Zombie stories: emotional experience or slash ’em up?

This topic was posted on goodreads and I wanted to share with you all the discussion and my response, I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this. This is the question that was presented by a fellow goodreader:

“So, I’m curious- as a reader, what are your thoughts on a zombie novel that focuses more on the emotional experience of the apocalypse rather than just a hack-em-up novel?

I’m asking because I wrote a zombie novel and the reviews on Amazon are all over the place. (Thankfully, they’re mostly 4- and 5-star, but I have a couple 3- and 2-star reviews.) I read a lot of zombie fiction, and a lot of it seems to have mostly macho, testosterone-filled ex-military (or cop, or other type that would have received combat training) as the main characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love this stuff, but I wanted to put something different out there- I wanted realistic characters full of flaws. (I do have plenty of zombie-action, too.)

Which do you prefer- Do you like zombie fiction that is mainly focuses on slaying zombies or do you like zombie fiction that focuses more on characters? (I tried to make mine balance nicely.) ”

-There have been lots of different responses, a lot of them I was disappointed to find they’ve been turned off to military characters because of this. Any of you who have read my book know that my main character isn’t all ‘shoot ’em up’. Here is my response the the discussion:

” I too have written a zombie book, (not going to plug). But I just wanted to say, I do believe you can have a military main character, and still have plenty of substance and emotions. I’ve been told to write what I know, and I am in the army. But if you know anything about the average army guy you know that they aren’t all knowledgable about tons of weapons, or just want to kill things. Honestly, I never thought I would be in the army as long as I have been. All I could think about when I was deployed was wanting to get home to my family, and how I was missing my little girls first year. Then me already being a zombie fan, this idea struck me. How the hell would I get home if a ZA happened while I was overseas, already in a hostile area? So I guess, writing my book was kind of an outlet for all the emotions I was having over there. Anyway, my point is… I do think a zombie book or movie is only good if it has those deep emotions of loss, frustration and despair. Trust me when I say, it is not an easy thing to end someone’s life. And if the characters in any book find it easy, then I’ll consider them a psychopath. So for those of you who have read those intense military shoot em up books, I don’t blame you for not enjoying them. But not all army guys, or army characters are that bad. I promise you 😉 ”

So do any of you have any opinions on this? If you want to read the full discussion, you can click here

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6 thoughts on “Zombie stories: emotional experience or slash ’em up?

  1. There are tons of emotions that has to go through sometimes mind when they realize the dead has come back to life. The author should not only convey those emotions but also the will to survive which ultimately end in combat.
    Read I am Legend by Richard Matheson and you’ll see the full spectrum.
    I personally like walking dead graphic novels. A very good read for zombie lovers.

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    • Thank you for your input. I have not read I am Legend, but I am familiar with it. And I have read the walking dead graphic novels, agreed they are great reads for zombie lovers. And I also agree with you about the emotions an author needs to portray alongside the necessary combat that goes with a ZA. I do believe I have done this in my book, and if you ever decide to read it I would love to know what you think.

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  2. In order to work, any story has to be about characters. Emotional resonance is the key to getting audiences to care about characters. People would rather read about people than about situations or battles. At its root every zombie story is more about the reactions of the human survivors than anything else–but not all authors of zombie stories recognize this is what their stories are really about!

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    • That’s something that honestly I was taken aback about by my own story. I was just writing it to take my mind off things. But the main character is so much a part of me, and I realized how much my real life friendships and relationships mean to me. It was difficult to write about a death of one of my characters, because I based him on someone very close to me. And now that I’m writing the second book, I realize how much about my life I’m actually expressing. It’s scary but freeing and the same time.

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