I’m pretty sure that anyone who has ever put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and written anything has at some point had someone say to them “Wow… you should totally write a book!” and if you like writing it’s a pretty good bet that you’ve given it some thought. Sure, why not? After all, you’ve read some ropey old novels in your time, surely you can do better than that…. So you sit down and you start.
Then you make some coffee.
Then you think about it a bit.
And finally you give up the idea and go get a “proper” job, because who’d have thought it… flowing narrative makes your brain hurt.
Every now and then the prospect nudges you again, and you entertain it, but much like an uncomfortable visit by your Aunty Edna and 2 unlikable cousins, you usher it out of the door at the end of the night and go to bed, leaving a random scattering of dry roasted peanuts on the sofa and 87 dirty mugs containing dribbles of tea in the sink.
Writing is hard for most people ( except in Finland, according to the BBC, who tell us that 1 in 10 people have a published novel there. What the…?! Finnish tv must be appalling. )and unless you’re channelling the spirit of Tolkien it’s something that’s going to take a lot of chocolate to get through.
I’m going to write a novel this month.
Well, maybe a novella.
Entirely more likely, a long-ish pamphlet.
Certainly more than a paragraph.
Great idea, huh?
All I need is a plot. And a genre. And inspiration. Stamina. Tea.
I gave my genre a lot of thought, and got absolutely nowhere. I knew very well what I couldn’t do… anything historically accurate, for starters, and asking friends for their input yielded a range of suggestions, most of which were extremely well-intentioned and moderately useless. This exercise taught me 3 things… 1) most people either don’t read, or don’t know the difference between “plot” and “genre”, 2) Everyone in the universe seems to have a plot floating around their head… except me. And 3) People will suggest EVERYTHING under the sun. Except porn. They’ll read it, no matter how dire it is, but they won’t suggest it.
So what’s a girl to do?
Try it all, that’s what. Hopefully at the end I’ll have written, if not a novel, maybe a novel lite. Or just a rough outline… that would work too. Day by day, word by word, inching my way across the narrow ledge of literacy, clinging to the rusting drain pipe of inspiration, hoping not to nose-dive to a squishy death of crapness. It’s a plan.
Day 1 – Sci-Fi.
“Of course, it wasn’t the first time I’d killed my husband. In fact, it’s not even the first time this week, and I really wouldn’t put it past myself to off him again a few times next month, depending on how plain annoying he gets.” is how I’d start my epic of modest proportions. I like the idea of being able to mercilessly beat about the head an annoying spouse on a regular basis without repercussions, and with an extensive array of blunt instruments. Anyone who’s ever been married for any length of time and has had a heavy frying pan in one hand knows what I’m talking about. Except those goodie goodie “nice people”. I’d fryin’ pan them too.
Then… they come back to life, good as new. Hurrah! No harm done! See, I’m not a kitchen utensil-weilding psychopath! Do I call them zombies or something more PC, like The Un-Expired? I like the ring of The Unperishables, but it does tend to make them sound like something you pop in the donation basket during harvest festival.
“We love the macaroni, 5 tins of beans and the packet of pork casserole mix, but we’re going to have to say ‘no’ to the re-animated corpse of your next door neighbour…sorry.”
And then there’s the issue of how did it all start? “Zombie Apocalypse” is such an over-used phrase and I’m more inclined to start small. There wouldn’t be any global nuclear catastrophe that brought back the recently expired, no genetically engineered virus that escapes a laboratory by hitching a ride on a accommodating monkey.
No… my global pandemic would stem from a dodgy burger from a unsanitary kebab van in Uxbridge. Never underestimate the shocking ramifications of expired mayonnaise.
The first few days after the initial infection would be modest and largely ignored, presenting as it did as “a bit of a nasty cold”. “Nasty” in this case would be largely relative, with the women mostly shrugging it off and going about their business, and the men retiring to the sofa with a wet flannel on their foreheads and sporadically whimpering. Nobody is any the wiser until one of the infected falls under a bus on the way to Boots for some Night Nurse, gets pureed, and who’s head sits on the curb complaining about how the hell it’s supposed to hold it’s beer now. Cue screaming, arm-waving in the air, and possibly some over-the-top military involvement because the military seem to do “over-the-top” so well.
Eventually these sort of shenanigans become commonplace, and death becomes something that now comes with a multitude of temporary options. Life just goes on as normal( except for the inexplicable rise in sales of frying pans amongst women with anger issues ), and the most grievous inconvenience of the whole situation is having to learn how to correctly spell “apocalypse”.
Unsurprisingly there are several pros and cons to the recurrently undead situation. For example, those providing funeral services got very grumpy at the slump in sales, however the air freshener guys were over the moon… It turns out that those clinging to existence by the thinnest of threads aren’t always minty fresh. In other respects though, the infected and resurrected aren’t that much different from anyone else. Sure, there will be a few hundred that’ll swear blind that they’re Jesus, but that randomly happens anyway. People are peculiar. The comedic value of several bearded non-corpses in sandals scrapping it out in a supermarket is an opportunity that can’t be missed. A narrative about Jesus 1 beating Jesus 2 about the head with a sliced Hovis is just too tempting, and has the possibility of potentially upsetting some overly sensitive Christians. A smattering of controversy never hurt anyone’s novel, though admittedly it did put a damper on Salman Rushdie’s picnics in the park for a while.
My Un-deadies wouldn’t be those shambling rag-wearing grey-hued mumblers, and neither would they be rabid red-eyed jet-fueled brain-munchers, they would be just like you and I. They’d face discrimination, losing out their employment to those with a pulse. Mothers would yank their dribbling offspring away from those whose only real difference is a slight greyness of skin tone and modest amount of visible necrosis. And there would be pathos… because who has never felt themselves to be an outsider, to be unwanted. Of course, not everyone will come back because not everyone will have been infected. There will be those who are desperate for what they see as a ticket to eternal life and will do whatever they can to infect themselves ( Zombie : “Will you QUIT licking me ?!?” ) and those who are really ticked off at having come back , who turn to insane sports as a means to fill their long days. #ExtremeDeading becomes a trend on Twitter and Instagram becomes flooded with rainbow-hued photos of the recurrently deceased hurling themselves off skyscrapers. Accordingly, iPhone release the iPlummet, the first phone guaranteed to survive high velocity impact.
Alas, the story draws to an end, as does the infection. Eventually everyone who has ever been contaminated in any way has finally passed, and the world returns to normal. There will be attempts to replicate the cause, because there will always be those for whom enough is never enough, but largely the earth’s population is left with a renewed feeling of “Carpe Diem” that hasn’t been experienced on such a scale since “Dead Poet’s Society” was released on DVD.
Of course, it needs to be fleshed out, but it’s a starting point. And as everyone knows, starting is the hardest part. Except for the middle. And the end.
If you want to buy this fabulous concept and turn it into a film I’m open to offers. In fact, at this stage I’d probably even be willing to sell all rights for a nice sandwich because it’s lunchtime and being a writer makes you extra hungry. I’m very glad I kept that in mind and, knowing I was going to do this, bought 2 pairs of trousers with a larger waistline yesterday. See, I did my prep work! I’m halfway there already….