Archive | October, 2014

Creating Good Bad Guys For Zombie Apocalypse Novels

20 Oct

When writing zombie apocalypse novels, the would-be writers often concentrate on their heroes, reluctant or otherwise. They spend hours building them up, crafting their back stories, working out their relationships with the other characters – who they love, but cannot tell, who they get along with, who rubs them up the wrong way and why. This brings the heroes to life in the readers minds and mean that they care about whether they live or die.

However, every good story needs not only heroes, they also need something for the heroes to strive against. In a zombie apocalypse story, you might think that this would be the zombies themselves, but that’s not enough. While the zombies threaten the heroes survival, and create jeopardy, the one thing they don’t do is create conflict – and every good novel needs conflict of some kind. This is where the bad guys come in.

The bad guys are the ones who make life more difficult for the heroes: they get in their way, they ruin their carefully laid plans, they steal their supplies and ruin their defences. At their worst, they try to feed the heroes to the zombies just so that they themselves can escape. They’re the ones which have the readers booing and hissing (if only figuratively rather than literally) whenever they appear.

Now, you might think writing the bad guys would be easy; you just take every worst human characteristic you can think of and bring them together into one single character. The trouble is, if you simply do this, you end up with a two-dimensional stereotype who stands there twiddling the end of their moustache while cackling megalomaniacally, and that just doesn’t work for anyone. This is because unless your bad guys are believable, they will come across as being implausible and that breaks the connection between the story and the reader. Your bad guys need to be human, and to some extent, their actions have to be understandable, or at least consistent with their world view, because even bad guys stick to the rules – they might be a rather twisted set of rules that only applies to them, but they stick to them none-the-less. This, of course, doesn’t mean that they have to be likeable, but it means that they have come across as being real. You need to reader to be thinking, ‘I’ve met people like that, I know just how much trouble they can cause’.

Just as with your heroes, you need to spend time building up your bad guys. You need to flesh them out so that the reader understands what makes them tick, and why they act the way that they do. They also need to have some redeeming qualities, whether that’s occasionally doing the right thing, pitching in to help out when it’s really needed, saving the hero, or even just being nice to children and animals. Yes, these might just be ploys to lull the good guys into a false sense of security, but they still need to be there. They help build up the bad guy and turn them into something real in the reader’s mind. After all, real people are complicated, even the bad ones, and you need to make sure this complexity comes across.

It can be hard to get bad guys just right, and it’s a very thin line between being too dastardly to be believable and coming across as being too nice to do the bad things you, the writer, are making them do. Yet, if you get this careful balancing act just right, you’ll come away with the perfect bad guy – and that’s one who the readers love to hate.

In this respect, it’s worth thinking about The Governor in The Walking Dead. Yes he’s evil, yes he’s manipulative, yes he’s clearly completely bonkers and bordering on the psychopathically insane, but he’s a great character. As a viewer, you really hate him for what he does to Rick and his friends, but there’s part of you that enjoys hating him so much. This is because his character is well enough developed that you can see how his mind is working. You can see why he does what he does and how that fits with the way he sees the world. There’s also the subplot about his daughter that makes him come across as at least partly human and leaves you wondering whether this was what tipped him over the edge, and whether he might have ended up as one of the good guys rather than one of the baddies, if only his daughter had survived and he’d had something to live for. Does this explain the hatred that clearly burns deep within him? Maybe it doesn’t, but it’s an intriguing possibility which is raised by this little hint towards a potentially interesting back story, and this makes him all the more real.

So, when you set out to populate your zombie apocalypse story with characters, remember to put as much effort into building the bad characters as you do into building the good ones. Make sure they come across as three-dimensional characters who retain at least some of their humanity, even when they’re at their worst. Their actions might not be what you would do, but they need to at least be consistent with the way their twisted little minds work. It may take time to get them just right, but all your efforts will be more that repaid by the depth they add to your finished novel.


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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 www.forthoseinperil.net 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.

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New Review for ‘The Outbreak’ – And It’s 4.75 Brains Out Of 5

14 Oct

Last week, Zombiegift.com posted their review of my latest book, The Outbreak. I’d been waiting with great anticipation, and some trepidation, for this review for a few weeks as I have great respect for those over at Zombiegift.com, and I know that they always give very good and honest reviews. So, when I found out the review had finally been posted, I paused, perspiring slightly, before clicking on the link to reveal what they’d thought of it.

Scanning through the first few sentences, it quickly became apparent that they’d loved the book, mostly because they ended the first paragraph with “… this second book is pretty damn good!” Scrolling to the end, I found that the book had scored an impressive 4.75 brains (their version of the ubiquitous star-rating system) out of a possible five. As you can imagine, this made my day.

If you want to read the full review, you can find it here, and if you haven’t already, I’d definitely recommend checking out Zombiegift.com, especially their blog and Facebook page, as they’re a great source of all things zombie, as well as running great zombie-based giveaways on a regular basis (including one at the moment which gives you the chance of winning a signed copy of The Outbreak).



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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 www.forthoseinperil.net 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.

New Moon – A Flash Fiction Zombie Story

9 Oct

I stare out into the night, but it’s pitch black. While the sky is clear, it’s a new moon, so there’s no light to be had apart from the distance star-shine, and that’s so faint it’s of no help what-so-ever. When the moon is full, or even just a narrow crescent, you can see them as they creep towards you under cover of darkness, the light glinting off their sallow, sagging flesh, making it seem like they’re glowing from within. I know it’s just a trick of the light, but it still sends a shiver down my spine every time I see it. Even though they’re dead, it seems they still have some intelligence. They know we can see them in the daylight and they lie low, hiding in dark, damp places waiting for nightfall before they emerge. When the sun drops below the western horizon, the main sense that keeps us safe, our eyesight, fails us, and we are rendered blind as they are. This levels the playing field and makes it easier for them to catch us by surprise. The darker the night, the more actively they roam, moving amongst the trees and across the open ground, hunting us no matter how hard we try to hide, and nights when the moon is new are the worst. Those are the nights when they swarm through the inky blackness in unimaginable numbers, wearing the night like an invisibility cloak; they attack our defences, trying to overwhelm us, pushing forward, searching for a weak spot where they can break through. They attack in small groups, swiftly and silently. If the defences hold, they disappear back into the darkness to regroup before we have a chance to kill them; if the defences don’t, they make it inside. When they do, they howl with delight as they surge through, drawing more from far and wide. We know we have mere seconds to neutralise them and restore the barricades before we’re overrun, and yet we have to do it without being able to see our hands in front of our faces, let alone each other or those who are attacking us. These are the nights we dread, and yet they come, regular as clockwork, once every twenty-eight and a bit days. We don’t need to mark them off on a calendar, we can just watch the moon expand and contract as the inevitable night of pure darkness approaches yet again, knowing what is coming, knowing that each month we’ll be lucky to make it through that moonless night unharmed. Every time the new moon comes, our numbers shrink. Sometimes we lose only one or two, at other times it’s too many to count. We’re being whittled down, new moon by new moon and it seems there’s nothing we can do to stop it. How many more we will survive, I don’t know, but one thing is certain. Eventually, a new moon will come which sees the last of us wiped out, and when the sun rises the following morning, it will shine on a world where were we are gone, and all that will be left of humanity is them.



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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 www.forthoseinperil.net 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.