With the season finale of The Walking Dead still fresh on my mind, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the zombies vs. survivors dynamic.
Here’s what I know about survivors. They’re clever, skilled and creative. (I was going to add “fit,” but if you’re clever, skilled and creative you can be a contestant on The Biggest Loser and still defeat a zombie.) Being forever pursued, they’re constantly aware of their surroundings. They are strong-willed and adaptable.
Now think. Does any of this apply to your main character?
If bullied, does he fight back? If lost, can he find his way? If leading, does he shoulder the weight?
Now let’s consider the zombies. Here’s what we know about them. They crave human flesh. They'll amble for miles to find food. They mostly travel in groups. And there is no hierarchy.
Is this your MC?
Craving/wanting is the catalyst, but will your character stagger aimlessly until he happens upon his goal or does he have a game plan to tackle it? Is he just one of the group or does he stand out as an individual? Does he make his own rules, buck the system, challenge authority (A-listers, teachers, overbearing parents, etc.) or does he have free reign to tackle conflicts without consequence (boring!)?
I’d like to think that all of my main characters are survivors. That when faced with their own zombie apocalypse, they’re clever, skilled and creative. Oh, I’ve had a few who started out as zombies, but hey, that’s what revisions are for.
So next time you’re struggling with characterization, just ask. Is my MC a zombie or a survivor?