Monday, July 1, 2013

What Zombies Can Teach Us about Writing

Everyone knows workshops, conferences, reading etc can help us with writing, but zombies? Not so much. They are, after all, not exactly known to articulate beyond the need for brains or able to form complex thoughts*. Well, I'm here today to debunk that theory and break down zombie prejudice.

I encountered zombies on the weekend and, my, they were a lively bunch. Their hive mentality made it possible for them to climb huge walls, overturn trucks, bring down helicopters, and become a public menace. Impressive. If you haven't guessed already, I saw World War Z, starring Brad Pitt.

As much as Brad Pitt is a tasty treat for the eyes, and the special effects were mighty fine and well integrated, I'd expected something different, something more, from this movie. Sure I loved the fast zombies doing their cool thing, but I'd pretty much seen the best bits in the trailer. The rest of the movie became Brad Pitt, not his character, surviving one unlikely situation after another. Rather disappointing for someone as picky as me.

So what did the zombies teach me about writing? There has to be at least some character development in a story. WWZ fell flat because there was no development in any character whatsoever. Brad Pitt was the same at the beginning of the movie as he was at the end. Sure the characters' situations had changed, but that's not enough to make a story with potential a great one.

Next week I'll be posting a review of Grammarly because, as some of you know, I picked up a risk-free trial. I want a little more time with it to give it a proper run-through. And on Wednesday, I'll be posting for the Insecure Writers' Support Group. Wow, it's that time already!

*Maybe zombies crave brains because they need more processing power for those deep thoughts we didn't realise they have.  

What's your theory on the brain-craving phenomena? If you've seen World War Z, then what are your thoughts on the movie? 

52 comments:

  1. I do want to see World War Z, but this makes me not want to... maybe the eye-candy will make it worth while, even if there is no character development. That's something I've started worrying about in my own writing over the past couple of years; do my characters DEVELOP? I think they do, and I think it's good to plan your stories in order to make sure you know how and when those changes occur.

    Thanks for this post, Lynda! :D

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    1. That's actually how I outline a story--I look at the character arcs first.

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  2. Hi Lyn. I just saw Man of Steel on the huge IMAX theatre in 3D and the first half was cool...loved Russell Crowe in his father role, and the new Superman even puts Brad Pitt in the shade, but I give it an overall thumbs down too as it was just full of gratuituous violence which went on and on. Several got up and left.

    WWZ was next on my list to see, but maybe I won't bother now. I'm not so into zombies, but plenty of people are. I still prefer vampires.

    Glad to read your review. I will be giving a little review of the books I've read and the movies I've seen in my post after IWSG post. Now I have fixed my blogger problems I'm back with a new look. No new posts for you to visit before Wednesday.

    Cheers Lyn!

    Denise

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    1. I've heard others say the same thing about Man of Steel. I'm not a big fan of superman so I'll wait and see it on DVD, or maybe even just tv.

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  3. Zombies crave our creativity and mental stimuli. Hive mentality must get boring and their lack of hygene and speech ability don't make them an enticing bunch beyond their own peer group. Haven't seen WWZ yet but if what you say it's true it's sad they didn't do better in the adaptation of such a well known book. And character development is a must.

    You've given me an idea for a 'zombie' post of my own. It should be up this Thursday. See you on Wednesday.

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    1. lol, I think you're onto something!

      I've heard the book is very different to the movie. I've not read it, but people who have said they wondered how hollywood would even be able to adapt it to the screen.

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  4. That was quite an analytic approach to the whole zombie scenario and you figured out is indeed an important point to be taken into consideration!
    And the brain-craving phenomena, I guess it feels good to have any bit of brain :D So I sure can imagine zombie's cravings!
    Haven't seen the movie yet though and as per your description I've lost the whatsoever interest was left after I've gone through the trailer! But Brad Pitt is Brad Pitt B)...so maybe!:)

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    1. Yeah, I can't help being analytical. It's part of the enjoyment of the movie. I've trained my hubby to be just as analytical too!

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  5. That's a good point - there wasn't any character development. One more thing that made the film seem just a bit off. Besides the fact that there was no gore. (Sorry, I'm old school - I watch zombie films for the gore.)
    Zombies also taught us not to give away too much in the trailer, which this film did indeed do...

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    1. I think they gave away heaps in the trailer because that's all they had!

      I don't need gore, but I do need to be scared, and I just wasn't scared in WWZ... at all. Maybe it should've been called, WWZzzzzz ;)

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  6. I am so bored with zombies (apart from George Romero's zombies of course!!) but there is Warm Bodies (Nicholas Hoult film) that's quite good! I've not seen Brad Pitt's one - saw the trailer and thought, nah....!

    Take care
    x

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  7. I was *never* a zombie person at allll, until I discovered "The Walking Dead" on Netflix and took a picture of No. 3 Son (in today's post:)

    PS... looking forward to the Grammarly report :)

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  8. Zombies have never interested me, but I did enjoy your movie review.

    Like Mark, I'm looking forward to your report on Grammarly. I got the same offer you did, but turned it down.

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  9. I'm no fan of zombies.

    I agree, without character development, a story falls flat.

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  10. I'm with you, character development is key. I have to give a crap about at least one character to keep me reading.

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    1. Brad was also too perfect. He could do no wrong.

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  11. Brad Pitt always plays Brad Pitt, this is why I try to differentiate stars from real actors... 'tis not the same category.
    Zombies are popular because we are in a decade of violence, fall of moral principles and standards and of the dangerous shift of target audience from mature one to the teenage and very immature one :(

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    1. I get your point about stars vs real actors. We need more talent out there!!

      WWZ wasn't exactly in-your-face violent, but then it wasn't really a zombie movie either. It was more of a virus-goes-global movie.

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  12. The Walking Dead is a perfect example of characters changing. SOme for the worse. SOme for the better.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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  13. Very interesting your exposure, see zombie movies!

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  14. Good reminder about character development, Lynda. Just finished reading a book that had a maddening character who needed to grow up. She did eventually, which turned the book around.

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  15. Thanks for the review, and good point about character development. Funny, I was just wondering to my brother and sister this weekend whether the best parts of WWZ were in the trailer. LOL

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  16. Good point about character development. Hollywood can easily miss the mark here. They forget that we are a smart audience.

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  17. I wanted to see WWZ but my husband didnt :( But I'm disappointed about the character thing. Because I totally loved THE WALKING DEAD series especially because the MC changes so much. He goes from being so innocent and moral to killing zombies with vicious and reckless abandon. He'll do anything to save his family. He goes crazy at one point with killing and its fascinating. Anyway, I get what you're saying... :)

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  18. Not a huge Zombie flick fan. Agree about the character development part.

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  19. It's pretty shocking that with all the money they spent on the movie and with the experienced producers, directors, and screenwriters at the helm, they didn't notice their movie lacked a story and character arc.

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    1. Disappointing. But, now more than ever, writers have an opportunity to exert a correcting influence on their own terms. So big yays. :)

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    2. Lexa, that happens far too often in the movie industry.

      Suze, let's hope that happens.

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  20. Brad Pitt is pretty much Brad Pitt all the time--my personal opinion. I'm still in recovery over his role as Joe Black, Mr. Death. Can't imagine what he'd do with a zombie role, but thanks to your review I won't have to find out. :-)

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  21. I'd heard all the best scenes were in the trailer. And, yep, I wish Hollywood would realize that it's the story we want not just the special effects. Those should only enhance the story not BE the story. Lazy, lazy, lazy.

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    1. All they do in hollywood is look at the numbers. WWZ brought in heaps on money on its opening weekend. That's a win in their view.

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  22. Movie stars not only don't change over the course of a story, they don't change when they're in completely different movie. It's always them. Zombie Brad would probably still be beautifully dressed with a designer scarf.

    mood

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  23. Haven't seen the movie so can't speak on it. But I like the fact you found a writing tip in what didn't work :-)

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  24. I've not seen WWZ yet. I just can't justify spending good money to see zombies when I can look in the mirror for free. :-P

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    1. lol, Jeff, you made me snort and the cat looked at me funny.

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  25. Sunday night was date night and we had to decide between WWZ and The Heat. We opted for the latter and am glad.we.did. The Heat was hilarious and has good charactee develppment.

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  26. Yikes! I definitely need character development to stay interested in a story as a reader, and it's great advice for writers too.

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  27. So I'm not missing anything special. Good to know! I'm not fan of zombies anyway. Good review, Lynda and good lesson. :D

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  28. Watched the movie and I have to agree... so many plot holes and total lack of character development. Such a shame.

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  29. I always thought it was weird that zombies wanted brains. Since they're decaying, I don't think they can smell anything (except maybe themselves). Or do they just go for the skull because they like the sound of the skull breaking open? You know, like popping open a soda can.

    And at least WWZ is a good lesson for writers :). It could be taught in schools as what not to do with characterization and plot.

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    1. I must admit, the sound of opening a soda can is mighty fine, though I did shudder just a little at the thought of associating that sound with skulls breaking. Well done ;)

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  30. You are right about character development being a must. It's too bad there isn't much of it relating to most Brad Pitt roles. The same is true for Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Will Smith, Keanu Reeves and several others. They are in movies because they are movie stars. They always play themselves. When I think of acting and movie making as an art form, none of these people come to mind.

    Brad Pitt is in this movie for the same reason they filmed it for a PG-13 rating. Money!

    Except for one or two movies, the concept of zombies craving brains isn't brought up or demonstrated.

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    1. yep, the brains thing is usually associated with zombies and humour.

      regarding the stars, yes, I have to agree with you there. So if it's not talent, then what is it that makes these people stars? I suspect it's the movies they're in. We fall in love with their heroic characters.

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  31. It is not a movie I'll see without being dragged to it, but it's good that you found a writing lesson it. The writer's mind is never quiet.

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  32. I just saw the previews for this movie this weekend. Thank you for your review! I don't think it will be one I waste time on. :)

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  33. I haven't seen Z, mainly because I know it'll freak me out :) But I completely agree on the character development aspect--that's just essential!

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  34. The book for this was great, but translating it into film doesn't really work. I agree, thoguh that zombies cna teach us something about writing and character development:)

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  35. I haven't heard anything really good about this movie yet. Other than Brad Pitt eye candy. Which isn't all bad :)

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  36. Actually, I would think zombies teach us about the effects of NOT writing.

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    1. lol, I think you're onto something, Barry!

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  37. I haven't watched World War Z because the trailer makes me think it's like Lord of The Rings. What I mean is that it looks like there are a lot of action sequences that are so long that I can leave the theater, buy popcorn, talk on my phone, come back, and the sequence will still not be done yet.

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  38. I'm not too excited about this movie. I think with some high budget, high tech films, the special effects and action are placed in higher importance than other elements.

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.