What The Walking Dead (and Richonne) Taught Me About Writing


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The video contains captions for anyone who needs them, but I’ve also included a detailed transcript below. Feel free to watch the video, read the post, or both, it’s (almost exactly) the same information either way. Thanks for visiting! 

Today we’re talking about zombies, emotions, and writing, and zombie emotions in writing.

When I was really sick earlier this year (and by sick, I mean pretty much bedridden) I spent the better half of a week doing nothing but reading and watching The Walking Dead.

Especially the episode where Rick and Michonne (aka Richonne) finally got together.

I had a seriously terrible migraine, but that scene was an excellent pain reliever.

I was a little obsessed. I read every article on the episode I could find, started following a dozen new blogs, wouldn’t shut up about it–you know, a totally normal and cool reaction.

However, when I was searching for fanfiction in the depths of my obsession I discovered two things:

  1. There wasn’t a lot of fanfiction for those two, though the number was steadily increasing.
  2. A LOT of the fic that did exist was emotionally biased.

What does that mean?

706480Let’s look at it another way:

Who are these characters? What is their reality?

Well, the main characters in this couple are a man who once tore another man’s throat out with his own teeth and a woman who just the week before sliced through a thousand zombies like a human lawnmower…

Does it really make sense for these two characters to put off dealing with serious, life-threatening problems to talk about their feelings?

Unfortunately, no.

This is not a complaint against fanfiction. NO. I love fanfiction, I even made a whole video about how much I love it, but this problem reminded me of a problem that I don’t hear talked about enough in writing, one I often struggle with myself.

How can you tell if the emotions in your story are yours or your characters?

There are a lot of things to consider when writing a story. In a romance novel or a coming of age story, a discussion about relationships and change after a romantic encounter make sense.

In a different genre, emotions can literally be zombies. They can suck the life out of your story if not used the right way.

If your emotions are not your characters emotions, they can hurt your story.

I’m a very empathetic, emotional person. I’ve cried over dead zombies on this very show. I get very deeply attached to fictional characters.

However, the main character of my novel is definitely not as emotional as I am. Dozens of times now I have had to rewrite entire scenes because I wrote them the way I would respond to them, not the way she would.

The interesting thing about television that novel writers are not as fortunate to have, is that sometimes, your character, or more accurately the actor that plays your character, can actually advise you when you’re going down the wrong path.

Know your character like you know yourself.

Danai Gurira as Michonne and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 10 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

At the end of that episode, Rick and Michonne are interrupted from their post-bow-chicka-wow-wow nap by Jesus himself (and honestly, that alone should sell you on the show) and they confront him wearing nothing but their favorite weapons.

The script actually called for them to cover up, but both actors actually campaigned for the nude shot instead, saying that it wasn’t in character for either of them to be modest in the face of danger.

That isn’t to say there isn’t a time for emotions.

If we continue with this zombie analogy, there are many other opportunities to put them into play.

michonne-004You can use them as armor to foreshadow a deeper character fear or flaw.

Michonne used her dead ex-boyfriend as literal zombie repellant but also as a metaphor for how she felt she deserved to be surrounded by monsters for letting her baby die.

When she couldn’t afford to keep her zombie ex around anymore, she killed him, even though it would take quite a bit more time story wise for her to not think of herself as a monster.

That is an excellent use of emotion that fits the character and the genre.

It’s very hard to separate yourself from your characters, especially because I would argue most authors write because of how they feel.

It might hurt and frustrate you as a writer to see your character suffer, but trust me, it is better for the story. If you feel for them so will your readers! That ache will make them turn the pages.

Kill your unnecessary emotional zombies or your story will never make it out alive.

Also please pray for me, because I’m not sure if I’m going to survive the Walking Dead premiere. I feel like I’m going to cry myself into a dehydrated mummy.

Please subscribe if you love fictional people, zombified or not, and join my newsletter if you just really like the vibe we’ve got going on here. I think I’d be a very fun member of your zombie apocalypse team. I’ve gone camping at least six times, LOL.

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