Week 1 | A Primer on the Undead and the Apocalypse: Campbell, Romero, Brooks and McCarthy


Zombie lore can be found in styles and media from A-list series to B-rated films to The New Yorker‘s “Zombie Art.” The Americanized zombie has transcended its humble beginnings in Halperin’s White Zombie (1932) to what is now a postmodern aesthetic permeating not only literature and film industries but also critical theory such as in the above New Yorker article. The “undead” has a lasting impact on readers and viewers because it addresses and makes tangible some essential human questions. What happens when we die? How can we live forever? How do we survive a “dog eat dog” world?

In this workshop, we will focus on writing the undead and post-apocolyptic fiction with a focus on character-based narrative. What we explore here is not limited to speculative storytelling as we will be using literary, character-focused writing techniques in order to transcend the world-building aesthetic and instead offer readers a deeply human and emotionally honest story.

In this lesson, we will write our first zombie narrative, but first, we will begin with a primer of foundational zombie lore. If you are already a zombie enthusiast, you might find this primer to be familiar. If so, great! This primer will be a quick refresher. Please understand that this primer is not meant to be exhaustive. It is a beginning and meant to canvas the more popular and relatable works. If you are already familiar with zombies, you can focus most of your energy on your writing assignment for this week. If the information, readings and films in this primer are new to you, no worries. Take your time. Don’t feel like you need to suck it all down in one week or even within the space of this month long course. Start by choosing a few movies and begin reading The Zombie Survival Guide. As we go along, we will work from excerpts and explanations so don’t feel like you need to read it all now. It is suggested, however, that you do purchase all the suggested reading materials and make your way through them at a comfortable pace.

Please keep in mind that there are far too many excellent classic, vintage and recent zombie narratives, both text and film, to dig into all of them. All zombie aficionados have their favorites. We’re going to focus on a handful of character-focused zombie narratives that have made a wider impact nationally, both text and film, while giving you a decent primer as to how zombie narratives made their start in the United States. We’ll also look briefly at the US narratives that tap into the West African, Caribbean and Haitian zombie origins. 

Again, if you’ve not yet read the below assigned books, it is suggested that you purchase them (all of them are Kindle or Nook available for immediate reading) and have them in your library then read through them at a pace that is comfortable for you. Most of all, have fun! And keep in mind that excellent zombie and post-apocolyptic narratives are more about the life and humanity still present and struggling amongst the undead. Our jobs as writers of the undead are no different than the writers of contemporary literary fiction. Honest, unflinching truth. With this said, begin this lesson by asking yourself this question: 

What “truth” does a zombie tell within its narrative?



Zombie icon A Zombie Primer

Zombies are the Joseph Campbell end-all of monster myths, our own decrepitude rotted out and frothing for the brains of our neighbors, family, friends and the grocer down the street. Whether you’re a die-hard Romero fan or a contemporary aficionado, there’s a zombie archetype out there for you. 


The Monster Myth

In The Power of MythJoseph Campbell suggests that mindless servitude to society leads to the postmodern monster archetypes of our time:

Man should not be in the service of society, society should be in the service of man. When Man is in the service of society, you have a monster state, and that’s what is threatening the world at this minute. (8)

Commercialism and trancelike adherences to tradition, religion, societal conventions and much more dictate most if not the whole of human society. Zombies reflect these very human practices. It is difficult to come to terms with this part of being an adult person. This is why we read. We can experience polite society in our churches, schools, workplaces, PTA meetings. What we want in our reading is a place to feel less alone about being human, fallible, questionable, capable of horrid behaviors. Everyday we make choices to be our better selves. Zombies reflect the worst parts of us, this trancelike following and gnawing away at each other, even those we love. How our live characters deal with the zombies in their narratives is a reflection of how we deal with our zombie-esque selves. We hide from ourselves, sometimes slice at ourselves, and are always afraid of our lesser selves. We are all human, fallible, questionable and trancelike in our attempts to avoid conflict, put food on the table, pay for our kids’  braces, pay off the car and get through the day. In our zombie narratives, we get to read our protagonist slicing off the head of his or her “zombie self,” with a machete no less. This violence to the “reflected self” presents catharsis, a powerful and emotional response and a primary goal for our readers. 

For Campbell’s Monster Myth there is also a Hero Myth. This is the general path heroes/protagonists take in facing self and their monsters. In the zombie narrative, the hero faces a form of self reflected in the zombies he or she faces. In this, the zombies become more than monsters and gore, they become iconic representations of what our protagonists have lost, desired, feared, etcetera. The journey our protagonist takes through this hero cycle is far more about his or her internal conflict (character versus self) than it is about the external conflict (character versus zombie.)





More recently, novels such as Max Brooks’ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War have taken the zombie genre to a new level of exposition with character-focused narrative and socio-political explorations. The film adaptation isn’t so bad either (see below), though, the film version takes great liberties and focuses on one man. This is definitely a case of “You must read the book.”

Brooks’ WWZ set a market expectation for zombie narratives ongoing that will not likely change any time soon. What is so fantastic about the novel is that it focuses on a diverse scene by scene ensemble of protagonists in a “nonfictionnarrative form. Readers often walk away from the book with a similar reaction: “It was way smarter than it had any right to be.” Why do readers have this reaction? Because those of us who grew up on Romero-style zombies associated the genre, both text and film, with gorefest, sex, anticipatory violence, the satire of a “dead” and commercialized humanity and sometimes contemplative moments, which in no way diminishes the art of the B-rated zombie gorefest; however, when WWZ offered its zombies in a postmodern minimalist aesthetic, readers were pleasantly surprised and craved more.

Die hard zombie aficionados will often go for the more canonical gore and/or comedic fusions, such as the wildly popular Zombieland (though some purists view Zombieland as a Hollywood sellout) and vintage Romero style films such as Dawn of the Dead and spoofs such as Shaun of the Dead (pretty much a winner in any zombie circle). 



The usual obligatory setting is present day or near future, apocalyptic wasteland. World War Z falls into this category and is an excellent setting study. Another excellent study is a work you might not associate with zombie narrative. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Pulitzer Winner) as an excellent example on how to create setting “as zombie.” In The Road, McCarthy offers a dead world, an environmental wasteland and apocalyptic setting complete with cannibals. The Road is a zombie-esque novel for literary enthusiasts. The world is dying and so is humanity and humans have resorted to zombie behavior, feeding on other people. Another interesting setting study is Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide. In this guide, Brooks’ outlines zombie settings and iconic necessities. He takes apocolypse and zombie survival to a basic training level, employing combat strategies, weapons, basic survival, modes of transportation best housing options and more. It is highly suggested to read the Survival Guide before or during the writing of any zombie narrative. Many of Brooks’ ideologies can be found in AMC’s The Walking Dead.

The Road, World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide are must reads for the smart zombie writer, regardless of particular tastes. What McCarthy and Brooks have done in their narratives gives the zombie writer much to study, contemplate and adopt. 


Inciting Event

Someone, often the protagonist, is unaware that zombies have risen or transformed. This protagonist will unwittingly stumble into a zombie or have the zombie sneak up on him or her. It’s a common, though not absolute, introduction to zombie action. It can be written as an early scene or a flashback added later into the narrative. Let’s explore a few recent literature and film examples:

  • World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (Broadway Books/Random House): The first chapter begins with Dr. Kwang Jingshu called to the Greater Chongquing region of The United Federation of China. Dr. Kwang begins with his views on the region and its people then later: “…I was still lost in my grand, cultural criticism when I knelt to examine the first patient. She was running a high fever, forty degrees centigrade, and she was shivering violently. Barely coherent, she whimpered slightly when I tried to move her limbs. There was a wound in her right forearm, a bite mark. As I examined it more closely, I realized that it wasn’t from an animal. The bite radius and teeth marks had to have come from a small, or possibly young, human being. Although I hypothesized this to be the source of the infection, the actual injury was surprisingly clean. I asked the villagers, again, who had been taking care of these people. Again, they told me no one. I knew this could not be true. The human mouth is packed with bacteria, even more so than the most unhygienic dog. If no one had cleaned this woman’s wound, why wasn’t it throbbing with infection…?” 
  • Zombieland (Columbia Pictures): The protagonist named “Columbus” flashes back to his first zombie encounter, a hot neighbor girl freshly bitten, both of them clueless that she will “turn” soon and then attack him. This is a very cinematic creation. The audience anticipates the turn, as it is inevitable, and while we’re anticipating it, we’re charmed by Columbus’ unfortunate social woes as he tries to woo this girl so obviously out of his league. He offers her Mountain Dew Code Red and a baggie full of Golden Grahams cereal. There is such a pathetic quality to his desire for and care for the girl that the audience can’t help but feel empathy for him while we are also laughing at his attempts. In this scene, the audience cares less about the zombie apocalypse happening outside the door and more about Columbus’ success with this romantic interest and eventual ability to transcend his weakling, gamer self and become the zombie killer and survivor. 
  • In The Walking Dead (AMC), the protagonist named Rick Grimes stops alongside the road for gasoline and finds an abandoned encampment with cars, rotting corpses, tents. The first “person” Rick meets is a little girl who stops to pick up a stuffed bunny. When she turns to face him, Rick sees the ripped flesh and zombie blue eyes. Our first scene with the protagonist teaches us more about Rick’s internal conflict than the external zombie conflict. To survive, Rick (a sheriff’s deputy in his pre-apocolypse life) must shoot little girls. This sets into motion the reader’s connectivity with Rick and empathy for the horrible path he will need to take within this narrative if he is to survive. At this point, we less about the zombie threat as we care about Rick retaining at least some of his humanity. 

*A Note on Zombie Narrative and Arc: Excellent zombie narratives and arcs center on the character-versus-self internal conflict. The zombies and post-apocolyptic setting create a chiaroscuro effect–a dramatic contrast of light and dark–so that the reader can contemplate survival and the goodness or lack of goodness in a very dark and dangerous world. Light versus dark. Interestingly enough, the surviving humans are often far more treacherous and dangerous than the zombies.



Zombie icon Zombie Tropes

First bitten, “Oops, stumbled into a zombie,” and other tropes are simply a part of the experience for many zombie cultists. As a zombie writer it is necessary to understand the tropes so to make choices on how to avoid and/or transcend them. 

“Oops, I’ve stumbled into a zombie”: For some fans, this ‘oops I’ve stumbled into a zombie’ might seem overdone. For others, it is a revered opening, and these latter die-hard fans watch intently trying to figure out exactly when and where that clueless protagonist or first victim will meet his or her first zombie, which leads to the immaculate transformation. As writers of zombie narrative, it’s important to remember that zombie culture has a strong foothold in film and therefore zombie readers will often come to zombie narrative with preconceived “film” expectations. Whether the writer adopts these expectations or plays against them in text, it is important to understand them and make choices consciously about zombie culture as a whole and how much this will govern the narrative being written.

Each writer must make his or her choice independently on these issues. My best advice is to study the culture, know it, immerse in it, then lay it all to the side. Write your zombie narrative organic to you, your voice, and let your voice and narrative grow organically without “readership pressures.” After you’ve taken your zombie narrative through many revisions and you are at a point where the narrative presents to you as marketable, you might want to then consider the culture and readership as this will greatly steer an editor’s, agent’s, publisher’s view of your work as a marketable product. But again, that “marketable product” point is way down the road and should be put on a shelf during your creativity phase. Now, you just want to immerse in the zombie culture to joggle and muse.

First Bitten: The immaculate transformation, first bitten, like the virgin concieved of child unbeknownst to her, is a common motif in zombie narratives. The first bitten is attended to with concern — “Here, let’s put a little peroxide on it” — then lain on a couch or bed or given a shoulder or lap to rest until first bitten transforms into a “surprise,” attack zombie, and like a Greek chorus, the savvy zombie audience watches for that inevitable moment. This trope is a familiar tension builder in zombie exposition. WWZ uses this expectation by avoiding it. As we read, we are constantly searching for the “origin.” There are valid possibilities but we are never absolutely sure from where the first infection began. This is a smart move in the narrative. By eliminating an absolute, Brooks’ uses this negative space within the narrative to continue building the narrative tension.   

Splatter: There must be gore, intestine pulling, biting of flesh and, of course, hordes of nasty, gashed-up, eyeballs-falling-out-of-their-sockets zombies. Even Zombieland, which was more focused on the band of survivors than their interactions with chomping zombies, still paid tribute to the gore factor in the introduction and conclusion. WWZ, likewise. Splatter can greatly vary depending on sub-genre, so before embarking on a new zombie narrative, consider your voice and preferences. Do your research . . .

(a) Know your splatter preference,

(b) Know the sub-genre.



Zombie icon Zombie Aesthetics

Below are a few zombie break-downs to help get you started. Keep in mind that these can certainly overlap. One way to quickly explore and know your voice is to partake in a zombie marathon. Choose an afternoon or an entire day and immerse in both text and film. Keep a journal with your reactions to the amount of splatter, world-building, humor, etc. What stands out as particularly interesting to you? What bores you? Which scene did you like the best? Which scene did you dislike the most? Here is a quick and basic breakdown. Again, these can and often do overlap. 

The Zombie Comedy: Zombie clichés to the extreme sprinkled with true wit and a love for the genre, and you get genius. When a film can take an audience into such satirical realms as to deliver scene after scene of bone gnawing violence while extracting peals of laughter from the audience, someone is doing their job. Don’t underestimate the power of this sub-genre. It’s often a use of social satire, black comedy and escapism that makes a good zombie comedy. Example: Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead.

The Zombie Gore-Fest: Romero is probably the most well-known director of this sub-genre complete with gratuitous bleeding, organ ripping, and lovely shades of brain matter. If you’re not a splatter fan or b-rated fan, if you’re a viewer who does not understand the aficion shared by this cult club, don’t ask what the hullabaloo is about. We’re not giving out free memberships. We’ll not attempt to sway you, and we don’t particularly care if you understand. So go home and watch your “A List” movies. We won’t miss you, and we probably would have just thrown popcorn at you anyway. Example: Dawn of the Dead.

The Zombie Philosophical: This one will attempt to give zombies cerebral capabilities. Fans are split over this and can become quite irate in their viewpoints, but while a thinking zombie may offend die-hard American classicists, remember that Haitian zombies, corporeal beings, predate Romero and so the corporeal undead with cerebral capability has history within the overarching genre. Example: Warm Bodies.

Historic Zombies: These include the Haitian zombies, corporeal beings who have imbibed a concotion powder that includes extract from a pufferfish. The powder makes the victims heartbeat undetectable. This sub-genre also includes the earlier supernatural Voodoo zombies, animated corpses brought back to serve their masters. These zombies originated in South Africa and traveled through the Caribbean circuit, Haiti then up through New Orleans and Hollywood. Example: The Serpent and the Rainbow.

The Zombie Virus: Humanity poisons the environment or gene pool. Then humanity eats itself into extinction. The undead virus is a growing fashion among both filmmakers and authors. It plays with apocalypse and offers a potentially salvageable world by scientific method. That’s a powerful premise. Example: 28 Days Later, World War Z.

Hybrid Forms: This is not only a combination of aesthetics but of literary and/or film genres such as World War Z (narrative nonfiction set as fiction) and Pride Prejudice and Zombies (Quirk Books landmark success with splicing classic literary texts with horror lore). The Quirk Books model made a great splash but quickly simmered down. 

Zombie icon Slow Zombies Versus Fast Zombies
Zombies come from a long and revered tradition of deathly slow movement. George Romero, the Zombie King, perfected the slow zombie; however, in 2002, Danny Boyle directed 28 Days Later and the fast moving zombie became the new rage. Even Romero participated in the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead staring fast zombies. Since then, Resident Evil, Zombieland, World War Z and more adopted the fast zombie archetype; however, there are still zombie enthusiasts who question the transformation of slow to fast zombie. It is important to know your preferred zombie speed and to study the works that have are held up as canon. Below, there are samples of both slow and fast zombie flicks from the first “slow” White Zombie to “fast zombie” World War Z. (Note that the original WWZ text explores the various speeds of zombie.)


Zombie icon A Taste of Zombie

Below is a smattering of zombie films and trailers for films to get you started. There are many more fantastic zombie classics and underground classics not on this list. This is not meant to be exhaustive but rather a beginning.


White Zombie (1932) 

Victor Halperin and Edward Halperin

Here is where it all started for zombie film.


Night of the Living Dead (1968) 
Directed by George A. Romero

Pay homage. You must. This black and white classic gives rise to not only bad acting and on screen flesh eating but also a Vietnam era script where a black man is the hero until, lone behold, a posse of rednecks come and shoot him “mistaking” him for a zombie. Social satire and zombies, always a hit. Although this film is certainly not the first in its sub-genre — other films such as White Zombie came before it — it is arguably groundbreaking. Romero updated the screenplay and produced the remake ofNight of the Living Dead in 1990, directed by Tom Savini. Rating: R


Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Directed by George A. Romero

In Dawn of the Dead, Romero takes commercialism and gore to a satirically absurd level and fans love him for it. After releasing a few unsuccessful films in the box office, Romero gained back his position as the reigning king of the zombies or “grandfather of the zombie” with Dawn of the Dead. Interesting to note: the 2004 remake of this film did not involve Romero and veered from the original mindless, slow walking zombies of his films. Romero also directed the 1985 Day of the Dead, another cult favorite, though it did not do as well in the box office. Most recent is Romero’s Land of the Dead. Rating: R


Thriller (1983)
Michael Jackson/Directed by John Landis

Yes, it’s a music video. Had to be included. 


Night of the Comet (1984)
Directed by Thom Eberhardt

B-rated eighties movie, that adults who grew up with spiked hair and jelly shoes, will never forget. Obligatory teenaged sex, valley girls kicking zombie butt, apocalyptic setting. Rating: PG-13


The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Directed by Dan O’Bannon

“Brains! . . . More Brains!” If you think you’re a zombie expert, yet haven’t seen this cult flick, you must atone. Gratuitous nudity, toxic waste, “The Trioxin Theme” Horror Punk, zombies and even zombie discourse on:

“Why do you eat people?”

“Not people, brains,” says the skull with upper torso and wiggling spine.

Rating: R


The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Directed by Wes Craven

An ethnobotanist goes to Haiti and meets a revolution, a beautiful woman and a Vodou [Voodoo] man. After having his scrotum nailed to a chair (ouch!) and being framed for murder, ethnobotanist is turned into a “zombie.” Rating: R


28 Days Later (2002)
Directed by Danny Boyle

The “virus” spreads through London, and it turns people into raging lunatics. The ones who aren’t turned, ban together as transient survivors, go it alone in hiding or live in collective fortifications where brutality rivals that of the zombies. Socially explorative, this film renewed the zombie genre giving it a broader appeal and a new, more scientific face. Rating: R


Resident Evil (2002)
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Followed by several sequels, this film did not gather stellar reviews; however, it is enjoyed by a sub-section of pop-culture zombie fans who like the idea of critical-thinking, survival scenarios and a hard core female zombie assassin. This film also has a gathering of video game enthusiasts. Rating: R


Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Directed by Edgar Wright

British comedy and love story all in one. This film is arguably the new favorite among zombie comedy lovers. If you like Monty Python, you’ll love this jolly good romp through zombie-fied London as the underdog protagonist and his dumpy best mate try to save a group of unlikely survivors. The scenes are playful, well-executed and show a true love for zombie classicism. Rating: R


Fido (2007)
Directed by Andrew Currie

Premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, this Canadian comedy features domesticated zombies persecuted by their masters into slavelike servitude. The zombies wear Pavlovian collars to keep their hunger for flesh in check.  When “Fido’s” collar malfunctions, trouble erupts in the Fifties setting suburbia. Rating: R


I Am Legend (2007)
Directed by Francis Lawrence

Last scientist standing in Manhattan faces off against zombie-like humans. Neither the book by Richard Matheson nor the film are true zombie stories; however, they have found their way into the hearts of many zombie fans, some not. Still, Will Smith is fun to watch. Rating: PG-13


Seventh Moon (2008)
Direction by Eduardo Sánchez

According to a Chinese myth — rooted in folk religion then adopted by Buddhists and Taoists — during the seventh lunar moon on the fifteenth day, heaven, hell and the living share space on earth and ghosts are free to roam villages, towns, and honeymooners on holiday in China. Shown at the Florida Film Festival, this work has gathered varied reviews — cold shoulders from the splatter fans to high appreciation from suspense lovers. This film opens with the Ghost Festival and drunk honeymooners bumbling about. It soon turns to a dark drive in the Chinese countryside where the honeymooning couple fall prey to zombie-like demons looking for their sacrifices. More interesting than the zombies is the interaction between the honeymooners — Melissa, American, and Yul, Chinese American — and how they navigate through the terror-filled night and the culture barriers they share. Not having much experience with Chinese zombies prior, this film has tempted my interest in this sub-genre.


Dead Snow (2009)
Directed by Tommy Wirkola

Shown at the Sundance Film Festival, this is already a cult favorite. This Norwegian comedy zombie film features Nazi zombies. What would any genre be without at least one Nazi film? A group of medical students go on Easter holiday, vacationing at a cabin in the snowy wild — sound familiar? Yes, okay, it does — when they are descended upon by the undead Gestapo. Now it gets interesting. Not Rated


Zombieland (2009)
Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Woody Harrelson, a lust for Twinkies and zombies. Need there be more? Rating: R


Warm Bodies (2013)

Directed by Jonathan Levine

The thinking, philosophical zombie. In this humor/drama zombie film, zombie is resurrected and turned human again. Yep, he falls in love.


World War Z (2013)
Directed by Marc Forster



Zombie DiscussionZombie icon

Compare Dawn of the Living Dead and World War Z. Consider who the protagonists are in each film? What are their internal conflicts? How central are the zombies to the main conflicts in each work? Then below briefly, in 500 words or less, explain in your own words what makes each film work for its intended audience and which film speaks to you most in aesthetic.



Zombie iconZombify Yourself Assignment

 Have you zombified yourself yet?  Before you begin writing this week, zombify yourself at AMC’s Zombie challenge. By recreating yourself as zombie, making visual aesthetic choices from the special effects offered, you will more clearly understand what zombie means to you personally. You’ll be able to gauge your “splatter” preferences. Submit your zombie photo to the forum below.



Zombie icon Zombie Reading Assignments

Again, if you’ve not read the below works, just begin with the The Zombie Survival Guide and make your way through at a comfortable pace. We will work from excerpts given directly in our lessons. If you have them all and have read them, great! Keep them handy for reference.

The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

World War Z by Max Brooks

The Road by Cormac McCarthy



Zombie iconZombie Writing Assignment

This week you are going to write a first person narrative no more than 1000 words. In this first-person narrative you will create a narrowly-focused arc about a particular and gripping moment while surviving the zombie apocalypse. Your narrator/protagonist is you. Choose one single moment. There are no other survivors. No one is living but you within the spaces of this moment and landscape. This is a moment you realize you’ve run out of food. OR the moment you realize the zombies are going to come into the house, no matter what you do. OR any other important moment. This moment is a moment after which nothing is ever the same and you must handle the immediate danger head on, using all your survival instincts. The reader does not need all the details that led up to this moment, though, you as the writer do need to know these.  Just throw us right into the moment, let us swim. Trust your reader.

Think about what you hold dear in this moment. Do you pack a bag with “treasures.” Do you “freeze,” unable to leave the house you shared with the love of your life or children and instead of fleeing to safer shelter, you continue playing over and over a particular memory of “life before” as the zombies close in…. Consider how the important and iconic histories and/or artifacts your narrator/protagonist clings to defines his or her present.

Your setting is your current home–house, apartment, etcetera. Again, you are the only surviving member of your family and friends. There are no other living humans anywhere in your vicinity. It’s just you, your wits, a diminishing supply of resources and the zombies. Using Brooks’ Survival Guide, how do you survive? You might consider one or more of the following: Do you scavenge for food from your neighbors? What are your weapons? Have the zombies gotten inside? What have you done about it? Where are you held up? Brooks’ Guide will be excellent in helping you think through many issues and strategies. 

Remember, the details of your survival are essential to the setting of this narrative; however, it is the humanity and clinging to humanity that create the true story. Always keep in mind that the internal conflict is character versus self. This is all about living and life and humanity. Identify in your first draft what flaw, weakness, etcetera that your narrator/protagonist must overcome in order to survive the zombies. Make it personal. Use yourself as a study to create the ultimate survival scenario.

Again, the main conflict must transcend the zombies. Character versus zombies is external, background noise, setting. We’re not writing a gorefest or B-rated movie. We’re writing character-focused narrative. Feel free to take a serious dramatic approach or a comedic approach but keep the narrative focused on basic “human truths.” Consider your moral compass. Ask yourself what internal issues you would deal with to be a better survivor while facing challenges to your moral compass. It’s not just about living, its about trying to retain some semblance of the kind of living you had before the zombie apocalypse. And the moment you realize this may never again be possible.



Guidelines, Submissions & Formatting

  • Due Date: Sunday, 6 pm.
  • Submission Link: Submit to the FORUM.
  • Submission Format: Attach an MS Word document in Universal Manuscript Format with the following format (this format is firm and universal). Double-spaced, 12 point font, Times New Roman, 1 in margins, heading with name, address, email, website (if applicable), and phone number on page one. Page two and forward should have in the top right corner your last name and page number. 
  • Word Count: 1000 words or less (this is firm)
  • First Draft: As you write the first draft, let your creativity go where it needs to go. First drafts are meant to be messy and creatively uninhibited. After writing the first draft, lay it to the side for at least a day before revising.
  • Second Draft: Read through again, and revise for language and lyricism. Consider, during this revision, how the two characters interact and what that might mean in a sociopolitical and/or human relationship way. How do they foil each other? Flesh out any sections that might further reflect this sociopolitical undercurrent of the work but be careful  not to make this undercurrent too obvious. Let the reader have room to work this out for him or herself. Remember, we don’t answer questions for our readers, we simply prompt our readers to ask good questions. Giving our readers room to make meaning for themselves within our narratives is a sign of artistic and literary excellence. Now, lay the work aside for at least a day before your next revision.
  • Third Draft: Now read this revision aloud as you record yourself. Upon listening to your recording, consider any language issues in your revision. You might also ask a trusted reader to read the manuscript aloud to you as you sit with your own copy and make revisions. Hearing our language aloud is one of the quickest and surest ways to improve pacing, tone, and cadence.
  • Forum: Upload your course-created work to your course and month forum so that other students in the course can read your work and give you feedback on your story. MAKE SURE YOU ARE UPLOADING YOUR STORY TO THE CORRECT FORUM AND COURSE. Group feedback runs on the honor code. Submit only one work by the due date, next Sunday 6 pm. Your feedback given on each story need be no more than a paragraph or two and should include elements that are working and elements that require further work. 
  • Favorite Forum Works: Beginning with Week 2, after you’ve read through all the student submissions, pick your favorite work from each peer’s course-created content. Mark this work as favorited. At the end of the course, you will each be able to review each others’  profiles and see which of your works are the favorites of your peers and instructor.  
  • Submissions to the Instructor: The last week of class, you will choose one favorite piece from the works you’ve created in this course for submission to Rae. You will be given the chance to flesh it out and make it longer. Your peers will give feedback on your story in short paragraph form. Rae will give you specific copy editing and contextual feedback.  
  • Please make sure to contact me directly with any questions regarding assignments and technology. rae@raebryant.com. The fastest way to get ahold of me is a text to 301-514-2380. The below question/discussion area is really for student and lesson interaction and I won’t be checking it everyday.