Fear the Walking Dead…and a Writing Dilemma

Fear the Walking Dead writing
Photo from www.amc.com

 

“Would you believe I’m watching Fear the Walking Dead?!”

“WHAT?!”

That was a text exchange last night between my niece and me—the niece who has been trying unsuccessfully to get me hooked on The Walking Dead for years. She’s sat me down and shown me a few episodes on several occasions, but even though I enjoyed them sell enough, I haven’t gotten hooked enough to watch the show voluntarily, on my own.

Of course, partly that’s because I have a very low tolerance for gore, but we’ll leave that out of the equation for now.

My niece assumed I was watching last night because she had told me the actor who played the teen Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was going to be in it. That wasn’t the reason—I had actually forgotten—but wow, Frank Dillane was just as amazing as Nick as he was as a creepy future young Voldemort.

Actually, I was watching because of what I missed in the original Walking Dead series…how we got here.

I think I’ve mentioned before my absolute favorite kind of suspense. I love the slow build, the mystery, the characters’ discovery of all the weirdness and putting two and two together. In the original Walking Dead, Rick is shot, wakes up in the hospital, and the world has completely changed. We miss the mystery, the discovery, the build-up.

My favorite scene in Fear the Walking Dead was when Madison and Travis were driving on the freeway, discussing what was consuming their lives: the son’s drug problem. Life was going on as usual for them, even though we know it isn’t usual at all. Suddenly, traffic slows and stops. They’re still wrapped up in their son’s problem. We hear sirens. Lots of sirens. We see lights from helicopters. They fret about their son. My heart is beating—I know that something BAD is going down, that civilization could be collapsing right there on that freeway. Suddenly there are gunshots. Now they start to get it. They forget about Nick’s problems long enough to wonder what’s going on. Their attention has changed. Life is changing.

Very powerfully written…at least to me.

Which brings me to my quandary as a writer. I was texting with my niece as I watched, and I told her I was loving the pace and the story—so I bet it was way too slow for usual WD fans. Sure enough, this morning I’m hearing a lot of bad reviews and disappointment with the show, for the very reasons I liked it.

I have noticed before that the books and movies I want to emulate, that have a great effect on me, aren’t necessarily the ones that are most popular, or even hailed as the best written. Often, the most popular works, the ones that sell well and excite everyone else, leave me cold.

I realized awhile back that I had spent years paying for writers’ conferences, edits and critiques and classes that were trying to teach me to write in a way that I wouldn’t enjoy reading, myself. Which helped explain why writing was becoming a chore.

I decided to ditch that pursuit and go back to trying to write the books that I myself would like to read. And yes, trying to identify that niche market is sometimes tough. But writing is more fun. I aim for a “what-the-heck” mystery on every page, especially in a suspense like Jordan’s Shadow. Fun stuff!

Now, to find readers who enjoy what I do!

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A new Poldark means…a new Warleggan.

Aidan Turner as Poldark.

Photo from pbs.org.

I’ve loved the Poldark saga for decades now. Fell in love with the original series, read all the books.

And now I’m on Cloud Nine because not only is there a new production of Poldark for Masterpiece/PBS/BBC, but it’s starring Aidan Turner as Poldark.  I can pretend I’m watching Jamie from Summer’s Winter on an acting job, because Aidan Turner comes closest to my mental picture of Jamie.

But for now…let’s talk George Warleggan.

I’m enjoying the new Poldark adaptation and most of the actors, but I’m having a hard time with the new Warleggan. Not because Jack Farthing doesn’t seem to be a perfectly capable actor, but first, because he seems miscast. George Warleggan, the slimy nemesis to Ross Poldark, was described by author Winston Graham as always looking too stocky and bullish for his elegant clothes–as though he never could escape his common blacksmith origins.

Ralph Bates as George Warleggan in the 1970s adaptation of the Poldark saga.

Ralph Bates, in the 1970s adaptation, was in my humble opinion, perfect. Cold, calculating–and physically powerful. Yes, he could have come from a family of blacksmiths.

And now, take a look at the new Warleggan. He looks and acts like nobility, like an elegant fop. This character does NOT communicate to me a man who is so insecure about his low-class roots that he’s never comfortable in his expensive, tailed clothes–and that he’s consumed with envy of the Poldarks and their ilk.
George Warleggan played by Jack Farthing in new PBS/Masterpiece/BBC production of Poldark.In last night’s episode, I also had trouble with the implication that he was consorting with a Truro lady of ill repute. In the novels (and earlier adaptation), one of the things that telegraphed George’s coldness was his frigidity around women. Except for wanting to take an elegant woman of the higher classes for his wife as a sort of trophy, he really wasn’t interested.  George Warleggan wouldn’t be caught dead with a common, well…you know.

I just looked at the two Warleggan pictures I shared. At least they both look surly. :)

Are you watching the new Poldark? What do you think?

 

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