I watch very little television but did see an episode of a show called Walking Dead recently. I like apocalyptic type shows but this one was a bit much for me and I didn’t finish it. Too many zombies shot in the head with graphic results. It confused me for one thing. If zombies are dead, why do they still bleed so colorfully, and splatter so much?
Last week I had a discussion with some writers about the emotion in our work. One woman had written a poem that she felt might be too powerful for the rest of us to understand. Another said that even if a reader didn’t understand the words, people react to the underlying emotion in a story or poem. Which makes the poem personal for that person, even if they read into it a different message than another reader, or even the author, gets from the same piece. It’s similar to modern art that has different meanings to different viewers.
How does that relate to bleeding zombies? Well, I got to thinking that every generation seems to have its version of the apocalypse. I remember as a child it was the Cuban missile crisis and the atom bomb. People had bomb shelters in their basements. I remember a time when it was the swine flu, sarin gas, mutant viruses, and so on. It’s as if each age needs something that is out of our control, that scares us, that makes us feel the need to prepare. Right now it’s a hurricane that’s making me think about super storms and how nature is changing and how I want to make sure my Bug Out Bag is stocked.
But, as with writing, it’s not the virus or the zombie that we are afraid of. It’s those underlying emotions. Fear of no control, of not being able to protect our family, of being exposed. Each apocalyptic theme dips right down into those deep feelings. And good writing does the same thing. It’s not the plot carrying the story, it’s all those underlying emotions that suck a reader in and keep them turning pages. Whether that emotion is fear, laughter, or anger. If we, as writers, can bravely dip into our own fears in order to pull them out and place them down on paper, we can touch our readers. Well, that’s not a profound statement. All writers know it. I’ve just been thinking about it since that show creeped me out and since I was told I might not get something powerful. It makes me want to face all emotion in order to impact a reader.
So while I may not understand the words (and might be a tad insulted when someone points that out), I definitely will react to honest emotions underlying the words, whether that’s in a song or a poem or a novel…or a zombie television show.
And by the way, my emergency pack is packed.