Tips On How To Write Undead/Zombie Creatures (For both fanfic writers and original content writers)
This is for @angels-of-hades, who sent me an ask about this, and I decided that it would be great for another of my iconic Long Posts. (See my post about winged characters here and my post about shape-shifters here)
The undead are an incredibly common trope in modern fiction.
From “The Walking Dead”, to “iZombie”, to “Z-Nation”, to a ton of others, the undead seem to have infatuated television writers.
It’s not just television, though- the zombie craze has now spread to literature, too, if Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Warm Bodies, and World War Z have anything to show for it.
And now it has spread to fanfiction. I can’t even count how many Zombie Apocalypse AUs and Walking Dead fusions I’ve seen popping up in the feed of multiple fandoms,
Therefore, I’ve decided to make a post on writing zombielike creatures, which you should probably read before you begin that apocalypse AU you’ve been obsessing over.
1. Decide how the virus spreads- make a checklist and take everything into account as you analyze all of the facts.
Okay, you don’t have to make an actual checklist. Just something in your head.
Think of all the ways that the virus can spread, the most common way being a mixing of bodily fluids (a bite from an infected person).
This can also mean blood-to-blood contact with a victim also causes the virus to spread, and A LOT of television shows just gloss this over: WHAT ABOUT MOSQUITOES???
Take The Walking Dead as an example:
They’re in the south for a majority of the time; It’s hot.
Mosquitoes must be breeding like crazy.
I understand why a mosquito wouldn’t bite a zombie during the later stages as the corpse decays and becomes more cadaver-like, but during the first few weeks? When the blood was still fresh and the people were still kinda sorta alive???
Mosquitoes would totally be a spreading factor for the virus- sucking the blood from a zombie and then biting a healthy human, thus infecting them- and everyone would be dead.
That’s an example of poor planning- The Walking Dead writers didn’t specify enough and hinted at the virus being spread through blood-to-blood contact, and that leaves a gigantic gap in information.
Here are some limits/rules/whatever that you can set for your virus:
- It can only be spread through a bite (you have to specifically state a bite, because that means that it’s in the saliva)
-It can only be spread through gene alteration
-It’s a parasite and the parasite actually has to be inside of the host for it to infect them
-The virus cannot survive in certain temperatures/climates
These are only a few, so feel free to add more!
2. Make your zombies unique
Like I said above, there are a LOT of zombie stories. Like, a lot.
You need to make a part of your zombies different from the rest, so that your potential readers are compelled to pick up the book because wOW LOOK THERE’S A TWIST.
Whether it be zombie animals or zombies that are incredibly intelligent, you have to make sure that these creatures pop out because otherwise they’ll be lost in the fray of post-apocalyptic, gunslinging nonsense.
(JUST A NOTE THAT IT IS COMPLETELY FINE TO KEEP THE OLD VANILLA ZOMBIES. IF YOUR PLOT IS OUTSTANDING, NOBODY WILL CARE THAT THEY’VE READ ABOUT THESE KINDS OF ZOMBIES 1000000 TIMES BEFORE)
Here are some common tropes that are usually associated with zombies that you can change up a bit if you want:
-Can’t communicate (aside from groaning)
-There are a lot of them, usually outnumbering the protagonist and their gang
-Are human corpses
-Result from a viral outbreak
-Do not remember their former selves
-Can only be killed a certain way (shot in the head/head cut off/something with the head/whatever.)
3. Just because you have zombies doesn’t mean you can’t have a plot, too!
^^^^My reaction when I read/watch something and there’s no plot except coME ON LET’S FIGHT TEH ZOMBIES
A lot- and I mean A LOT- of amateur writers think “Ok, so if I have zombies in the story, I need no other conflict except them fighting zombies. I mean, that’s a good enough conflict, right?”
*buzzer noise* WRONG
Yes, I understand that technically (technically) zombies are a conflict. I mean, they’re undead people, right?
But if your entire story is just hacking and chopping away at a ton of corpses, it ain;t gonna be interesting, at least not to me.
What would The Walking Dead be like without Shane? The Governor? Terminus? Negan and the Saviors?
The reason why The Walking Dead is so popular is because it shows an overarching plotline, with zombies- oh, I’m sorry, “walkers”- just being problems in between. Yes, maybe in the first season it was mostly about escaping the herd, but the rest is about tons of other things, and zombies are just the antagonists that make the protagonists’ lives harder while they’re trying to deal with other things.
You should really follow this example because if the only thing you can say about the main conflict in your story is “there’s zombies“ then you really need to rethink what you’re writing.
Some main goals/conflicts/overarching plotlines that you can choose from:
-Stopping the person who spread/is spreading the virus
-Find the antidote
-Struggle for survival against other humans
-Struggle for resources
-Going to a certain place where there’s supposedly no zombies
-Finding people the protagonist has been separated from
-Plus much more