Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

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Novel Ideas

   Yesterday I noted some of my complaints with existing zombie stories, in this entry I am going to lay out some of the basic ideas I have in mind for my story.

General Themes and Ideas
   The most important basic idea boils down to a sort of Lord of the Flies meets zombies -- zombies are very easy to protect yourself against really, but desperate humans trying to escape something that terrifies them, that is an unstoppable force.
   And there's a very large number of post-apocalyptic movies and stories which feature survivors spending a lot of time shooting at eachother (and Mel Gibson), but those people are usually portrayed as some kind of future barbarian who just loves to shoot at people. I intend to have normal non-malevolent people overrunning eachother's defences simply out of panic.
   As I said yesterday, for example offshore oil rigs might seem impenetrable to zombies --- but every boat owner on the coast will soon be on his way out there, and that can't end well.
   The other big thing is that, for some reason, nearly EVERY single zombie movie, book, webcomic, graphic novel, etc, seems to completely skip the initial zombie uprising and fast forward to a world that is already post-apocalypic. I'm going to examine how it would go down and bring the reader along for the ride.

The Setting
   It's certainly easiest to write about what you're familiar with, so it'll probably take place in Orange County. OC isn't a bad setting though, since it has LA to the north, a likely origin of zombie apocalypses, and other than north through LA there are actually only two roads out of OC (!), the coast highway south through the marine base Camp Pendleton and the windy ortega highway through the hills in the SE corner. So with a zombie apocalypse spreading out of LA, people in OC will really be stuck. To the East through the Ortega Highway there's just Riverside County, which is already kind of a desolate wasteland full of meth zombies.
   And then one can deal with the military response coming from the south. And there's the mentioned oil rigs and Catalina Island.

The Zombies
   I did like the zombie virus as described in World War Z. I think I'd keep that, and the way it first started appearing near major international airports. I have a vague idea for a future story about Patient Zero, who contracts a disease in some obscure place, which normally doesn't destroy the world because it kills its victims to fast for them to infect anyone else, but Patient Zero happens to be immune, so he causes the zombie apocalypse and has to live through the whole thing. But that's a whole different story which probably wouldn't even be hinted at in this one.
   A key to the zombie apocalypse is, as seems to be the gathering concensus in zombie media, if you get any of their blood in your eyes, mouth, wounds, etc, or are bitten by them, you will slowly die and become a zombie. The potential slowness of this is key, because it allows future zombies to be hidden among any refugee group, leading to eventual severe distrust of refugees.
   One departure I think I'd make from everything else is the whole one-shot-one-kill thing. It's always portrayed that one shot to the head knocks them right out. The basic motor skills that are the only part of a brain they use only make up a small part of the brain though, way back in the brain stem if I recall correctly, so you can shoot their head full of bullets without necessarily stopping them. I think this will make them much more dangerous.

The Characters
   By far my least favorite thing about writing any stories is coming up with the mundane details of main characters. Even names. I hate trying to decide on names! And then there's all these other details you need to figure out in order to have a well rounded character ... and after all that, half those details don't ever come up in the story!
   I'm thinking the main character will be a lad in his early twenties experiencing the suburban middle-class post-college malaise I've seen so much. He has some dumb job that doesn't pertain at all to his college major (I'm kind of leaning towards working in a law office, mainly just because, again, it's what I did and know), and I'd like to put something hanging over his head like a pending court date for something (DUI? just keep reaching into the bag of personal experiences...! d: ) or a heap of credit card debt (thankfully NOT a personal experience!).
   I want him to have a coworker girl he does NOT get along with, maybe the office manager, whom he ends up spending most of the apocalypse running around with. And she will be attractive. In this I'm going to toy with everyone's expectation that there will be romance. Because I'm black hearted and cyncial, it will just be a giant tease, and they will not fall in love. But maybe they'll develop a tolerant sort of friendship based on mutual contempt. (:
   To be thoroughly "OC," protagonist's parents will be divorced. At the first sign of trouble the dad splits and is never heard from again, providing an "absent father" sort of thing. His mother gets zombified and he is unable to bring himself to shoot her, fleeing instead. Later is haunted by this so much that when his sister is zombified he does shoot her. Or maybe I'll reverse the mother and sister, I'm not sure what would be more meaningful.
   And in general, and I doubt the above family members will be the first and second persons he has the opportunity to shoot, overcoming the deep-seated taboo on not shooting people (however zombified) will be a Thing that doesn't come easy.
   Protagonist will also have a girlfriend, whom he is unable to reach before phones and everything go out. His best friend happens to be in her general vicinity though and is able to get to the girlfriend to help her get out. And that's the last we hear of them. With the hollywood assumption that a male and female who go through an adventure together will inevitably fall in love, I don't think I'll need to stoke that fire too much to make the reader and protagonist wonder if, somewhere, his friend and girlfriend are off falling in love.

Anatomy of a Zombie Apocalypse
(1) Sporadic police-containable incidents - The first sign of trouble will be news stories about strange occurrences in LA, possibly near the airport. Reported as police shoot outs, crazy people, strange disturbances, the news doesn't know what to make of it initially but it's ominous. The police can contain every individual incident but there seem to be more and more of them. Maybe just before things really hit the fan there's reports of CDC vans investigating.
(2) Flee! Before it's even entirely clear there's a zombie apocalypse on hand people are trying to get out of LA. Freeways out of LA, completely snarled every day by normal traffic, quickly turn into glorified parking lots.
(3) Powderkeg - the situation first explodes into a situation police can't isolate and control when zombies start occurring among, or at least reaching, the concentrations of people stuck on the freeways. These densely packed crowds go off like a powderkeg! Stampedes on foot stream between and over the cars down the freeway, many are trampled underfoot. People who have received a bite or infected scratch are among those running, spreading the disease like the sparks of a wildfire and causing sporadic explosions of outbreak "downriver" of some of the stampeding masses. It also backflashes back into LA from there.
   The book WWZ described "the Battle of Yonkers," where the military completely ineffectively met the zombies as they spread out of NYC. If there were a Battle of Yonkers in my conceptualization of it all, it would be the zombies spreading back into NYC from the explosion that happened among the refugees who had fled across the bridge already.
(4) Onslaught - Now in Orange County you have all the freeways already filled with stopped cars, and a zombie apocalypse spreading across the northern border. By now I think it's late afternoon / early evening of the first day (weird things began in the early hours of that morning). This is where people in OC, my characters included, realize they need to drop whatever they are doing, find their loved ones, and decide what to do.
   At first it's just a lot of panicked people running around, phone networks being overloaded, and impenetrable traffic in many places, but then at some point the leading edge of zombies comes through. From then on out there'll be an increasing number of zombies, and all the familiar adventures and antics that requires and entails.
(5) Infected refugee - some people with infections "turn" faster than others, and some might simmer for days, weeks. While refugees are initially enthusiastically ushered across the southern border in Camp Pendleton and possibly refugee camps set up around the periphery in the other directions, it is soon realized that every new refugee is a potential liability and every refugee camp is a liability. Several refugee camps will no doubt "explode" catastrophically before this is realized. I don't want to portray the government as just eager to drop the nukes like they are in many zombie movies, but they're going to have no choice but to realize every refugee needs to be treated like a liability. I think the border with Camp Pendleton will eventually be closed.
(6) Government Response - I'm not entirely sure how I'll bring about the collapse of the military except that, also unlike WWZ, they'll never have a massed entirely-zombie target area to blow away. I think their refusal to drop nukes on areas full of survivors mixed in with zombies will be part of the problem -- they have no way to fight the zombies adequately and just get wittled away themselves. Not that I think dropping nukes would really be an improvement either.
(7) Lord of the Flies - as people sort themselves out, fortified locations eventually crop up. Walmarts like I described here, malls, maybe even prisons (which would have a very interesting sociodynamic inside, what with the inmates and all), any naturally defensible location. These fortifications will probably turn a cold heart to those locked out even quicker than the government. But people desperate to make it to safety will find a way, even if they have to kill to do so. Thus will begin the first open hostilities between the living, and ultimately fortified locations will generally fall. This is also where those oil rigs fit in.
   This situation goes on, constantly wittling down the number of survivors, and the survivor's qualms with taking what they think they need from others, until we settle down into the familiar zombie post-apocalypse setting, more or less.
(8) Post Apocalypse - Zombies burn themselves out and after as little as perhaps a year are comparatively rare. So are people by then as well, reduced Ice Age population levels in little villages. Most of OC gets leveled by one of the yearly wildfires, and very quickly its a landscape of California chaparral growing among the blackened husks of houses, with untold multitudes of wildlife thriving amongst it.

The Exciting Conclusion
   After many adventures, which will conveniently bring to light many of the above developments, I think I have a happy ending of sorts in mind. Before the apocalypse is in the relatively peaceful Phase 8 above, the protagonist(s) find themselves cornered by a large zombie horde near one of the many coastal marinas ... and then what do they see but one of the few things I consider a truly good idea for zombie survival -- a traditional square rigged sailing vessel happens to be coming in looking for food (and again, drawing from personal experience ;) ). They happen to have use for two more crewmembers, so they take protagonist and that girl he's with aboard, and they sail off into the sunset.

   So there you have it, more or less. Tomorrow I will continue my TL/DR zombie saga with more details on the specific plot I think.

Tags: project z, story ideas, zombie apocalypse, zombies

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