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.
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”
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.
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)