This post, by Catt Dahman, originally appeared on the Moonbooks site on 4/16/12.
To say I read a lot is an understatement; to say I read lot of well written material is sadly untrue. With the apocalypse/zombie craze going on, there are some good ideas but the execution of the writing is lacking; it’s lacking in a lot of the horror I read. I’ve recently thrown in my zombie tale as well and that got me to thinking about what some writers do that ruin their novels. Ever the helpful (okay, critical, jeez) person that I am, I came up with a few ideas of what to do and not to do when writing zombie (or any horror) tales.
This one is huge. Tell the reader what kind of weapon the characters use, but then, can you call it a gun and not have to give us specs each time you mention the gun? A full fifteen pages about the weight, sale records, and history of each gun is really boring and I stop reading. A scope. Tell us they use a scope, but really, you don’t have to share the brand and everything you read in the Wiki. (yawn) Some technical information is fun, but too much is boring. At least warn us in your description so we can decide if we are technical-information-loving people or just want a fun story. The authors I like never write a five page diatribe on the functions and specs of a grenade. Just saying.
Next, please spare us the sound effects. BAM, POOF, VROOM, POW and SPLAT are enough to drive me to ERRRPPP up my lunch. Yes, they are fun in a comic book, but in a mainstream novel, the bomb can explode without a BOOM and the brains do not need to go KERSPLAT. Alas, this means forgoing the PLING, THUMP, and the BANG as well.
Speaking of word choices, one of my editors and I have a running joke about “atrocious zombies” after having read that description in a book. “Atrocious” is one of those words that unless a character says it, it should be avoided. “Cantankerous” is another that bugs me. I find that many writers find a nifty word from their thesaurus, and then over-use it. If a word isn’t one you commonly hear or use, then skip it. Sometimes “feces” is a useful word as opposed to the more vulgar term, but above all, please, please, don’t use “poop” (as in the ‘zombie stepped in poop.’) Are you laughing? I have read these things! I see things and shiver. One of my favorites was: “The walking dead corpses were FUBARed”. Please don’t write “Ginger ran, her jiggly bits bouncing.”