6 Undead Sources Of Inspiration For Writers Who Are Zombie Fans

6 Undead Sources Of Inspiration For Writers Who Are Zombie Fans

As a post-apocalyptic writer myself, I know the struggle of not having ideas. I'm here to help!

We've all been there; sat down, staring at a blank white screen or sheet of paper, struggling to come up with some brilliant idea for a new undead tale that will wow people for centuries... and disappointed when nothing comes to mind. Don't worry. You're not alone. Post-apocalyptic fiction is my favorite kind of fiction, so I understand the struggle of trying to come up with fresh new takes on shambling monsters and hardened survivors. I still have a ways to go, but over the years I have racked up quite the repertoire to draw from whenever I'm coming up blank. Many of these are my personal collections of songs and pictures and thus tailored to my interests, but feel free to look into others!

1. Writing Prompts

I'll start with my favorite. Writing.prompt.s has an Instagram and a Tumblr, and he's definitely worth checking out. My favorite thing to do is mash together a couple of different prompts, then ask myself, "How can I add zombies to this?"

2. Music

Music is a wonderful way to get creative juices flowing. I have a zombie apocalypse Spotify playlist that I like to play whenever I'm trying to think of some horror. Not all of the songs have to do with the undead per se; Fort Minor's "Remember the Name," for example, may be twisted to describe a lone zombie hunter's journey to fame. You can choose to reinterpret the lyrics however you wish in order to create a new, original story.

Lyrical music isn't the only way to go! Instrumental music by bands like Audiomachine and Two Steps from Hell are also pretty awesome background soundtracks to any post-apocalyptic story.

3. Pinterest

I have a couple of Pinterest boards that I sometimes scroll through when I'm at a loss for ideas. From text posts and short prompts that I've saved, to interesting pictures that I can imagine myself explaining, to even the "creepy image" search that generates more odd and unexplained photos, Pinterest is an amazing platform from which to draw inspiration.

4. Your Surroundings

It's easy to forget that the outside world actually exists, but sometimes it's a perfect way to spark ideas! What's hiding in that dark thicket in your backyard? What mysterious creature could be forming that odd shadow cast onto the building in front of you? Why is there a chair on the roof? Is the guy at the customer service desk really human?

5. Dreams

I am one of those people that keeps a dream journal. On the rare occasion that I get enough sleep to dream, I definitely don't want to forget the odd stuff that my unconscious mind manages to come up with. Try getting into the habit of keeping a small notebook and pencil by your bed. Or, you can do what I do and keep a Word document of "dreams" on your phone. Slowly, you'll build your own personal database of odd and whimsical stories that you can write something off of.

6. The Zombie "Template"

Last but not least, the idea of the zombie itself. What if you messed around with the “template” of what we know as a zombie? Your new creature will still have to have some things that will give humans a chance to survive, but otherwise, have a field day. The stereotypical zombie tends to be a slow, shambling creature that will rot slowly. It moans for reasons unknown to people, is stronger than its living counterparts and has an insatiable hunger for human flesh. It reproduces by biting humans. It acts independently of other zombies, but will also not shy away from traveling in a large group. The only warnings of its approach are the sound of its shuffling footsteps and its groans, and the only surefire way to kill it is to destroy its brain somehow.

Ask yourself what you can do to change this template. For example, a recent short story of mine features what the narrator calls “Gross Dudes,” which are each walking shells that used to be humans. They lack eyes and have nostril slits and a lipless hole in place of a nose and mouth. They travel in small groups and secrete purple gas that induces paralyzing fear in any nearby humans. When they open their mouth, there is a mysterious purple glow in place of a throat. They move slowly and have short attention spans.

The key is to making your own post-apocalyptic creature is to ask yourself basic questions about its appearance, mannerisms, and quirks.

  • What does it sound like?
  • How does it move?
  • How do humans know there is one nearby?
  • Does it walk on two legs?
  • Does it have fur?
  • How are each of its five senses?
  • How does a human transform into one?
  • What does its skin look like?
  • Can it glow?
  • Does it travel with others?
  • Does it have a mouth, and if so, what does it look like?
  • Does it secrete anything?
  • Can it alter a human’s mental state?
  • How intelligent is it?
  • How does it hunt?
  • How does a human kill it?
  • Can it speak? What does its voice sound like?

After that, put a whole bunch of them in your story! The possibilities are only as limited as your imagination.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr / David Simmons

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The Realness And The Rubbish

What reality TV offers its audience

I watch a lot of reality TV.

Most people’s immediate mental image when reality TV is brought up is mind-numbing Kardashian Jersey Bachelor Teenage Pregnancy cultural slime that is dumbing America down one “unscripted” episode at a time. I share this same disdain towards a lot of the shows that dominate Bravo, MTV, and ABC (especially the white hetero-pile of toxic sludge that is “The Bachelor”) but with a lot of these shows I find myself unapologetically, sometimes regretfully sucked in.

Our modern concept of “reality television” didn’t really exist in America until 1992 when people stopped being polite and started getting real on “The Real World” where seven strangers were picked to live in a loft in New York City: today, 25 years later, it is inescapable. In my twenty years of experience consuming media I have learned that reality TV is one of the easiest ways to connect with people. In the fifth grade I remember discussing “American Idol” with my science teacher and my classmates like it was a religion. In junior high “The Glee Project” capitalized off of adolescents’ obsession with Finn Hudson and high school glee clubs. Today, on “Bachelor” nights groups of girls congregate in dorm common spaces with TVs across my university’s campus. In my own world “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is practically the fabric of mine and other fanatics’ lives. The day after a queen is eliminated I am either in mourning or praying for my favorite’s numbered days in the competition. I remember when I was young there was a cartoon called “Total Drama Island” that was a faux-reality parody of shows like “Survivor” that my friends and I were absolutely obsessed with. I’m still traumatized by the memory of my parents telling me I couldn’t watch anymore because it was too mature for my age.

These reality shows (one merely a parody of reality) have quietly (or not so quietly) influenced me and Americans for years and I’m trying to work through the thoughts surrounding this controversial subject. Many agree that reality TV is frivolous, fluff, lacking any real substance. It’s where the thin, the white, and the heterosexual go to drink, debauch, and embarrass themselves with each ridiculous fight. Most of the TV shows we know have been proven to be fake, unreal, tearing down the edifice that reality TV has built up.

But I love it.

I can’t get enough of it.

Most of the TV I watch and actually keep up with is reality, past and current. The more I watch of it, I realize that a lot of it is filth. So unimportant, so uninspiring, so unartistic, but I can’t stop watching. I’ve realized, though, that it’s because reality TV isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. There’s so much of it that you have to sift through to find the gems worth your attention. In a normal TV show there’s only so much room for boring air time, footage without purpose; everything is deliberate, while reality isn’t supposed to be. Real life isn’t exciting 24/7: it can get messy, it can often seem pointless. But you need to sit through most of it to get to the good stuff, just like with reality TV.

How many episodes of “The Hills” did I have to sit through to get to that single, mascaraed tear that falls down Lauren Conrad’s cheek (“You know why I’m mad at you, you know what you did!”)? Countless seasons of “The Real World” were watched to see that guy slap Irene in Seattle after she outted him. Kim K losing her diamond earring in the ocean and crying has reached peak memedom (“Kim, there’s people that are dying.”) The night Taylor Hicks snatched the crown off of American sweetheart Katharine McPhee’s precious head on “American Idol” would go down in history as The Day the Music Died. And then there’s that guy from “Survivor” who lied about his freaking grandmother dying just to not get voted off the island.

So, I’d like to validate the hours I spend watching twenty somethings get into yet another drunken fight or the parents with way too many children or a Hilton sister milk a cow with the thought that I am waiting. Waiting for that culturally defining moment that I’ll have seen first hand and not after being recycled into a tweet or a meme.

I also hold out hope that these shows are actually real, or at least hold onto some thin shred of reality. I’d like to think that in the finale of “The Hills” when the camera pans away from Brody Jenner to reveal a soundstage, implying that none of the past six seasons were actually real, that this was just an artistic choice, not telling of the actual scriptedness of the show. We’ll never know for sure whether “Laguna Beach” was the real Orange County or just the fake one, so for now all I can do is hope.

Cover Image Credit: unspalsh

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6 Comments You're Sick Of Hearing If You Wear Glasses

Yes I can count the number of fingers you're holding up

I've been wearing glasses for as long as I can remember. In fact, I still have my first pair of little purple glasses sitting in the top drawer of my dresser back home. Being as visually impaired as I am, you can bet I've heard all of the jokes and have been asked all of the questions. These are a few of the comments that people who wear glasses and contacts are sick of hearing.

1. "How many fingers am I holding up?"

Without my glasses, your fingers might be a bit blurry, but that doesn't mean I've lost the ability to count. I can still make out the outlines of the two fingers you're holding.

2. "How bad are your eyes?"

Bad enough that I have to have corrective lenses! My prescription doesn't even make sense to me, how is it going to make sense to you?

3. "Are those glasses real?"

Yeah they're real! I don't go to Claire's and buy frames for fashion or steal the 3D glasses from the movies and pop the lens out of them. I need these for sight, Karen!

4. "Do your contacts hurt to put in/take out/wear?"

They don't hurt once they're in my eye and if they do, that means they're scratched or old and I should probably throw them away. For the most part, they're great until a speck of dust or eyelash gets in my eye. Then, and only then, do my eyes feel like they're legitimately on fire.

5. "Why do your glasses fog up so much?"

This is why I never wear glasses in the winter. The lenses fog when you go from a really cold place into a heated building and water condenses. The result is me looking like Chandler up there: confused and blind.

6. "Are you near or far sighted?"

I honestly couldn't tell you. All I know is my eyes are messed up beyond repair and I need glasses for the rest of my life.

Cover Image Credit: goodfreephotos.com

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