Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Zombie Zone

Lately my life has been all about the zombies. Unlike vampires, zombies are still lingering in the fringes of publishing, though they have really started to take off. How long the trend will last remains to be seen, though Natalie Portman starring in Pride and Prejudice and the Zombies may be a contributing factor.

Like all things I get stuck on, I stumbled on the zombie thing accidentally. I've always kept a plot book-- crammed with ideas that may be brilliant or crap, depending on both perspective and mood. I was reacting negatively to a discussion of the zombie trend when the idea for my current WIP hit me. This happens to me a lot. I start to mentally prepare a criticism of something and realize I would like it, IF... and IF takes over.

One of the things I have done, as I enter the zombie zone, is research the serious side of zombies. No, really. I interviewed an actual Santeria priestess to get the facts from her perspective. I also talked to a funeral director at a family owned funeral parlor. I have about ten pages of notes.

Because once I know the rules, I can break them. Responsibly, I hope, but breaking them is the fun part. I like to anticipate every objection and answer it before it gets loose. So when zombie fans read my work and say to themselves "no, he wouldn't be decomposing yet," they are forced to put on the breaks the second one of my characters explains, patiently and clearly, the reason this preconceived notion is incorrect... at least in my newly created world.

So how do you create rules in a fictional world? And where do you stand on zombies? Frankly, I avoid standing on the ripe ones. They tend to go annoyinglyh smushy. :)

4 comments ]:[ Add your comment:

Jeannie Lin said...

I'm a big fan of zombies for the post-apocalyptic nature of them! But that's the brain-eating rotting flesh kind, and not so much the mind control kind.

It's your world to make and break. I'm always interested to see a new twist when someone's very obviously done a lot of serious research.

Anonymous said...

Eeek on the zombies. Although that said, I have to admit I'm a bit curious at the new trend and may have to check it out.
Worldbuilding, I'm a big fan of. It's like bringing a fairytale world to life.

Gail Roarke said...

Zombies do seem to be having a break-through of late. They're everywhere! (But only in fiction, fortunately.) I think it's because you can have lots of very cinematic action fighting hordes of zombies. ONE vampire or werewolf can be enough of a bad guy for a whole story--but one stinking zombie just don't cut it.

Sometimes I start with the rules and see what sort of story it produces. "What if..." Sometimes I have a story idea, or an idea for a scene, and I build my monster to fit that slot.

catehart said...

Hmm, I think I am opposed to Jeannie. If you're going to have a h/H that's a zombie, I think that the Serpent and the Rainbow way (mind control/voodoo) would appeal more to me. And if you have hordes of them, I think it gets more like Dawn of the Dead or Resident Evil. And I want to see blowing them apart. Personally, I'm not a fan of zombies. I love Pride and Prejudice, and I'm torn on picking up the insert-zombie-into-classic books.
As for world building, I think you have more license with the dead flesh eaters than probably anything else out there. When I created my band of angels, I created my own set of rules, but took bits and pieces from movies out there that had angels in it. I knew that I had to incorporate some common things about angels that most people expect - like wings - but I threw my own twist on it. And you should do that. But I think you really have a lot of freedom to create with zombies.

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