Monday, March 19, 2012

Is Your Character a Zombie?

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?  



  1. Cool post, Dotti - I am so bummed that the season is over...

  2. Good question. Like you, there are times when my main characters seem to have it too easy.

    The next time they drift toward zombiedom, I'll whack their heads off and turn them into survivors.

    Great post!

  3. But what if your main character IS a zombie?

    1. There's a whole new set of rules for that.

  4. Brilliant post! My main characters are definitely survivors. However, their enemies are often zombies. Zombies is a great way of describing the mean kids in just about any YA. Travel in packs, check. Stagger aimlessly, check. Crave human flesh, pretty much...

    1. However, I don't think any zombies will be able to respond to your post. I can barely type in those stupid letters right to prove I'm not a robot. How are they supposed to? That means your survey is skewed...

    2. Wait...there's a survey?

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks, Linda! You're a sweetie.

  6. Great post! Love zombies and The Walking Dead :-) I'll be bookmarking this to ask these questions of my characters! Thanks Dotti!

  7. Way too much to think about this late at night. My heroines are generally spunky, impatient, smart-mouthed...Oh, wait! That's me.
    See you tomorrow night.

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