Friday, April 22, 2011

Writing a zombie short story is not so easy

I decided to try to write a short story about zombies.

Then I gave myself a word limit.

What the hell was I thinking?

It's not that easy to write a post-apoc story about a survivor struggling with life and death and humanity and a fractured mind in oh, I don't know, less than a few thousand words. There's so much to figure out. What was this person like before the end of the world? What kind of things did this person care about? Family? Friends? What shaped this person's life? Then there's the survivor story in itself. Then, there's the what happens next...

It was much more difficult than I thought.

But I like this challenge. I have to write the story tight.

No crap.

No long exposition.

Right to the heart of the story. Fast.

It's been a good exercise so far.

My girlfriend is a die-hard zombie fan. If she could take a minor in Zombie Lit she would. She knows a lot. Not just the stories. How they're constructed. The nuances. The metaphors.

I asked her to read the story.

She did.

The next two hours were spent talking about the human condition under crisis.

She's a psych major.

We had an amazing conversation about what makes the mind tick. What makes the mind splinter. What shapes personality. What readers expect to see in a zombie movie and what they expect to read in a zombie story.

So, I have to rewrite. I have to throw the story out entirely.

She made a great point: A zombie movie isn't so much about the zombies. It's about the survivors and how they cope. That's where a zombie plot really begins. What carries the story is a survivor meeting another survivor. Without that meeting there's no zombie story.

Well there you have it.

I'm starting over.

Have to.

The story I wrote was a zombie fairytale. There where parts of the story that were decent. But just parts. I was just trying too hard to make the story fit to a word count. This happens sometimes. I was cutting corners, essentially. I wasn't focusing on showing the protagonist's struggle. Well, that's being too harsh a critic. I was. Just not enough.

I know I can do it.

I'm going to crunch the story until I get it down to its bare bones and then add just a little bit more... Not much more. Can't put too much life back into a zombie plot. Humanity's been wiped out. What's left? I have the protagonist. I have to think about him some more. I rushed it.... Time to slow him down.



... tick...



  1. You need to read "Hungry For Your Love" it's an anthology of zombie romance edited by Lori Perkins! And yes, I must admit, I'm a little embarrassed to be reading it as it contains many short stories that rise to the level of "romance novel". But they are romance that involve post-apocalyptic situations often times in the point of view of the zombies so I can maintain my masculinity.

    There are other zombie anthologies out there that don't involve zombie love though... So if you're not in to THAT sort of thing... just ask Sean Campbell, he loves zombie books! I've seen it!

    Also, don't think too much about how short it has to be. Just write write write, and cut all the fat you can later.

  2. I'm sure if I were to buy it Shan would read it first!!! LOL... Zombie romance, huh? Can't even imagine how to approach a story like that, but then again, it's zombies, right? I'll have to ask Shan how many subgenres the zombie genre has. I'll probably be surprised.

  3. Sean Campbell reads zombie smut!!!???? Hahahaaaaaa. Love it!