June 12


Teachers, Embrace Your Inner Zombie by James Preller

Zombie_#3,_comingThese days, kids are crazy about zombies. That’s just a plain fact. Not every kid, of course, but a lot of them.

And I’m here to say: Go with it. Particularly when it comes to student writing. Some girls wants to write a story about a zombie apocalypse? Here’s a pen and paper. Do it.

Many students, as young as third grade and on up into high school, are watching THE WALKING DEAD. The secret that quite of few of them don’t realize is that the television show is not about zombies at all. It’s about people surviving zombies. The zombies themselves are boring, without personality, almost irrelevant. They could be switched out for deadly fog, or World War II, a forest fire or tsunami. The zombies are simply a device to propel a character-driven story forward.

That’s the essential thing here. The action -– the story – is almost entirely about character.

What we need to recognize is that, counter-intuitively, the zombie plot device perfectly lends itself to purely character-driven story. It could even be argued that it’s about family, blended, modern, or traditional.

With, okay, some (really) gross parts thrown in. Warning: Some characters in this story may be eaten. Ha! And why not, if that’s what it takes? If a little bit of the old blood and guts is the hook you need to lure in those writers, embrace it.

You can’t write a good zombie story without creating an assortment of interesting characters. Then you put those diverse characters in danger, you place them in conflict with each other, you get them screaming, and talking, and caring about each other.

As, okay, they are chased by a bunch of zombies.

There’s no drama unless the writer makes us care about those characters. You student writers will be challenged to make those characters come alive, be vivid and real. We have to care that they live or, perhaps, really kind of hope they get eaten alive by a crazed zombie mob.

Don’t be turned off by that. Use it to your advantage. Embrace your inner zombie –- and turn those students loose.

What they will be writing will be no different than your typical Jane Austin novel. Except for, you know, all those bloody entrails.


James Preller is the author of the “SCARY TALES” Series, including the title: Good Night, Zombie. The fourth book in the series, Nightmareland, hits stores on June 10th.