Monday, November 12, 2012

Zombie apocalypses and writing menage.

So I'm a recent convert to the AMC series The Walking Dead.

What does that have to do with writing menage? Not a damn thing.

Sort of. LOL Actually, as you'll see, I do have a point, and it really does have everything to do with it. (I also have a new release today, but I'll talk about that at the end.)

I'm going to take the long way around to get to my point, so buckle up and please keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times. Thanks!

I wasn't feeling good at the end of last week and ended up out on the couch. I decided that I would finally try watching AMC's The Walking Dead because while I'd heard a lot about it, I'd never seen it. (It comes on at the same time as Dexter, which next to The Big Bang Theory is my favorite show. And I hate starting a series in the middle of things when it's a story-driven show.)

I pulled up Netflix and low and behold, I could stream the first and second seasons. (We have one of those Apple TV devices that allows us to do stuff like that right on the TV instead of having to go through our Wii game box.) And, better yet, the first several episodes of season three were available through On Demand. Even luckier, episode one of season three would expire in two days, so catching up was highly advisable.

Friday afternoon, the zombie marathon commenced. By Friday night, I'd worked through season one, started season two, and when we headed for bed I fired up the Apple TV on our bedroom TV and worked through another couple of episodes.

Saturday had me finishing up season two and starting season three. Hubby dropped out somewhere before they left the farm but after they discovered walkers in the barn.

By the time I returned home last night from going to the monthly Munch with Hubby and Sir, I had Dexter and 666 Park Avenue awaiting me on the DVR, with the midnight episode of TWD recording. So I watched Dexter, 666, and by the time I'd consumed (har-har) those, TWD was ready to watch.

As a writer, it's frequently hard for me to step out of writer mode and into reader/viewer mode. It takes a lot (and it's rare) to encapsulate me so fully in a world that I don't pull up sometimes and say, wait, what?

The benefit of the marazomb (haha) TWD watching I did was I was able to, in the space of less than 48 hours, watch the complete character arc develop, people die off, come back in flashbacks, and see everything all at once without a week between episodes. If you really want to get to the meat (sorry) of a show (or movie franchise) like that, it's best to do it all at once.

While I didn't agree with all the choices the writers made (especially after buying the e-book version of the first volume of the graphic novels from Nook -- warning, you have to have the tablet or Nook Color, and while it'll work on the app on my Droid X2, they aren't veiwable on the app on my iPad) I could see why they made some of them. I can also see why some people complained that parts of season two seemed to drag (although I disagree with that assessment). (I also picked up some timeline inconsistencies that aren't readily apparent when watching week after week, but are when you view it all at once.)

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon. (Source)
When you're dealing with such a large ensemble cast, with an apocalyptic survival set-up such as in TWD, it's easy to throw problem after problem at the characters. But you know what happens? You numb the audience. You train them to expect scare after scare. (This is why now audiences at horror movies pretty much expect that veeeerrrry last "gotcha!" scare in horror movies.)

It takes a lot of talent to write such a diverse ensemble cast in such a way that no one gets lost in the mix. Yes, Rick and Carl are at the forefront of the line, and as viewers have seen, no cast member is safe. But you have to have character development. There's no way in the real world people wouldn't change (or be changed) by the events the cast goes through.

One of the interesting things I see is the metamorphosis Daryl Dixon (played by actor Norman Reedus) has undergone. From asshole redneck to treasured group member that viewers are rooting for. (Which likely means he'll not make it long. Although, because I didn't see him in the original volume 1 of the comics, maybe he will. LOL) It's not just the writing. The actor has to sell the story, obviously, and Reedus has done so admirably.

We've also seen Rick go from literal innocent (yes, the "birth" symbolism and the "newborn babe" characteristics were a little heavy-handed in the beginning, but whatever) to losing his mind in a vicious way in the last episode. Understandably so (don't want to give spoilers) but still.

And having read the first volume of the comic, which takes them up to having to leave the first camp, and seeing that Shane is killed off before that happens, it's interesting to see how writers for the television show (I need to look and see if the original writer is part of that or not) took parts of Shane's character and swapped them with Rick's. But neither Daryl, nor his assholish older brother Meryl, are in that first volume of comics.

From a professional viewpoint, I love having this bird's-eye landscape laid out before me. It was a gold mine of ideas for a post-apocalyptic series I want to write (not zombies) in the sense that there were survivor things I hadn't thought of, and there were mistakes the writers made that weren't real-life solutions that I know to avoid.

From the viewpoint of all my writing, especially the menage stories, it was one of the best character writing workshops I could have ever paid to sit in on. The dialogue (mostly) is brilliant and "real" for the characters and the situations. The interplay between the characters and their realistic changes as the stories play out was well done.

When writing menage (told you it'd take a while) writers have to make sure everyone gets their little spotlight, as much as possible. There are dynamics at play, whether love or jealousy or whatever that are influenced by the situations the characters are in.

And like TWD, you can't have your characters be solely defined by "the zombies" (in the case of menage writing, the zombies would be their sex scenes). There needs to be more to the characters than just a few lines of dialogue and then tossing them between the sheets. This is another reason I usually write all my sex scenes last. I need to make sure the characters (and the outer storyline) can stand on their own without doing the dirty being the only thing that brings them together.

Which is why I disagree with some assessments of parts of last season's TWD dragging. It never dragged for me, and not just because I watched them all at once. It didn't drag for me because we saw characters grow and change. Some for the better (Daryl) and some for the worse (Shane, who was a dick from the beginning, IMO).

Not every part of a menage book can be sex. There needs to be character development and actual emotional romance going on. My rule of thumb is that if the book cannot hang together without the sex, then I haven't done my job. And that's not just with menages, either. Any book with an ensemble cast (such as part of a series like my Triple Trouble series) needs character interaction and development that holds the story together. It's the glue that secures the plot in place.

As a corollary, to me, TWD hangs together without the zombie-bashing. If they cut away from the fight scenes and left them out, or whittled them down to the bare meat (sorry LOL) of the fight (for example, if a character is bitten or dies) it would still hang together for me as a good show. Because the show is more than, "Oh, there's a zombie herd, let's run/kill them." If that was all the show was, then I wouldn't have made it past the second episode.

But it's the characters that pull me back. Even the cheesy cliffhanger of last night's episode of Rick answering a phone isn't what draws me to set my DVR to auto-record the series. It's the fact that I want to see what these characters do next. The Governor (and yes, I bought that book, too, that tells how he got to be the way he is and who Penny is) is beginning to be fleshed out (snicker) as more than just an evil despot who's a few french fries short of a Happy Meal. We're given glimpses of Meryl that show maybe he's not exactly the same vicious, bigoted, redneck asshole he started out to be (perhaps losing his hand gave him a little common sense).

Unlike the TV show Revolution (which I finally ditched a few weeks ago), even though characters are killed off on a regular basis, I keep tuning in, because the entire ensemble is a living body, not just individual characters. Revolution lost me when they killed off my favorite character just a couple of weeks into the season. And not only had the writers NOT done their job of rounding out the ensemble, they were too busy throwing in new characters and new questions as gimmicks instead of focusing on the characters they had and writing them in such a way as to make us like them. I couldn't give a crap why the power went off and didn't come back on, because I couldn't give a crap about the rest of the characters.

And that's the difference between good writing and bad writing.

* * *

As I mentioned at the top, I've got a new release today! The second book of my Placida Pod series, Porpoiseful Intent,  is now available from Siren-BookStrand.


http://www.bookstrand.com/porpoiseful-intent

And if you missed the first book, Accidentally on Porpoise, you can order it from Siren here:

http://www.bookstrand.com/accidentally-on-porpoise

Blurb:

[Siren Everlasting Classic ManLove: Erotic Alternative Paranormal Romance, M/M, shape-shifters, HEA]

Sean Morita and Emery Nadel are enjoying settling in together as mates, but there is deadly trouble brewing on the horizon as plans for the Samhain superpod get underway. Sean’s parents have no idea that Emery and his family are dolphin shifters, and everyone wants to keep it that way.

But what do you get when you mix a hurricane, a houseful of dolphin shifters, a pair of oblivious human parents, a vengeful ex-lover, and an alligator shifter with a warped sense of humor?

Sean and Emery are about to find out. Erik isn’t finished with Emery yet, and innocent shifters will pay the price when vengeance returns with Porpoiseful Intent.

A Siren Erotic Romance

Tymber Dalton is a Siren-exclusive author.

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You can find all my Siren releases as Tymber Dalton, Lesli Richardson, Macy Largo, and Tessa Monroe on my Siren page at:

http://www.bookstrand.com/tymber-dalton

And my website is: http://tymberdalton.com

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