Today we are lucky to have the one and only Thea Harrison, author of the paranormal romance series The Elder Races, here once again. Her third book in the series, Serpent’s Kiss, released on October 4th. If you haven’t read it yet, go pick it up!
Take it away Thea
What do zombies have to do with good stories?
Curious about what people might like to read in a guest blog posting, I asked around on Twitter for ideas. One person (*waves* Hi @SullivanMcPig!) replied, jokingly, “Zombies!” Another person (@SpazP!) suggested I write something about my favorite television series. A third (@Tina_Moss) asked about writing process and style.
These three ideas met in my mind, and lo and behold, this blog post was born!
Last season I was curious about AMC’s television show THE WALKING DEAD, so I DVRed it—and I, like so many other people, became completely hooked. Those five, brief episodes became the highlight of my television watching while they were on. I looked forward to each episode, and I bit my nails through every single one of them. I was thrilled to discover that AMC invested in a second season, and I can’t wait for it to begin. (It starts in October.)
Now, zombies may not be your thing, and I get that. They aren’t exactly my thing either. I mean, I don’t avoid them but I also don’t go out looking for zombie stories. So I asked myself this morning—why did I fall so completely for this show? The show made me anxious. At times it made me downright uncomfortable. It was graphic and violent, and those two things don’t exactly sell me on a story.
So what was it about that show? The following are a few things that occurred to me:
- The writing was tight, and the dialogue sharp and focused. I think these two things can make a fan out of almost anybody who is willing to try something new and different, no matter what your story is about.
- The problems were global, but the story was intensely personal. When I watched the show, I grew to really care about the characters. They were sympathetic, heroic, scared, vulnerable, and they had flaws that kept them from becoming too superhuman and out of touch.
- The tension stayed high. Maybe you’re a fan of nonstop action. I’m not. I think if you have a story that hurtles forward without taking time to let characters pause, interact, and reflect, your story will be the poorer for it. Some Hollywood directors do this, and I find the characters in their movies to be flat stereotypes and lose interest. Recently I DNFed a book by a writer I have enjoyed before, because I got tired of how relentless the action was in her book.
But slowing the action down occasionally doesn’t mean you have to lose tension. In THE WALKING DEAD, the characters struggled with each other and how to come to terms with the terrible world they found themselves in. A wife had slept with another man because she thought her husband was dead. Turns out, he wasn’t dead. And the man she had found solace with was her husband’s best friend. This ties back to point #2. The characters are people, and they struggle ethically, personally, while they also struggle to stay alive.
- Not everybody lives. I’m not talking about the global problem, because most of humanity has died by the time the story starts. I’m talking about the group itself. This makes sense to me. If you have real dangers that your characters face, then it is realistic to portray that not everybody will live all of the time. In the series, a woman loses her sister, and the film makers didn’t flinch from showing any of it. I’m not talking about the graphic nature of the sister’s death, because that was actually one of the least graphic points in the show. I’m talking about the surviving sister’s pain and her difficulty in letting go, and how brave she was when she finally did. That entire section of the show made me teary. This kind of tragedy makes their triumphs stronger, and the moments they are able to find for love even sweeter.
Having written all of that, I should throw out some cautions. THE WALKING DEAD is still a horror series, and it is graphic. You may still not be interested in watching it, and I definitely do not recommend it for children.
But I do believe that the characteristics that made the first mini-series such a raging success are the techniques of good storytelling that can be applied to any kind of writing, in any genre. They are also techniques that I try to bring into my own Elder Races series. Whether or not I have been successful will be up to the readers to decide. I do know that I’ve been extremely grateful to have been given the chance to try!
What are some television shows that you like? What storytelling techniques do you think they use well?
11 thoughts on “Guest Post with Thea Harrison”
Me encanto ese libro
Can’t really answer. Don’t watch much TV.
The only real shows that I watch anymore on TV is NCIS, Criminal Minds, Bones and Rizzoli & Isles. Yeah even I noticed the trend there. There is something about the characters. I like how Abby does not follow the mold, her gothiness sticks her out and yet she is brilliant! There seems to be a lot of balances in the character’s behavior there.
Raonaid at gmail dot com
Huge Walking Dead fan here. I’ve always said it’s like a soap opera with zombies. I love the gore and the violence, but my favorite aspect of the show is how it always makes me think, “What would I do in that situation?”.
I’ve recently finished catching up on the first season of “Falling Skies”. It reminds me of The Walking Dead, but aliens take the place of zombies. Great show.
I watch mostly history/nature shows interspersed with cartoons and kid shows. Not many zombies in the lot.
I’m a big fan of Big Bang Theory. Again it’s the characters and with that humor. The dialogue is real and witty. I love intelligent dialogue as well as well written stories. If I have to suspend belief too much they loose me. Lately some of my old favorites (NCIS, Castle) have lost their edge and believability. I still love the characters but too many times lately I find myself saying “they wouldn’t do that” or “she wouldn’t have missed that”. By the way I LOVE YOU SERIES! It is a success in my book and I have all of them so far. Keep up the GREAT work 🙂 glittergirl54 at ymail dot com
Hi guys, thanks for having me on your blog! I love visiting with you!
@Lenna, how wonderful you’re enjoying the series! Thanks for posting and letting me know.
The only two shows that I’ve really loved recently has been Falling Skies and Walking Dead. Maybe b/c they have different premise from everything else and it’s action but with story.
Love Thea’s books. Just got book 3 and can’t wait to start! Thanks for a great post!
I love AMC’s The Walking Dead!! This is such an awesome post! I have to say that the wife/husband/best friend triangle made me groan a little, but overall I loved watching this show and can’t wait for it to start again either!
Right now, the only other two shows I am watching that are new are Revenge (we’ve tweeted abt this, heehee) and Homeland. Homeland is on Showtime and holy crap it is good. I didn’t even know about it until it started after Dexter two weekends ago. Amazing acting, tight story, great suspense. Recommend!
See: that’s what I like about zombies. They’re a great story hook that helps you to get to deeper human issues.
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