A while back, I wrote an article that offered zombie story ideas for writers of horror and speculative fiction. Its now the most popular article on this blog, in terms of traffic and readership. I didnt expect that, but its fun to watch.
That article also generated quite a few questions and comments from readers. And one question in particular rises to the top: How do you actually start a zombie apocalypse story or novel?
So here you go, a fresh batch of story starters for speculative fiction writers.
Want more? This article is part of an ongoing series for writers. Elsewhere on the site, youll find a list of zombie-related story ideas along with a few strategies for writing good fiction.
As a writer, you have endless ways to start your zombie story. Most of these stories fall into the horror genre, and some dabble with science fiction or even fantasy. As a result, its the writer who makes the rules and sets the stage. And there are countless ways to do that.
One of the first things you need to consider is your timeline. You have to figure out when your zombie story starts, relative to the outbreak itself.
You basically have three starter options:
Most zombie stories start with either the pre or post apocalyptic model above. Those are generally the best options from a structural and pacing standpoint.
The middle of the three options starting your story as the outbreak is unfolding can be done, but its more challenging. You might pull it off with a shorty story. But for a novel, that option could create structural problems. Its hard to increase tension and build to a climax when you start off with fireworks.
So lets zoom in on the first and third options. Lets talk about the pre and post-apocalyptic methods for starting a zombie story.
The pre-apocalyptic zombie story starts before the outbreak. That is, it starts in normal times, a time when the average person would laugh at the mere suggestion of a zombie apocalypse.
Of course, things dont stay normal for long.
By starting your zombie story before things go south, youre giving the reader a chance to know your characters. We get to see what their lives are like in normal times. Then, later on in the story, we can see how they adapt to tough times. We can see how your characters change. And change is a key aspect of any story.
You can also start a zombie story after the outbreak has occurred. In this case, the novel starts in a post-civilization kind of world.
There are pros and cons to this approach. Arent there always?
The main advantage is that it makes the story more gripping from page one. When we first meet the protagonist which should happen within the first few pages, ideally he or she is already in danger.
The main disadvantage to staring a zombie story after the outbreak is that we miss some of the characters transformation. When civilization crumbles, it puts people under tremendous stress. It challenges them in ways theyve never been challenged before. And thats gold, from a character-development standpoint. You sacrifice some of it when you start the story after the zombie outbreak.
Of course, you can still put your characters through challenging situations. Its a post-apocalyptic world, after all. But as readers, we dont get to see how they adapt when the world turns upside down. Something to consider.
If you want to read a zombie novel where the story begins post-outbreak, check out Alden Bells The Reapers Are the Angels. Its a classic example of a story that starts after the fall, with a young female protagonist you wont soon forget. You can thank me later.
Every good story needs a central character, and zombie fiction is no exception. In literary terms, this person is known as the protagonist. Its the main character, the one we root for when reading the story.
Its usually best to introduce your main character as soon as possible. This helps to anchor us in the world youve created. It also gives us someone to follow and hopefully care about.
How you introduce your character will depend on the kind of story youre telling.
If your zombie story begins before the outbreak, you might show your protagonist at work or at home, going about her ordinary life. Take your time. Let us get to know her. Reveal some depth.
If your story begins after the apocalypse in a new world of your own creation you might introduce your character in a way that reveals the dangers of that world. Maybe we meet the protagonist as he is rounding up food, looking after his children, or performing some other survival-related function.
These are just suggestions. Theres no playbook here. No rules. How and where you introduce your character is up to you. Just know that its usually best for the reader to meet the protagonist early on, ideally within the first few pages.
Weve covered some important topics. We talked about the pros and cons of pre versus post-apocalyptic starting points. We talked about the need to introduce your character early on, so readers can get rooted within your story.
Now lets shift gears and look as some actual story starters. Here are some ideas and strategies you might use to create a unique and original zombie novel. At the very least, theyll get your wheels turning:
Send me your thoughts! Are you a fan of the undead genre? Do you have a unique idea for how to start a zombie story or novel? Leave it in the comments below, and Ill add it to the list. Include your name and website if youd like credit.
Go here to see the original:
Ten Different Ways to Start a Zombie Apocalypse Story or Novel
- Top Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com - January 25th, 2023
- Top Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster - January 17th, 2023
- Top - Wikipedia - January 17th, 2023
- top - Wiktionary - January 17th, 2023
- Top best and worst, top in uk, top in US, top in the world - KnowInsiders - January 17th, 2023
- [Top 15] 7 Days to Die Best Seeds (Alpha 19) | GAMERS DECIDE - November 19th, 2022
- [Top 10] 7 Days To Die Best Base Designs | GAMERS DECIDE - October 19th, 2022
- 'Terrifier 2' has people passing out and it's playing in NJ - New Jersey 101.5 FM - October 19th, 2022
- 10 Best Horror Films of the 1970s - High on Films - October 19th, 2022
- Look at the detail! Pics from The Amazing Pumpkin Carve 2022 in Titusville, NJ - New Jersey 101.5 FM - October 19th, 2022
- You Won't Find "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" on TV This Year: Here's How to Watch - wcrz.com - October 19th, 2022
- 10 'Scooby-Doo!' Episodes and Movies That Are Perfect for Halloween! - Bloody Disgusting - October 11th, 2022
- Box Set Review: The Incredibly Strange Films of Ray Dennis Steckler (1962 - 1986) - HorrorFuel.com: Reviews, Ratings and Where to Watch the Best... - October 11th, 2022
- 35 Best Entrance Themes In Wrestling History Ranked - Wrestling Inc. - October 11th, 2022
- South Korean Movies That Have Left Global Audience Asking For More - Outlook India - September 16th, 2022
- Rob Zombie - IMDb - August 31st, 2022
- Sci-Fi Movies That Made The Cast Do Gross Things - /Film - August 31st, 2022
- Top Ten Most Beautiful Blond Models - ReelRundown - August 31st, 2022
- The Keymaster And The Gatekeeper 105.7 The Point - 105.7 The Point - August 31st, 2022
- Carter and the best Asian martial arts movies on the Internet right now - Entertainment News , Firstpost - Firstpost - August 22nd, 2022
- [Top 25] Best Zombie Games for PC | GAMERS DECIDE - August 14th, 2022
- [Top 5] Minecraft Zombie Apocalypse Mods That Are Awesome - August 14th, 2022
- New Netflix Zombie Movie Debuts on Top 10 List - Horror - August 14th, 2022
- 'The Gray Man' Has Massive Debut on Netflix - ScreenCrush - July 28th, 2022
- 50 Most Memorable Danny Glover Movies Ranked Worst To Best - Looper - June 14th, 2022
- 5 best movies and shows on Prime Video this weekend: The Boys - Amazon Adviser - June 5th, 2022
- Poll: What's the Best Korn Album? - Vote Now - Loudwire - June 5th, 2022
- Stories of the subcontinent: Films from India, Pakistan, Nepal illuminate 75th anniversary line-up of Cannes Film Festival - The Financial Express - May 17th, 2022
- Selling Sunset's Christine Quinn Has Officially Exited The Oppenheim Group, But Is That A Good Thing? - msnNOW - May 4th, 2022
- Ten Movies That Were Saved by Their Ending - 25YearsLaterSite.com - April 8th, 2022
- Top 10 movies from 2021 that take your breath away! - Financial World - April 8th, 2022
- 15 Years Ago: The Failure of 'Grindhouse' Heralds a New Era - Ultimate Classic Rock - April 8th, 2022
- Lzzy Hale + Katie Daryl Return for New Seasons of AXS' 'A Year in Music' + 'Top Ten Revealed' - Loudwire - April 8th, 2022
- Crack At it Again - Brewster Suspect Arrested in Danbury, Again - i95rock.com - April 8th, 2022
- Top 5 Zombie Base Building Games (Build, Defend, Survive ... - March 27th, 2022
- Top 10 Reasons the Zombie Apocalypse Could Really Happen ... - March 27th, 2022
- HORROR TEN SPOT: Top 10 Asses - March 27th, 2022
- 60 Best Zombie Movies of All Time | Stacker - March 27th, 2022
- All time best end-of-the-world movies to watch in 2022 - Digital Boom - January 23rd, 2022
- 2022s big TV and movie anniversaries - Polygon - January 9th, 2022
- The George Romero-Helmed Stephen King Adaptation We'll Never Get To See - /Film - December 14th, 2021
- The 15 Best Sci-Fi Movies Of 2021 Ranked - /Film - December 14th, 2021
- Google Has Revealed All the Movies and TV Shows We've Been Searching for in 2021 - Concrete Playground - December 14th, 2021
- How Shaun of the Dead Got a Boost From Hollywood and Comic-Con Geeks - Gizmodo - November 29th, 2021
- A Kickass Zombie Movie Is Back From The Dead To Terrorize Netflix - We Got This Covered - November 13th, 2021
- Fans Go Wild As Shang-Chi Arrives On Disney Plus - We Got This Covered - November 13th, 2021
- Day of the Dead interview with star Christopher Russell - 1428 Elm - October 20th, 2021
- Best Zombie Movies Streaming on Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime - IndieWire - September 5th, 2021
- James Gunn and Craig Mazin made The Boys six years before the comic - The Digital Fix - August 10th, 2021
- Michigan Congressmen and Women Can Work Together, Some Times - wbckfm.com - wbckfm.com - July 11th, 2021
- Netflix's 'Resident Evil' Anime Shows Off Exactly Why People Love the Franchise - Thrillist - July 11th, 2021
- The best TV series to watch on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now, BritBox and more this July 2021 - iNews - July 11th, 2021
- No Hands Clapping - by Jonah Goldberg - The Remnant - The Dispatch - July 11th, 2021
- 50 Best Zombie Movies of the 21st Century - Cultured Vultures - July 1st, 2021
- Fewer in NJ getting COVID, and most are unvaccinated, Murphy says - New Jersey 101.5 FM - July 1st, 2021
- In Between The Poop And The Pope 105.7 The Point - 105.7 The Point - July 1st, 2021
- How many Halloween movies are there ? The complete Michael Myers timeline to watch before Halloween Kills arrived - Sportskeeda - July 1st, 2021
- Lucifer And Army Of The Dead Top Nielsens As Cruella Debuts On Disney+ - Forbes - July 1st, 2021
- What to watch on Netflix Top 10: Most popular shows May 28 - Tom's Guide - June 1st, 2021
- Box Office is Back Thanks to A Quiet Place Part II and World War Z - Film School Rejects - June 1st, 2021
- Army of the Dead Is One of Netflix's Biggest Hits with 72 Million Account Views and Counting - MovieWeb - June 1st, 2021
- New from Netflix in June: series, films and documentaries Explica .co - Explica - June 1st, 2021
- 10 greatest movie trilogies of all time - The Independent - May 21st, 2021
- Army Of The Dead (2021) - Rotten Tomatoes - May 21st, 2021
- The 10 Best Alien Invasion Movies - Cinelinx - May 8th, 2021
- 40 Years Ago: 'Friday the 13th Part 2' Makes Jason a Killer - Ultimate Classic Rock - May 8th, 2021
- Underappreciated Gems The Top 10 Most Underrated Movies of the Past 5 Years - Hollywood Insider - April 23rd, 2021
- If Browns Take a Wide Receiver in Round 1... - Yardbarker - April 23rd, 2021
- Former Bengals Great Gives His Thoughts on Penei Sewell and Ja'Marr Chase Debate - Yardbarker - April 23rd, 2021
- Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson are showing us why early-season stats can be meaningless - Yardbarker - April 23rd, 2021
- Cubs place OF Joc Pederson on 10-day injured list - Yardbarker - April 23rd, 2021
- 3 Browns Players Who Could Be Impacted By Draft Picks - Yardbarker - April 23rd, 2021
- Eagles could move up in first round of NFL Draft? - Yardbarker - April 23rd, 2021
- Steve Kerr weighs in on Kelly Oubre Jr. coming off the bench - Yardbarker - April 23rd, 2021
- Chargers Top 15 Players They Could Take at 13 - Yardbarker - April 23rd, 2021
- Q2 Montana this Morning top stories with Victoria Hill 4-5-21 - Yahoo News - April 5th, 2021
- Every Alice Cooper album, ranked from worst to best - Louder - March 9th, 2021
- Ranking the Live-Action Members of Superman's Supporting Cast - tor.com - March 9th, 2021
- 3 Asian Actors Making Their Hollywood Debut This Year, Thanks To Marvel - Tatler Malaysia - March 9th, 2021
- 20 Best Movies About Viruses and Pandemics - Parade - February 16th, 2021
Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero