by Peter Welmerink
When I wrote my current JOE CROSS novellas, or my TRANSPORT Series–where, yes, the undead roam the land, and are even kept quarantined, guarded and *gasp* protected in the larger city of my fictional literary wanderings—I had not originally set out to write strictly a book populated with zombies. In fact, the region where my stories take place aren’t totally amassed with rotting shamblers. My blurb, when explaining my work, is we’re in a POST post-apoc setting. All the bad shit happened over ten years ago. Now, we’re rebuilding. Carefully. With our focus around us (to be safe) but also on the future.
It’s not the Undead who are the most dangerous in my work. Really, it’s the LIVING.
The great thing about zombies is you can imagine them, write them, at all different angles. They can be a total menace to your characters, or just another annoying nuisance because the darn things always want to gnaw on you and get in the way. You can mold and shape them in whatever way you like.
But, again, it’s not always about the zombies.
To make an impact in any reader’s mind, you have to have good characters. The reader has to give a rip about your character or characters. Though an all-powerful Superman-of-a-character might be fun to simple waltz through the zompocalypse, if the character doesn’t have some traits and foibles that make the reader give a shit about him or her, then who cares if your Undead are little babes from an infected neonatal ward. (Yikes!)
One of the aspects I like imagining in my tales (or any zomb book) is the landscape. What has changed? Is it the same world we’ve known, or drastically altered by whatever plague or event kicked off the apocalypse and filled with the world with these flesh nibblers? I like to imagine a huge, vast city on the verge of decay and collapse. People trying to survive within it while having to watch their back. What do they do to survive? What do they do for a “day job” now since their normal world has been turned on its head.
This is what I envisioned my JOE CROSS character set within: a fortified, crumbling town and his “day job” is a Urban Salvage Engineer, a person who goes outside the confines and finds items of use or wealth to bring back to the little thriving community so he, and they, can continue moving forward. So far, his adventures outside the enclosure never go quite right and he finds himself in some form of trouble. He must use his wits, and a bit of luck, and the guidance of the stuffed toy brown bear he travels with, to get his fanny out of the fryer; which touches on another fun aspect of the ZOMBIE STORY.
Since the living human element is typically always trying to survive, it is always a great, interesting challenge to see how the character or characters use their wits, their brains, to get them out of a bad situation. With so many elements against the protagonist…the Undead, the Living, Nature…part of the writing FUN is dropping the character into these environs and seeing how they get out of it, if at all sometimes.
So these writers you see and read writing these ZOMBIE STORIES, it isn’t all about the zombies. It’s about, usually, pitting a character in a world they aren’t used to, throwing creatures and elements at them they might not be used to, and seeing how they survive and keep moving forward. It is basically a big ADVENTURE STORY…with rotting, shambling, biting things somewhere in the background or in your face.
It’s not all about the zombies. It’s about *sinister laughter* the FUN.
Peter Welmerink grew up in a pre-zompoc West Michigan, and years later, decided to write about adventurous characters, heavy militarized armor and lone “salvage engineers” populating a post post-zompoc West Michigan landscape. TRANSPORT and his current JOE CROSS: URBAN SALVAGE ENGINEER books are the outcome of it all. He is married with a small barbarian tribe of three boys.
Check out Bull by Peter Welmerink or pick up the earlier books and series from the links at the top of the blog.