You know, there was a particular sort of joke that was circulating around geek circles everywhere just a few years back. It would go something along the lines of how game developers would tag on zombies to their products whenever they started running out of ideas. Back then, being more engrossed in video games than I currently am, I too partook in the crowd of individuals who found this hilarious.
Whenever I’d see even a trace of a walking carcass in a video game, I’d snicker to myself wondering how simple the idea to place them in the game must have seemed to those in
the boardroom. I’d jest with my friends, sharing generic memes and photos over the glorious place that we call the internet, and I would roll my eyes whenever someone tried to treat zombies in a medium of entertainment in a serious fashion. And despite how I might be currently phrasing it, this is by no means a fad which has left the gaming community. In fact, much to my displeasure, it might be making a comeback.
Of course, as with many of the things relating to my gaming experience, it all just faded to the background when I started to get into writing. I still chuckle at a fair dose of gaming in-jokes, and I certainly haven’t stopped playing, but I’d be lying if I said I was as invested as I used to be.
Yet, there’s something funny about it. After having “lapsed” from the gaming community, I’m able to look back on all the jokes about zombies and what not, and I think I gained a new understanding. People complain, they bicker, they jeer, they mock, they do whatever other things they do when it comes to zombies. But everyone and their mother keeps forking over wads of cash to games that have the freakish walking corpses!
Sure, we know that they’re derivative. Sure, we know that they’re not that scary
anymore. Sure, we know that they’ve over-stayed their welcome. But, hey, they’ve all got some weird charm to them.
Zombies, quite literally, are capable of making anything AWESOME. There’s just a certain quantity of testosterone that is added to an object when it is near the word zombies. They’re just the kind of stereotypical foe that has managed to earn that reaction from its audience over all the years since its inception. It might be a gut feeling or even just a reaction we’ve unconsciously rehearsed over the years, but it still has an effect on us.
Now, now, I know what you’re thinking. What do zombies have anything to with writing?
Zombies tend to be one of the generic foes that you find across every medium, but at least in my experience, novels are not really a part of that paradigm. You could probably list a couple of exceptions to this, yet these would not represent the majority of books. And zombies are not as common in books as they are in movies or video games. Yet in my personal writing I’ve found a very…peculiar alternative to zombies in my fantasy worlds.
Where others use rotting carcasses as their main source of conflict, where
others place Russian nuclear codes to thicken the plot, the QuestingAuthor has grown fond of using Cthuloid monstrosities when his creative juices need some stimulus.
Before I go forward, allow me to clarify. I have NO intentions whatsoever of passing this off as writing advice in any way! For all I know, this could be a really bad habit that I’ve grown accustomed to, so I only mean to share experience and nothing else. That being said, this has helped get at least some form of enjoyment whenever my book was starting to sag and simmer down. And this isn’t a recent thing either.
Every world that I’ve created since I first took writing seriously has featured some form of Lovecraftian-style creatures in it. It doesn’t even have to be a part of the plot, it can just be a fun fact in the realm of world-building, but it’s always there…somehow.
But it wasn’t until today that I took it upon myself to conduct an analysis of why this was the way that it was. Waking up from my usual session of daydreaming, I decided I’d sit down and really ponder on this for once in my life. I was expecting to come to a mental road block in this endeavor, but it turns that my reasoning for this is as clear as day.
Lovecraftian monsters are Unknowable, Creative, and As Uncanny as Hell. And all of these three elements
are ingredients that can be grinded up and turned into a potion that gets me back writing.
Firstly, I’m hooked by the mystery created through these creatures that I don’t even
understand. When I put them in my story, it renews interest in my setting, as I have to think up ways in which I could get them to fit in the puzzle of my world. Secondly, designing them is another exercise in and of itself. Never in my life would I have thought that describing creatures that are abominable in every perceivable way was a legitimately therapeutic act. There’s just something so refreshing about a nine-tentacled beast with shimmering scales showing up to attack your heroes. And lastly, they evoke an instant emotion. This one requires elaboration.
When it comes to giving feeling to a scene, emotions are usually things that have to be grown in a careful process. One wrong step could lead to destroying whatever atmosphere you were trying to build up in your novel. But Lovecraftian creatures are special in that they come prepackaged with a whopping dose of fear injected into them. There’s an instant gut reaction that happens to me whenever I even fathom to include them in my work. It’s the closest thing that I as a writer have as a “hack” for creating books.
They have a character of their own, while at the same time not having a character at all. There’s a whole package of presumptions that you get when you see a Lovecraftian abomination, all of which can be combined into creating an image that comes close to resembling an archetype!
In the end, maybe I’m just insane. I’m probably the only weirdo that does this with his books as an attempt to make them awesome, but that’s only because it actually works. But if you’ve ever thought of writing about gibbering, quivering, slimy, fibrous, ghastly, and eldritch abominations, I hope this post might have gotten you to pursue that aspiration.
As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Don’t Stare into the Abyss, my friends.