Friday, June 7, 2013

Zombies taught me how to write

Sechin Tower

Illustration by Chad Sergesketter
courtesy of Exile Game Studio
Do you want to know the secret of every good zombie movie? Good zombie movies aren’t about the zombies.

Sure, the zombies might be amazingly gross or glow with radioactivity, but you have to admit that watching 90 minutes of nothing but a bunch of moaning, rotting corpse-monsters would be a pretty boring.

The zombies might be what brings you to the theater, but the thing that makes you remember the movie, recommend it to your friends, and watch the DVD over and over is the living, talking people. The characters.

Since George Romero established the genre in his 1968 masterpiece Night of the Living Dead, zombies have served one purpose only: to put pressure on the characters.

When characters are under pressure, they reveal who they really are. Do they stay calm or freak out? Do they have the guts and the brains to succeed, or do they look for the easy way out? Do they sacrifice themselves to save others, or do they trip their comrades to serve as bait for the horde?

We would never know the answers if the characters weren’t forced to deal with the zombies. Or, for those of you considering stories that don’t involve the undead (I suppose such stories are theoretically possible…) the same goes for characters forced to deal with hurricanes, or family arguments, or cultural friction, or whatever.

The bottom line is that it all comes down to the characters. If you're a writer, consider carefully how your zombies (literal or figurative) serve to put your characters into the pressure cooker. If you're a reader.. enjoy the chase! and never stop thinking about what you would do if you were in that tight spot.

Be good, and dream crazy dreams,

Sechin Tower is a teacher, a table-top game designer, and the author of Mad Science Institute. You can read more about him and his books on and his games on


Jordan Dane said...

Fun post, Sechin. Thought you'd post a good brain recipe.

WARM BODIES is On Demand now. I need to rent it. It's the exception to your point though, because it IS about the zombies. A zombie love story. Awwwww.

Have a great weekend!

Unknown said...

So true, Sechin:) I think with writing, sometimes we see more clearly in the dark...

Cool post!