If “Confessions”, the eleventh episode of the fantastic Breaking Bad, wasn’t enough, fans were kept on the edge of their seats with a short 15 second clip of the next season of the Walking Dead. In the clip, Michonne is confronted by a few zombies outside of the gates of the prison. Anyone who has read the graphic novels or seen Michonne last season knows that these zombies are toast.
It’s no secret that the Walking Dead has been one of the most popular zombie graphic novels and television series to date. The season 3 finale set the record for the series, with over 12.4 million viewers overall, and Robert Kirkman keeps churning out the graphic novels. There’s no question that the series is as popular as ever, and millions should tune in for the premiere next month, but the question then becomes why?
That is an answer only known by those who have written and created the great zombie books, shows and movies out there know. As you look at the Walking Dead series; stand-alone novels like I am Legend and World War Z; the Dawn of the Dead Movies or 28 Days movies, each is different in one way or another, but all have a few characteristics that make them so popular. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the common features of great zombie entertainment.
You need a good original angle: Let’s face it: The zombie story has been done a million times over, and readers or viewers will quickly know a good story from the rest – that is, of course, unless the creator is going for that B-movie feel, which puts bad plot and trite dialogue back on the table. A good zombie story needs an original angle: Dawn of the Dead had the mall and consumerism angle. 28 Days Later had the super quick zombies who were inflicted by the disease. Zombie Land had the Twinkees and Woody Harrelson in a cowboy hat.
You need characters the reader or viewer cares about in some fashion: The zombies are never the main characters of a zombie book or movie. If the characters of the story are more boring and lifeless than the zombies, the story is not going to work. As readers and viewers, we want the characters to survive. Otherwise, we’ll stop watching and reading. Good dialogue, intriguing motivations and interesting reactions to the environment are just some of the ways good characters are formed in zombie stories.
You need the right foil: Just check out these great zombie books here. All of them establish who the enemy is. Sometimes it’s the zombie themselves. Sometimes it’s the people they encounter along the way. Still with others, it’s the inner conflict within the character that creates the most tension. Stories can be defined as those that are Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, or Man vs. Himself. Each type of narrative can work in a zombie story if you have interesting characters and a sharp angle to go with.
Fall is the time of year to sit back with a good movie or book and check out good zombie entertainment. If you’re looking for one that will keep you thrilled, those with the characteristics listed above are good places to start.
About Today's Contributor:
Chris is an author from NJ who loves to discuss the elements of good stories. He loves horror movies and pumpkin beer, and Fall is his favorite time of year.