What happens when a story idea you’ve got pretty well formed in your head doesn’t really cut it anymore?
For about three years now, I’ve toyed with a story I’ve named Eleven Years After. The basic idea is that a traveling caravan of traders in a post-apocalyptic world expands to find new territory and discovers a city with near-pre-apocalyptic technology levels. They have running water, electricity, complex institutions of government, and a few more sinister aspects of society. Another aspect of my story is that it involves what you might generally call zombies, the catalyst for this apocalypse.
For a long time, I thought zombies were the creepiest monster out there. As a kid, the idea of something eating my brains was quite terrifying. I specifically remember realizing I feared zombies the most during a show called “Big Wolf on Campus,” an ABC Family afternoon TV show about a werewolf just trying to make it through highschool.
When I started dating Ben around seven years ago, he was into zombie movies. I watched them and did some thinking and realized that zombies are pretty darn interesting because of how they reflect human society. I stopped being terrified of zombies and became more intrigued by what they made people do. Soon after, I read World War Z (which, unlike the movie, is a brilliant look at humanity in the grips of an apocalypse caused by zombies; go read it now; really, stop reading this post and go read it; I’m not kidding).
My boyfriend began to explore writing and eventually published a short story called Mercury, Sulfur & Salt. I was inspired by him and started thinking about my own story ideas. In this time, zombies rose (har, har) in popularity, becoming a pretty fashionable marketing tool for books, movies, and more. I read a lot of zombie fiction and discovered that a lot of it was just about violence and less about the human factor. There are some pretty decent works out there, but many are poorly done, in my opinion. I finally saw the World War Z movie, and while it was a good zombie movie, it follows the Oatmeal’s explanation precisely in that it and the book only share a title in common.
Frankly, I’m pretty tired of zombies by now. Like vampires, they’ve recently been overplayed and overdone. I specifically avoid books with zombie themes in them myself, because they’re almost always rewritten versions of the same story. It seems tired. As someone that enjoyed zombies before they heightened in popularity, seeing them come to the forefront and be made into a boring genre was pretty disheartening.
Where does this leave my story? Ben gave me the good advice to write the book I want to read. At this point in time, I don’t want to read about zombies. Though I think my story has a good plot and could be interesting to read, I feel like I would dismiss it because of the zombie connection. If I’m feeling that way, a lover of b-grade monster movies and one who enjoys seeing the social implications of monsters in books and films, then how would Jane Q. Reader feel?
A major inspirational part of this story’s birth was a short piece of fiction I wrote on another blog of mine, years ago, that centered on a zombie bite. Should I scrap my story and start over? Should I try to work the themes of my story (post apocalyptic, dystopian, speculative fiction) into scenario that doesn’t involve zombie-like creatures? Should I stick it out and hope for the best?
On the same token, aren’t these monsters pervasive and always there? Haven’t there been zombie, vampire, and werewolf movies every few years or so for my entire life? “Night of the Living Dead” was done in 1968. “28 Days Later” was done in 2002. “Dawn of the Dead” was done in 1978 and 2004. Should I really be worried?
A conundrum, at best.