How To Start Zombie Apocalypse Novel

17 Feb

A while ago, I did a post looking at the various ways you can successfully end a zombie novel. In this post, I want to look at how to start one. Here, the main issue is where along the time line of your particular zombie apocalypse do you drop into the lives of your character(s) and meet them for the first time?

There’s four broad possibilities here, three of which I think work quite well, each under different circumstances, and a fourth which doesn’t – or at least it’s very much harder to get it to work well. These are: 1. Finding the world has unexpectedly changed; 2. The descent from normality; 3. The zombie-filled world, and 4. The flashback. Each of these plays on slightly different aspects of the human psyche and will elicit different feelings and emotions in the reader.

1. Finding the world unexpectedly changed: In this option, a character, or group of characters, is somehow isolated from the world, and while they are no longer in touch with it, it changes in an unexpected manner (such as being over-run by zombies). Stories which start in this way feature the disconcertion and discombobulation of encountering a world which you both know and don’t know at the same time. Think, for example, of the start of 28 Days Later, where Jim wakes up to find himself in hospital, an unexpected enough event as the last thing he remembers is cycling along a road, but then as he progresses further and further from the bed he woke up in, he finds that he’s somehow been left alone in an apparently deserted city which should be teeming with life. The opening sequences are truly disconcerting for anyone familiar with London as they will never before have seen its streets so devoid of people. Indeed, this is the emotion which finding the world unexpectedly changed starts to play on, and indeed on the nagging worry in the back of people’s minds whenever they go to sleep that there’s no certainty that the world will be the same when they wake up. There is a similar nagging worry whenever you leave home, that there is a risk that it could all change in your absence. Really, I think that it boils down to humans struggling to deal with the fact that, in their absence, the world carries on without them and this means they are not the lead character – but rather just a bit player among millions on a larger stage.

The biggest problem with starting novels in this way is how you create a realistic and novel isolation scenario. The waking up in a hospital bed approach was done so well in 28 Days Later, it’s difficult now to use it without the reader instantly thinking you’ve copied the idea (even then, it wasn’t an original idea in that movie – it was ‘borrowed’ from the 1950s post-apocalyptic novel The Day of the Triffids). The Walking Dead also used this approach, and would invite further charges of plagiarism if you used it. Of course there are other possible scenarios which you could use: A prisoner being held in isolation, a group of people locked in a bunker for a military exercise, a spaceship returning to Earth after a long mission, or (and this was the scenario I used in For Those In Peril On The Sea), a boat coming back to shore after a long voyage. They key here is to make sure that your scenario can realistically explain why your character(s) don’t know what’s happened, such as a break down of some kind with the communication equipment.

If you do deploy this opening for a novel, you will need to fill in the back story as to exactly what happened at some point (because the reader will expect to be told). This is usually done through conversations with other survivors your main characters meet up with once they are over their initial shock at finding themselves in a world that’s suddenly changed. However, this has to be handled carefully and it cannot seem too much like a plot device to allow you to explain exactly what happened.

2. The descent from normality: In a descent from normality beginning to a story, you get a glimpse of what normal life is like for your character(s) before everything starts to fall apart. This can either be slowly (with little things just seeming a bit out of place at first, and then things getting progressively worse and worse – Max Brooks did this very well in the World War Z novel) or it can be very quickly, with everything going to hell pretty much in an instant (as occurred in the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead). Either way, the main emotion being played on here is the nagging worry that people have that, at some point , something will go wrong and their world will come crashing down around their ears. This means the reader can empathise with the characters as this happens, and wonder what they would do if they found themselves in a similar situation.

The descent from normality option is probably the easiest for the novice writer to attempt as it allows them to use a relatively linear narrative, and no need to have too much back story in conversation with others. However, care must be taken to make sure that you strike the right balance between having just enough of the non-action scenes before the start of the descent for the reader to get a handle on what the character’s normality is, and not so much that the reader is left wondering when the apocalypse is ever going to start (after all that is why they are reading a zombie apocalypse novel in the first place!).

As a general rule, the more normal the character(s) lives and situation is, the less you need to reveal of their normality before you can start in with the zombies. This is done really nicely in both Dawn of the Dead (someone returning from work and going to bed) and in Shaun of the Dead, where we get a brief glimpse into a normal day in his life (so we can see he’s stuck in a rut so big, it will take nothing less than the fall of civilisation to jolt him out of it). However, if you are setting your zombie apocalypse story in a quiet different from the real world (such as some alternative future version of Earth) or with characters whose daily lives are more unusual, you may need to provide a longer lead in so that the reader becomes familiar enough with their normality that they can understand the effect of the descent upon it, and those who live in it, when things start to change. Indeed, this is probably the biggest mistake that people make when using the descent from normality opening as there is a tendency to jump into the zombie action too quickly (e.g. having the opening line of: ‘It was a normal day for Bob, until he saw the zombies swarming up the street towards him’ – a good opening line to a short story, but probably not for a novel).

3. The zombie-filled world: In this type of start to a zombie novel, you drop in on your characters in a world already over-run (or being over-run) with zombies, usually at a point when something has changed in their life. For example, it might be a new character arriving in a group, a safe house being over-run, being force to move to a new location because of some threat, or something about the zombies changing (maybe getting more intelligent, or the disease which creates them spreading in a new way). The emotions you’re trying to elicit within the reader here is thinking about how they would survive in a world which is very different from the one they live in, and one which they don’t have the experience or the skills to handle, and you’re doing this by throwing them in at the deep end of just such a world.

The reason you need to have this start at a point of change in the characters’ lives is simply so that you have a fixed starting point to work from. From this point, you can then move forwards and backwards to fill the reader in on how the world came to be the way it is, and what’s then happening with the characters. Although not zombie stories, this is used very well in Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel, The Road and the TV series Falling Skies.

The main difficulty which you will face if you wish to use this type of beginning is that you will have to make sure you build your world in your reader’s mind, and it can be quite difficult to explain the rules of how your world operates to them. In particular, you don’t have the luxury of having an essentially naive character who needs everything explained to them as you do in the first option.

4. The flashback: In a flashback beginning, you join a character during a tense scene or at a given point of action, often close to the end of your story arc, and have the character questioning how they ended up in that situation in the first place (this is also the emotional response which you are aiming to illicit in the reader, that of how someone can end up in a very bad place because of seemingly inconsequential decisions they have made in the past). This type of opening allows you to go back to the beginning and fill in everything that happened. This way you can show each of the decisions and why they lead the characters to end up where they did, hopefully with the reader screaming at them not to do something because they know that it will end up badly for the characters and they’d save if they just made a different decision.

This can be an effective ploy for a short story, but in general for a full length novel, it (in my opinion at any rate) can be very difficult to pull off successfully. This is because the reader will either have forgotten the flashback situation after a chapter or so, or will be aware that a specific point will be reached at sometime, and will be expecting it to be resolved with every turn of the page. This means it is difficult to integrate the reveal of what happens to end the flashback scene with the back story action. This can be done by moving back and forth between the character’s past and present, and it is often successfully done in movies. However, this is because you can use visual elements (clothes, hairstyles, locations etc.) to passively inform the viewer which time frame a given scene is in. When writing, you need some sort of similar ‘signpost’ for the time frame, but this often leads to the writing becoming rather clunky as it disrupts the flow.

So these are the basic options for starting a zombie apocalypse novel, but which one is right for you? Well this depends on your characters, your story arc, the world you’re aiming to create and what emotions you’re aiming to elicit from your readers. Really the key here is to pick one which works for your specific plot and fits with how you want to reveal your characters to your readers, but be aware that you shouldn’t try to shoe-horn a beginning to your novel which doesn’t fit with how the story will develop. Each type of opening promises the readers some very specific types of resolution and if they don’t get it, they will feel ripped off. For example, if you’re using the first option, you need to reveal to the reader at some point what happened to the world or they will quickly become frustrated at not being told. Similarly, with option 3, they will expect some back story to explain how the characters ended up in their new world and how they learned to cope with it, and if this is not done, they’ll feel cheated.

Personally, I like stories which start with the first type of opening, and that was one of the reasons why I chose it when writing For Those In Peril On The Sea. However, when I started work on the next book in the series (The Outbreak), which follows another group of survivors, I realised I could use this opening again without it feeling very same-y. For this reason, I’ve gone for a descent for normality option for this one, and it is likely that I’ll use the third option the for next book in the series because it will see the characters from the two books united in the pre-existing zombie-filled world. If I ever get round to a four book, I might be brave enough to try a flashback opening, but only because the rules of the world in which I’m writing should be firmly established by then in the readers’ minds, and it will use an existing character who is looking right back to the events which started my particular version of a zombie apocalypse. If I was starting a brand new series set in a very different world, I wouldn’t have these options and so wouldn’t even consider it.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.


16 Responses to “How To Start Zombie Apocalypse Novel”

  1. Jack Flacco 18/02/2014 at 17:32 #

    Very thorough, Colin. Good job!

    • cmdrysdale 18/02/2014 at 18:50 #

      Hi Jack,

      Thanks. This started out as something brief, but I kept coming across more points which thought needed to be include and it grew into a bit of a monster!

      Hope the book sales are still going well. Just out of curiosity, what are you working on next? No worries if you’re not ready to share yet.

      All the best,


      • Jack Flacco 19/02/2014 at 12:30 #

        Hey Colin. Again, great job with this post, lots of interesting ideas, for sure! I’ll be announcing my next new title in the coming months. I guess I can say, stay tuned! 🙂

      • cmdrysdale 19/02/2014 at 18:10 #

        Hi Jack,

        I’ll stay tuned with great interest and anticipation then!

        All the best,


  2. Adam harrison 22/04/2016 at 14:48 #

    I am 13 and here is a short story I wrote

    ZOM-B ATTACK (based in America)
    It was like any ordinary day when the zombies attacked. (I’m Adam by the way). I was in school with my best mates jazz , Joe, Emma, Bella and Jake. We were fooling around when jazz spotted something on the AstroTurf. He walked to the window and looked closer at the thing and realised it was the grounds keeper. He turned back to talk to Joe when Miss Galven’te came into the classroom and looked at Kieran and walked towards him, we all watched as Miss Galven’te growled and bit off a chunk of Kieran’s face. Me, Joe, jazz, Emma, Bella and Jake all jumped to the back of the classroom and Joe puked as Miss Galven’te moved towards the rest of the class. I looked closer and realised it was a zombie; I looked for my bag and groaned. It was by the third row. I ran to the desks and jumped onto the fourth row and slid to my bag. I rummaged through my bag and as the zombie, AKA Miss Galven’te, reached me I pulled out my pistol and shot her twice in the head.
    The zombie fell to the ground and jazz ran over and pulled me up. “What was that?” he mumbled. “It was a zombie mate” I said as I picked up my bag. The rest of the class ran to pick up their bags and I said “you might want to take your guns out if there’s more”. Everyone pulled out their pistols and moved to the door. “HELP” said Jolene. I turned around and saw a hand holding on to her wrist: I’d forgotten about Kieran. I ran to help her, but jazz pulled out his gun and shot him in the head. I put my hand on the doorknob and yanked it open and stepped out, the class followed and we walked down the corridor.
    We kept on checking round the corners but then we heard footsteps coming towards us. I turned and it was Conner. He ran towards us and jumped at Peter and bit his arm off. Peter screamed and Joe whacked Conner round the head with a baseball bat. Peter collapsed on the floor and sobbed, he said to me “I don’t want to be one of them”. I knew he only had a couple of minutes. “I have to shoot you but you won’t become one of them” I told him. “Ok, do it now” he said and closed his eyes. I put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger ‘BANG’! He fell down. “Help me lift him up” I shouted. With the help of Bobby and Kyle I lifted him onto the locker. I searched through his bag and pulled out his gun and a hunting knife.
    We prowled the hallway and heard gunshots and shouting. We ran towards the noise and saw someone shooting a group of zombies. I ran towards the zombies and with the help of Bella and Kyle shot them all down. I looked for the girl and found her on the floor reloading her gun. “What’s your name” I asked her. “It’s Brittney” she replied. I pulled her up and we carried on down the corridor. Jack asked “what are we going to do now”.
    “I don’t know, but we have to find a way out of the school without getting bitten” I replied. I asked round for any ideas, and then Liam moaned “I’m hungry man”.
    “That’s it”! I exclaimed, “there’s a fire escape door in the cafeteria, let’s check that out”. With the class at my heels I lead the way to the cafeteria and stopped abruptly. “shh” I whispered, and poked my head round the corner. I’ll never forget what I saw that day, blood on all the walls, and people cornered by zombies.
    I turned to the class and said “everybody get your guns out” they pulled out their guns and I counted to three and burst through the door, the zombies were off their guard and we all shot each zombie to get to the fire escape exit . It was amazing as the class helped each other to kill all the zombies in the cafeteria, Jolene and benny were back to back killing as many zombies as they could. Me and Joe running, shooting and stabbing at every zombie that was in the room or got in our way. A few minutes later we had killed all the zombies and we asked if anyone had been bitten and fortunately no one had. We searched for the fire escape door and found it behind the counter, we tried to push it open but it was locked. “Everybody push the door” I said. Everybody pushed and with the help of everyone we smashed it open, we filed out and walked into the fresh air.
    We all laughed with happiness as we breathed in the fresh air. But the happiness didn’t last for long a zombie had crept up behind us and had attacked jasmine, and was eating her brains I tuned and without hesitation killed the zombie. I also killed jasmine. I blocked up the fire door and we walked to the school gates, I said “let’s head over to the shop to grab some supplies, oh and keep your guns out”.
    We walked up to the shop and fortunately it was empty I ran in there and grabbed food. After we grabbed some food I said “if were in a zombie apocalypse we should go to the armoury to get some more guns” everyone agreed and we made our way to store.
    When we got to the armoury we all looked around cautiously for zombies and then we all rushed to get some more ammo and better guns. I walked to an AK-47 and picked it up, I walked to the attachments and picked up some mor ammo clips and a zoom.
    Then I picked up some grenades and some C-4’S.

    We walked outside and saw nothing so we carried on towards the street where we all live “I want to see my parents to see if they’re okay”. Lee moaned. I agreed and we all got into groups of three and slowly checked everyone’s houses. Everything was fine until we heard screaming coming from Phil’s house.
    I ran into Philips and found him and joan surrounded by dogs, I got closer and saw the dog’s fur was matted and green. I realised they must be zombie dogs. I leaped and pinned a dog to the floor and fought against it as it tried to bite me, I looked for a weapon and saw my knife jutting out from my belt.
    I grabbed the knife and as the dog went to bite me, I brought the blade up and stabbed down into its brain. It collapsed next to me and I got up, Phil and jay were still fighting and I shouted to them “get down!” They dropped on their stomach and I pulled out my ak-47 and shot the remaining dogs.
    They got up and said “they’re not here” Phil said. “They might be somewhere safe by now” I replied. “Let’s go meet up with the others”. We walked outside as everyone else come out of their houses. I walked to the middle of the street and unfortunately no one had any luck. I walked forward and saw my house. “Come to my house, my granddad has and secret gun store in the living room.
    We walked into the living room and strolled up to the fire place. I felt for the groove on top of the cabinet and pressed it, the fire place opened up revealing a room with snipers, pistols, ak-47’s, assault rifles, shotguns, MK-14’s, machetes, knifes, baseball bats and cricket bats
    I grabbed some and then went outside and told everyone
    “let’s go to the shopping centre to stock up on everything. We drove to the shopping centre and walked to the fridge aisle and filled the trolley, then I went to the cereal aisle ad chucked a load in the trolley.
    I went to the dairy aisle and grabbed milk, cheese, yogurts and some other stuff I went to the clothes and changed into a pair of tracksuit bottoms, and short sleeved T-shirt and a leather jacket with insulators and spikes on the shoulder. I also visited the shoe shop and grabbed some Nike air max with blue and white.
    While everyone else was sorting themselves out I ran to the tills and broke them open. Inside were the money so I took them all ready for trades (just in case). I also grabbed some torches and light bulbs. Then I grabbed some batteries. We all walked outside when we heard an ear piercing scream, 5 zombies were coming towards us; we all were stuck until we heard gunshots.
    The zombies fell to the floor and I saw two figures in the smoke, they got close and I realise who it was. It was Sam and Reece with guns. Sam walked over and kicked one of the zombies in the head, Reece walked up to me and we bumped knuckles. “How you holding up” he said. “quite good” I replied. Reece explained what had happened, basically him and Sam were playing baseball when the zombies attacked so they ran from the school but they didn’t see any of their classmates.

    please just post a comment and tell me what you think

    • Colin M. Drysdale 24/04/2016 at 19:52 #

      Thanks for posting your story, Adam. I’ll have a read through it, and then let you know what I think.

      All the best,


    • Colin M. Drysdale 26/04/2016 at 10:05 #

      Hi Adam, I’ve had time to read through your story, and I have to say, I really liked it. I wish I could have written stories that well when I was thirteen! I especially like your dialogue sections where the characters are talking to each other.

      There is a couple of points which I think you might find useful for future stories. Firstly, in your story, all the dangerous situations are resolved quite quickly (often by just shooting the zombies), and it would help to build tension if your characters found these situations a bit more difficult to resolve. As a general rule, a story will have more tension in it if the characters fail twice before they succeed and escape from a dangerous situation. As an example from your story, when your characters are trying to get out of the canteen, you say:

      “we tried to push it open but it was locked. “Everybody push the door” I said. Everybody pushed and with the help of everyone we smashed it open, we filed out and walked into the fresh air.”

      It would build more tensions if the characters tried to push it open, but even with everyone pushing, they couldn’t. They could then try to break the lock by shooting at it and again fail. Finally, one of them could pick up something like a fire extinguisher or a chair and throw it through a window in the door so they could climb out. All the time this is happening, they could be dialogue where the characters are chatting back and forth about how to get out and whether more zombies are going to appear, and maybe even have one appear just before the window is smashed and they escape.

      The same goes for scenes where you have the characters shooting the zombies. You can add tensions by having them miss shots because they are nervous or run out of ammunition, or have their gun jam.

      The second thing I’d add is that adding more description to your writing will help your reader ‘see’ the scene you are writing in their own heads. For example, in your story you write:

      “I ran into Philips and found him and joan surrounded by dogs, I got closer and saw the dog’s fur was matted and green. I realised they must be zombie dogs. I leaped and pinned a dog to the floor and fought against it as it tried to bite me, I looked for a weapon and saw my knife jutting out from my belt.”

      I really like your description of the zombie dogs having matted and green fur, but you could build on this and describe how they were moving, the sounds they were making and, especially when it has the narrator character pinned to thee ground, how their breath smells (smells are one of the most evocative human senses and adding a description of a smell will almost always help a scene to come alive in a reader’s head!). For example, as the narrator is fighting with the zombie dog, you could describe how they are feeling its warm breath on their face, about how it smells of death and decay, and describe the drool dripping from its black and discoloured teeth. All this would help the reader imagine the situation in their own heads and it would make the scene really come to life.

      These are just a couple of pointers for your future writing, and as I said before, I really liked your story. You have a good imagination, and that is the one thing you cannot teach anyone if they don’t already have it – everything else to do with writing gets better with practice!

      I hope you find these points useful, and good luck with your writing, and remember the more you write, the better you will get at it!

      All the best,


  3. Gabriel 09/05/2016 at 00:52 #

    Hi, I am 13 years old and this is the first chapter of my story. I’m not sure about the end of the chapter.


    “Okay Okay Okay Okay. Everything’s gonna be okay, nothing bad’s going to happen during the flight.” I told myself minutes before I got into the plane that was about to take all eighth grade to L.A.
    “Better hurry up, or we’re leaving you” Julio notified me “Everything will be okay. Trust me.”
    “Yeah, yeah”

    I muttered some self-encouragement words, picked up my things and got out of the bathroom. The airport was crowded with so many people you couldn’t see ten feet in front of you. It took me some seconds to find Mr. Martin, one of our chaperones. He is a really cool teacher and middle-school principal when he doesn’t take you outside of the classroom because of some reason. Other than that he’s a really cool teacher.

    I reached him and then he led everyone (about 70 students) into the plane. The time span from us going through the airport to when we were seated was a complete blur. One moment we were seated waiting for instructions and the next we were boarding the plane.

    For someone who has never been near an airplane it was a leviathan (technically it shouldn’t be since it can’t go in water. But you get the idea) “Well then. Here I go” I said under my breath. The inside of the plane wasn’t extremely luxurious but it wasn’t that bad.

    Everyone took a seat and 20 minutes later after everyone had settled, the plane started taxiing through the runway. We finally took off and we flew north. According to the plan we were going to stop in Austin, Texas to refuel and then make a beeline for L.A.

    After 4 hours and thirty minutes we got to our destination,the biggest city in the U.S by population Everyone started to get up and I just remained in my seat, waiting until everyone had left or was in the door so I could get out last. Yeah, that’s me.

    * * * *

    We entered two buses that were saved especially for us. These buses were occupied by all 70 of us. These were the numbers: 62 students, 3 teachers and 5 parents. It took 20 minutes to get to the hotel where we were going to stay. I got room 205 which had only one 2m by 6m window.It had a really awesome view of a brick wall. Best view in the world.

    “Goddammit” I said when I saw the view “Only window I can stare at the majestic brick wall all I want. Perfect!” My roommates were: Julio Villanueva, Jonathan Hanyecz and Samuel Carlson. I was stuck with some of my inner circle but incredibly immature friends.

    * * * *
    The next few days I settled into a routine that felt almost normal, if you don’t count the fact that we were walking 15 miles per day and I was barely sleeping. Oh, I shoulda told you guys that about me. I barely sleep, a good night’s sleep is 4-5 hours of sleep. Now add that an the fact that my roommates were up a big part of the night playing Counter Strike: Global Offensive. I normally got some 2 hours of sleep per night.

    In the morning (around 7) we ate breakfast in our rooms. After everyone had showered and got dressed up (around 9 somehow) we went down to the lobby and got ready to go out and do another round of museums, historical places and that sort of things.

    We got back to the hotel at 6 pm, really late considering that we were supposed to be back by 4. After that some of the students take a bath and get changed to go out to watch movies or simply go chill. Room 205 stayed. They were playing CS:GO (competitive) that was fine by me, as long as they didn’t pay me attention I was fine.

    “Gabe where are you going?” Jonathan asked me as I was heading for the door.
    “I am going down to the lobby to try and have a social life” I answered
    “Whatever” Sam said

    Some minutes later I got out of the elevator and made my way to the bar where everyone from the table was (except both Julios, Alan,Jonathan and Sam)

    “Well hello there mon amis” I said loud enough for everyone that was talking to hear me.
    “Hey, what are you doing here” Alanis asked
    “Nothing, just trying to have a social life”
    “Huh. Interesting” Ethan said as he got close to where we were.
    “So, how ya doin’ Ethan?” I asked him
    “I am really good, considering that Kay doesn’t pay me attention” he said in a sad tone
    “Dude are you really sad because of that? Fuck her. She’s not the only blonde in the world”

    After I said this a man busted through the front door and he then fell to the floor. The doorman was nowhere to be seen. Since I was closer to the man I went to help him. When I was 5 feet away from him I saw that his clothes were all bloody. I kneeled to help him up I saw dozens of bites that went from being in his neck to his back and legs. In a split second the man jumped on top of me and started trying to bite my face off. Even though he looked human what I saw in his eyes scared me more than him trying to eat me. I saw nothing, no pain, no guilt, and no humanity.

    • Colin M. Drysdale 09/05/2016 at 10:26 #

      Hi Gabriel,

      Thanks for posting the first chapter of your story. I’ll hopefully have time to read it this evening or tomorrow and then will get back to you with some thoughts.

      All the best,


    • Colin M. Drysdale 16/05/2016 at 11:41 #

      Hi Gabriel,

      Sorry to take so long to get back to you about your first chapter. First, let me say that I like what you’ve written, and the style you have written it in. Your own voice comes through very clearly. I like the opening sentence, and it’s intriguing, so it brings the reader into the story nicely. I also really like the last two sentences about why his eyes scared you. This is really well written. Now, there area couple of little issues with it. The first of these is that while the reader knows the narrator is getting on a plane to fly to LA, you don’t say where the narrator is travelling from. This, I think, is quite a crucial bit of information (see below as to why I think this). The second thing is that some of the paragraphs don’t quite flow together. In particular, at the end, you have a section of dialogue, and then you jump to the man bursting through the door. You would have better flow here. This could be done by using some additional dialogue as the link between the two sections. For Example:

      “So, how ya doin’ Ethan?” I asked him
      “I am really good, considering that Kay doesn’t pay me attention” he said in a sad tone
      “Dude are you really sad because of that? Fuck her.’A door banged open behind me, but I ignored it and carried on. ‘She’s not the only blonde in the world. There’s plenty more …’ I looked at Ethan, and realised he was no longer paying any attention to me. Instead, his eyes were locked on something over my left shoulder. This made me angry, here was I trying to console him and he wasn’t even listening to me. ‘Ethan, what the hell are you staring at?’ I turned and saw a man standing in the entrance to the hotel, his dishevelled clothes flapping in the warm breeze that was blowing through the open door. I was about to turn back to Ethan when he suddenly collapsed, dropping to floor with sickeningly loud thud. He clearly needed help, and since I was closest, I felt that it was my duty to do something. I walked towards him, but as I got closer, I realised that his clothes were covered in blood. I kneeled to …’

      Adding in a link like this would really improve the flow, as well as helping to build the tension.

      In terms of your story as whole, I guess the big question is where you go from here. The feeling I get from what you have written so far is that this is the start of a rather good ‘getting home’ story. You have a group of young people far from home, who are likely to be abandoned or left alone by the adults how are meant to be looking after them as society is about to collapse under the weight of a zombie apocalypse. How are they going to survive? And how are they going to get back to where they belong, and where their families are? This type of story gives you plenty of scope for exploring what life would be like in a world full of zombies as well as for lots of exciting adventures and narrow escapes. It would also be quite interesting to explore the fact that it might only have taken them four hours to get to LA by plane when modern society was functioning, but it will take them an awful lot more time to get home (if they can even make it) after modern society collapses and things that we currently take for granted, like plane travel, are no longer an option!

      I hope this helps, and good luck with writing the rest of your story.

      All the best,


      • Gabriel 18/05/2016 at 00:21 #

        Thank you so much for revising the first chapter of my story. I really didn’t mind the wait. It gave some suspense. I will check everything you said and I suppose the only way now is to go forward.

      • Colin M. Drysdale 18/05/2016 at 11:02 #

        Remember, all that I said is simply advice, and it is your story, so feel free to ignore anything that you don’t agree with! Good luck with it, and as you say, the only way now is to go forward. Write it, read it, revise it and then write some more. It may take a while, but with persistence, you’ll get there in the end (even if there are times when you’ll feel like that will never happen!).

        All the best,


  4. Gabriel 18/06/2016 at 06:22 #

    Hello again Colin.

    I have stopped with my main project of the novel. So I don’t have to worry about that now. Using one of your posts I have ddecided to get a better idea and feeling to zombie stories and how to write one. I have started this short 6 chapter story.

    This is the link to my page. I posted a part of the story there.

    • Colin M. Drysdale 19/06/2016 at 21:15 #

      Hi Gabriel,

      Good to hear from you again. Writing a shorter story to start of with is always a very good way to hone your writing skills. Thanks for posting the link to your blog, I’ll definitely go over there and check it out.

      All the best,


  5. Gabriel Vargas 11/02/2017 at 21:56 #

    Hey Colin! Long time no… talk?
    Anyway Happy New Year. Yes, I know two months late but I’ve been busy writing. I have a small not so small problem. When I imagine the plot and everything happening in the story (especially dialogue and action scenes) I think of them as a TV show. I want to point out every detail in someone’s face or have some innecessary but funny jokes or things that happen. Not sure if I should just discard these things or include them. I feel that if I do include them I would be overloading the readers and this would make them leave.

    • Colin M. Drysdale 12/02/2017 at 00:35 #

      Happy New Year to you too, Gabriel, albeit belated. I know exactly where you’re coming from, and the best advice I can give you is to remember the Chekhov’s Gun theory of writing! You can find more about this here: along with advice about MacGuffins, Plotlings and other things that will help you work out what to leave in, and more importantly what to leave out. Basically, keep your writing as slim as possible, and sometimes the only way to do to do this is to give a draft to someone you can trust to give you an honest opinion. As always, I hope this helps, and I’m still looking forward to seeing your finished story. All the best, Colin.

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