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