Mar 14

Zombies love Mondays

So zombies…grr…brains…and other assorted tropes.

That’s right, I said it! TROPES! And stereotypes and clichés and axioms.

I’ve mentioned the unmentionable in the zombie community, whispered the unspoken truth that breaks the code of zombie lovers worldwide (that’s people who ‘like’ zombies not Zombie Lovers Worldwide – the organisation of dirty bloody love between humans and zombies).

By following convention and sticking with generally accepted truths about zombies, I’m almost admitting they aren’t real because lets face it; there aren’t many news articles or eye witness accounts from which to gather information. The best resources we have to garner this information from are books, movies and our imagination.

In sticking with tradition, playing with the rules created in such media we zombie writers keep a lot of the fans happy – but at the same time we could be accused of keeping the myth stale, perpetrating a crime against zombie media by creating the same old stories until people get bored and ignore it for the super genius genre it really is.

The rules of zombie nutrition

On the other hand if you change the rules too much (flying zombies, talking zombies, RUNNING zombies) then it can break the sense of ‘realism’ that you would otherwise have with ‘traditional’ undead creatures. That’s right, a sense of realism! Even when writing the fantastical and speculative there are still boundaries of relative realism which the reader will not want to cross.

Reanimated corpses? “Fair enough”

Extreme desire to eat flesh at all costs? “I’ll go with that”
A bite turns a human into a zombie? “Sounds reasonable”
Because they’re dead they can float cars with their minds to crush their victims? “…I wonder what’s on TV”

Ok, fair enough it’s ALL a little strange (especially to newcomers to the genre), but sometimes its pays to stick close to the conventional rules.

Did you spot the two keywords above?

SOMETIMES and CLOSE.

I’m not saying there are rules and they can’t be broken, having already mentioned that this could lead to a boring string of repetitive books that would be hypocritical of me. No, what I’m saying is play CAREFULLY with the rules. Twist them and bend them, maybe even break a few BUT never do it just to suit your story. It’s the same with any element of writing; the plot should never be manipulated just because you want to bring something in that doesn’t make sense.

Circumstances should dictate your characters actions, not the other way around.

So you could, for instance, have zombies that could telepathically communicate with each other *scribbles the idea down for later* but if you do then come up with a sensible and logical scene. Have the characters all hiding in a building, one solitary zombie just outside the door, hundreds of zombies massing around the back of the building. With anyone else’s story the people could make a break for it, what’s one zombie against twelve armed humans? But in this scenario as soon as they break cover, the single zombie will telepathically communicate with the rest of the undead. The humans will never make it into the car and to freedom before the remaining zombies attack!

Suddenly the idea of telepathic zombies is scary rather than laughable.

So if you do intend to write a zombie novel (no telepathic zombies please! I’ve claimed them) then learn the rules and learn them well. As with anything you can only break the rules when you’ve learnt to follow them.

Everyone should have one of these!

Now the boring lecture is out of the way it’s on to the fun stuff!!

*puts spectacles on and whips out clipboard*

Just a few questions, sir….oh sorry madam?…(yeesh!)

  • Do you like your zombies fast or slow?
  • How concerned are you with scientific explanations of the undead? As in “How the hell did it all get started?” And “Why can he still walk if his heart stopped pumping blood and it’s now pooled in his legs?”?
  • Favourite weapon for zombie dispatching? (No brown paper and tape jokes please)

Thanks in advance for your clever and witty and responses! Until tomorrow, remember to avoid groaning people asking for brains! (Unless you have a chainsaw handy)
 

10 comments

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    • Anthony Cowin on March 14, 2011 at 13:12
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    I like fast and slow zombies. I don't think we should exclude either in favour of the other. No zombie apartheid in other words. Have some zombies that can sprint like an undead Usain Bolts and others who drag themselves along like husbands behind their wives on a Saturday afternoon shopping trip.

    I always prefer films that have no, or very little, explanation of why strange events happen. It's usually a hacked back story job and feels stuck on like a Garfield teddy on the passenger window of a 'zany' accountant's Volvo.

    It's a little more difficult to get away with this approach in a novel but the less explanation for the apocalypse gives more room for the monsters.

    Can't say what my favourite weapon would be as I like the variety. A good old fashioned chainsaw is always entertaining though.

    Great post. I'm looking forward to other answers and the rest of the week.

    Good luck, Tony.

    • Steven Chapman on March 14, 2011 at 13:22
    • Reply

    A Usain Bolt zombie, I like it! I’m still undecided on the whole fast/slow issue, but I certainly like the idea of a mix!

    Yep, I think I’m in favour of the little or no explanation about the outbreak. I mean just look The Invisible Man, an absolute gem of a book and Wells doesn’t go nuts on the explanation of invisibility, he doesn’t need it. It’s within the boundaries of “I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for this part of the story”.

    Regarding weapons they do say that variety is the spice of life, although there are some classics you just couldn’t do without. I’m rather partial to a bit of rebar myself, nice and hefty to swish around and crack skulls with. Plus I have some on my desk already…ok its only 6 inches long so I couldn’t do much damage with it (where have I heard THAT before!).

    Thanks for the comment, hope you can help me with my other questions later in the week!

    • Chippy on March 14, 2011 at 13:45
    • Reply

    My immediate thought was slow zombies over fast zombies. But then I remembered my experience of playing Resident Evil and even though most of the zombies just sort of staggered along I still ended up being overwhelmed really quickly – I especially hate the chainsaw wielding ones as they run the last few yards! Aargh!

    I'm not too fussed about scientific explanation.

    And as for weapons… hmm… well I've always thought that the machete would deal out a fair amount of damage – aimed at the top of the spine with enough force – and off with their heads! Although I suppose once I've hacked off the head of the chainsaw wielding zombie… I could just use the chainsaw instead! There isn't much point in having guns as you can usually guarantee that you will run out of ammo long before you run out of zombies.

    • Steven Chapman on March 14, 2011 at 13:54
    • Reply

    I think being overwhelmed by slow zombies would be a lot scarier than by fast ones. I mean look how terrified the poor kitty, covered in paint, looks even though Pepé Le Pew pursues her in a very slow manner!

    Another problem with short range weapons will be the spray of blood. While it might be satisfying to sink an axe deep into a zombie frontal lobe the blood splatter that shoots into your mouth might not only be a bit icky but also very deadly (as opposed to barley deadly). As for running out of ammunition, you just need to make sure you save one bullet for yourself!

    Cheers for the comment, Chippy!

    • Anthony Cowin on March 14, 2011 at 14:32
    • Reply

    There's definitely a space open for a 'Home Alone-With Zombies' type of film I think. Imagine all the weapons and pranks that could be used against the zombie home invaders.

    • Sarah Allen on March 15, 2011 at 01:54
    • Reply

    This is great 🙂 I love the intelligent advice and the humor. I'm not into zombies to be honest, but I think some advice here can be used in all kinds of writing.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

    • Bohemium Salmon on March 15, 2011 at 09:11
    • Reply

    Slow Zombies,
    roof top,
    sub machine gun!

    • Steven Chapman on March 15, 2011 at 12:42
    • Reply

    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 ten pennies, 🙂

    I like slow Zombies, the whole overwhelming nature of them feels scarier for me, but I could be open to the occasional runner…perhaps with some faux but partially believable Science behind it. Maybe dwindling speed, day 1-2 of infection depending on limb damage 😉 or something like that before the rot sets in and they become more maggot than Zombie.

    As for the Science, explaining the hows and the whys….yes, yes and yes! A massive thumbs up, as much as can be plopped in without it becoming a documentary! I like the parasitic explanation as it still contains something alive within it (not a lame wasp like in the Dead Rising games though *thumbs down*)

    My weapon of choice would be a home crafted pole knife/machete, distance… no worries about ammo and fuels and breakables, you could make it dual ended (although most people would end up harming themselves more than the Zombies with such a weapon so perhaps just one really big sharp knife at the end of a pole) some strength required but hey I’m the hero in my zombie fantasy OK!!? 😀 stabby stabby head times, YUM.

    • Melissa Bradley on March 16, 2011 at 04:10
    • Reply

    I like a bit of scientific explanation as I need to know why and how, but don't overwhelm me. I love shotgun so I don't get messy, but if I must a machete or ax. Flame throwers are good, too.

    • Chippy on March 16, 2011 at 21:52
    • Reply

    I have since discovered via 'Dead Rising 2' that cracking them on the head a couple of times with a large wrench is quite effective too.

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