Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone

Zombies as portrayed in the movie Night of the...
Zombies as portrayed in the movie Night of the Living Dead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No one was more surprised than I was when I ended up writing a zombie story, even though I never much liked zombie stories.

The mantra is usually write what you know, or at least, write the kind of story you like to read.

My lack of zombie love isn’t snobbery–I enjoy many horror sub-genres. Something about zombies, though, kind of turned me off.

My main objection was that as antagonists go, zombies are kind of, well–boring. They don’t think or feel. Their only motivation is a desire to eat brains. It’s not even a conscious desire.

I guess I preferred antagonists who had slightly more complex motivations.

I was thoroughly surprised when I read Max BrooksWorld War Z and loved it. But I think that’s because the global disaster in the book could have been just about anything, it didn’t have to be zombies.

So how did I end up writing a zombie story?

I had just begun writing a fractured fairy tale that I had been thinking about for a long time. Very early on, I felt that something was missing.

I was pondering this problem when I saw the announcement for a special call from Entangled Publishing for zombie fairy tales.

I rarely have those “light bulb over the head” moments, but this is one time when it really happened to me. Ah, I thought–that’s what the story is missing–zombies. I immediately knew how I could fit them in.

I thought since zombies weren’t my thing, I would have a hard time writing it, but the truth is,  I can’t recall a time when I had more fun writing a story. I ended up loving zombies by the time I was done.

The story was ultimately rejected by Entangled, but even if I never sell it, I learned a valuable lesson–that writing something completely out of your comfort zone can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

There are other genres and types of stories I’ve been afraid to tackle because they are out of my comfort zone. Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up writing that sci-fi epic, after all. I may even thrown some zombies in.

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4 thoughts on “Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone

  1. Zombies are great! It’s a great shame we don’t get to read your story. But for me what makes Zombies “horror” is the idea that they are neither good or bad, they are more like a force of nature, like a storm or plague that was once human. They have an instinct to feed, but you can’t really interact with them just accept that they may move and look human but are dehumanised and kill them. But its painful and horrible because they were once human human, but can never be again. And they could turn you into a mindless monster.
    My sister and I once had a huge conversation about why zombies should be great, but were often so unsatisfying. So we decided to come up with a zombie film idea that would work. I spent a lot of time thinking about what would make a zombie film work. I decided that it would have to revolve around the fear of becoming a zombie and/or the pain of having to kill someone you once knew who had become a zombie. Make it not about being chased by the zombie or even action zombie hunting, but focus on a protagonist having to deal with being infected. I think of District 9 as being in part a zombie movie – the idea of being transformed into something you believe to be subhuman. But a zombie fairytale is a pretty cool idea. Hope we get to read it one day. 🙂

    1. Thanks! I’m still hopeful I’ll find a home for my story. If I can’t, I may self-publish. (The editor at Entangled said he sent out almost 100 rejections, so other companies may be inundated with queries about zombie fairy tales at the moment, lol.)

      Your approach to a zombie movie sounds great. What I liked about World War Z was that the zombies were a global disaster that survivors had to come together and wipe out. I read it just after the Japan earthquake happened, and I remember thinking, wow, if we have to face something like that on a global scale, we are in BIG trouble.

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