 at 11:50
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    D'you know what? I really don't know. Firstly I think a call centre is indispensible for zombies – and humans – to call up and check who is on the 'zombified' list and who isn't, so they can locate their loved ones. I'm not much good at repetitive call-answering which begins , "Good Afternoon, this is Zombocalpyse H.Q. How can I eat – sorry – help you?" so manning the phones won't be my skill. As to your other questions, the answer must be 'Who knows?' Does anybody really know how they react in a crisis, until it actually happens to them? Do you react or do you freeze? Do go hysterical or remain calm? I think, zombie-storywriter, you might have some interesting moments finding out as you 'write your way' through your characters' reactions. Each one will react differently, would be my guess.

    • Fiona Faith Maddock on March 18, 2011 at 11:55
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    I'd also like to say that I too, dislike the plot v. character driven debate. I don't think it's clear cut like that and teaching methods which try to impose it are suffocating. It's a symbiotic relationship and the dynamics between character and plot are unique for each character-plot pairing and I hate breaking away from a rip-roaring episode of plot roller-coaster because I'm supposed to be exploring the inner thoughts of one character on the colour of a rose petal. When the character is bored with the rose petal, he/she will tell me how he/she affects the plot and influences it.

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