Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Writing Tip: New Formats Stretch the Imagination

by Karina Fabian

I was not interested in writing your usual zombie novel, so when I was asked to write Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator, I gave myself permission to go a little nuts and try out some new things.  I knew it was going to center around a reality TV show, so I thought I'd add in all the things networks are doing nowadays to promote their shows:  weblogs (where the characters diss each other and promote themselves), forums (complete with trolls) and even a documentary that explained the whole zombie phenomenon.

I don't think it would work for most books, but I had a lot of fun with this.  It let me go behind the scenes without worrying about head-hopping.  It spared me a lot of having to describe landscapes and backgrounds and such--I could cut right to the jokes.  The documentary let me add in a couple of flash stories that are much better for having the context of the entire novel.  Many reviewers enjoyed the fresh style, which did keep the novel moving.

It also helped me learn to work with a huge cast of characters, something I'd not done before.  That proved invaluable when I wrote my next book, a serious science fiction novel involving a crew that finds an alien device that shows them the weakness of their souls. 

Now, however, I'm working on Neeta Lyffe II, and I'm finding that without the reality TV show angle (this one is at a convention), I'm not as free as I was in Neeta I.  I can't make a forum fit.  The weblogs are more news-oriented.  There is a new documentary, however.  I really like being able to tell a separate but related story without flashback or characters just talking about it.

Experimenting with new formats is a great way to free up your imagination.

Join Me on the Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator 
Virtual Book Tour

By the 2040s, the shambling dead have become and international problem. While governments and special interest groups vie for the most environmentally-friendly way to rid the world of zombies, a new breed of exterminator has risen: The Zombie Exterminator. When zombie exterminator Neeta Lyffe gets sued because a zombie she set afire stumbles onto a lawyer's back porch, she needs money, fast. So she agrees to train apprentice exterminators in a reality TV show that makes Survivor look like a game of tag. But that's nothing compared to having to deal with crazy directors, bickering contestants and paparazzi. Can she keep her ratings up, her bills paid and her apprentices alive and still keep her sanity?

The workout room had a weights set and an elliptical in one corner, but Neeta ignored them. She needed more vigorous exercise than that if she wanted to burn off her emotional funk.

None of the plebes had done the routine she'd just set for herself. It didn't really reflect the reality of zombie movements, either. Although the crew had designed the targets to look much like actual undead, they moved too quickly, changed direction too suddenly, lunged and retreated in ways zombies couldn't imitate. They zigged and zaggged, dropped from the ceiling to zoom back up, flung themselves from the ground to trip the unwary. For once, this wasn't about training.

Neeta steeled herself, found an opening and dove in with a roar. She swung high, tagging the first zombie with the edge of her blade just as it got within her reach.

This was about reflexes,

She jumped over the arm that sprung up in front of her, doing the splits as she brought down her chainsaw to slice the hand off at the wrist.

…about burning aggression,

She spun a full circle, moving the saw in a sine wave. She took one target out at the knees, sliced another sideways across the chest, beheaded a third.

…about moving beyond thought and planning and negotiations with writers and directors and people who cared more for ratings than lives,

She lunged, spun, kicked and swung, her battle cries a perfect accompaniment to the pounding music.

A buzzer sounded, and the lights brightened and steadied. The targets stopped their frenetic motions and presented themselves for her to examine. She dropped the saw where she stood and braced her hands against her knees to catch her breath. Her arms felt like lead. A good feeling. She moved among the grimacing targets, noting the strikes that would have severed limbs, the ones that would have beheaded... When she came to the long-haired one with the pot belly, she gave a feral grin.

She's landed the blade in perfect position to slice Dave's manic smile right off his face.

Want more fun? Check out the Zombie Death Extreme show website!

Check out the Tour!

Interview for Frightliner & Neeta Lyffe
Try a New Format
Why I wrote a Zombie Book when I Don’t Like Zombies
Websites and Worldbuilding
how to put on zombie make-up
Making Monsters
Best job in the world
review, guest post
What my Writing has done to My Kids

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