Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Doing it Zombieland-Style

When it comes to Science Fiction and Fantasy, there are two camps of serious thought and one tent of musings:

1. Science fiction and fantasy must be integral to the plot. The elements are not a fashion accessory, clasped on for effect. In fact, if you removed the science fiction aspect, the story itself would disappear.

2. You can do whatever you please in the science fiction and fantasy worlds. After all, it's your world. The only rule that matters? Don't contradict yourself; insist upon consistency within your rules.

3. Write whatever sells. Indeed, make the neighbor a serial killing vampire.

Drawing Lines in the Sand

I contemplated these three sets of thought the other weekend when I finally got around to watching Zombieland. I've listened to heated debate (or perhaps supercilious sniffing) on the various sides and have found that each one has a valid point or two. But after watching Zombieland, which I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed in a sick, zombie-kind of way, I'm going to go pitch my tent in Camp 2.

I say this because I really think there could have been a story without the zombies; after all, it could have been a gang or killer bees or any other phenomenon that set the story into motion. Certainly, I preferred the zombies, but they didn't make the story happen. That point + the point that it was an enjoyable movie = Camp 2. Follow?

Drawing Hearts in the Sand

Why is this important enough to write about? Because my aha! was a rather simple one: the story was about relationships. And, ultimately, isn't that what every successful story is about? Character development depends, in part, upon fleshing out relationships and tying together frayed edges of disintegrating ones.

And relationships don't have to be between the living or the un-dead. When we learn that Tallahassee lost his son to zombies, we see a glimpse of the relationship he had with the boy. This allows us to understand his inner-workings a bit more and even predict his future behavior.

As humans, we're always looking for survival information. Perhaps the toughest rules we must learn to negotiate exist within relationships...and anything that enlightens us in that regard, whether it's another zombie movie or the next Twilight, is going to win big. What are you doing to build on the relationships within your own writing?


  1. I haven't seen that movie yet, but I've heard it's pretty darn good.

    I agree, I think that relationships are key to driving the story. You can have the twistiest plot, but if you have weak characters, and they have contrived relationships, the story won't hold together.

  2. I want it all. I want high concept science fiction with relationships!

    Then again, Weber's space opera has gone out of high concept and into relationships predominate, with stuff blowing up in space on the side. This started with FIELD OF DISHONOR, a tightly written, totally kick-ass character/relationship study.

    But back to my first point. OLD MAN'S WAR was a high concept relationship centric. And it ruled. It ruled hard.

  3. I loved Zombieland. It was just a wonderfully fun movie to watch. And, I think it fits in perfectly with Camp 2.

    I think I would like a blend of both though, like Anthony said. I guess what I'm really looking for is Star Trek Next Gen. Some of its stories focus on the relationships between the characters, while others focus almost solely on the technology and the world surrounding the characters.


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