Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Old Dogs and New Tricks
I got schooled. Sure, I got the normal zombie stuff. Lots of dead bodies, lots of rotting flesh, lots of intestine eating. But then I also got a story that almost had me choking up. The characters are well drawn. The drama is palpable but not overwrought. In short, I was hooked. The Walking Dead (based on the comic book of the same name) isn't really covering any new ground. What they're doing is taking something old, polishing it up, and looking at the human aspects of it. They're giving us drama we can sink our teeth into. In movies, there's always a moment of horror where a loved one is zombiefied and they have to take an axe to that person. But TWD is exploring the long-term effects. What if that loved one followed you around? What if you had to kill them? What if you couldn't? Is being a zombie better than being dead? At least as a zombie, they're moving, that person is there. Right?
The writing lesson to take from this is that even in a saturated market you can take something and make it awesome by approaching it from a different angle. Take vampires for example. Everyone's read a story about a person who becomes a vampire or a person who's in love with a vampire. But has anyone ever written a story that explores what happens to a family with a child who becomes a vampire? What if someone told a story from the POV of a guy whose brother became a vampire? That'd be different and unique and, if done well, could bring a fresh new outlook to a tired subject.
So if you want to catch a readers' attention, you'll have to make something old new again.