Near the beginning of Dark Places Libby Day, one of the most likeably unlikeable characters ever, thinks, “Coffee goes great with sudden death,”. For me it’s “Tea goes great with writing,” because sometimes writing does feel like sudden death. Like when the story you’ve worked on for days suddenly loses all its zest for life and goes belly-up before your very eyes. It’s kind of traumatic.
Well, really, it’s nowhere near as traumatic as sudden death. But exaggerated analogies aside, this just happened to a short story I was working on. One day I was rolling right along, getting out a not-great-but-fairly-passable first draft, and the next I sat down to write and realized that the spark was gone. The story was dead as a doornail, and so was my motivation to finish it.
Since I’m also working on a book-length project, plus another short story (plus, I suddenly have more ideas than I know what to do with), I’m not as upset about this as I usually am. I’m just curious about why this story failed. How come it fell apart so quickly? After thinking about it, I realized it was because this short story was about zombies. And zombies bore me.
I love reading other books about zombies. I LOVE The Walking Dead (both the show and the comics I’ve read). Zombies can be really interesting when other people write about them. But when it comes down to it, they’re just shuffling corpses. On their own, they’re neither especially scary or especially interesting. To make a zombie story work, you need a bit of a unique angle on the mythology, and a compelling story with interesting characters. I had neither.
I was writing your garden-variety apocalypse story, and my zombies were boring. It was nothing I hadn’t read or seen before--slow-moving, unending appetite for human flesh, yada, yada, yada. Maybe it would have worked if my character were better, but on their own they didn't interest me, either. In one way, it’s sort of sad, but in another I feel so liberated. I’ve been trying to write a zombie story for AGES, and now I’ve finally realized that I don’t have to.
So there’s really not much point to this post, other than me realizing they’re certain things I don’t (at least at the moment) have enough of a unique spin on to write about. Also, I don’t have to have a unique spin on everything. Sometimes it’s just enough to enjoy other people’s work.
Is there a certain mythological creature/type of story that you’ve tried to write but just can’t? (Also, if you’re looking for some good zombie books, The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell and The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey are both fantastic.)
Picture credit: X