Meet the Cast, Writing News

Meet the Cast: Animal Sidekicks

I’m going to do a feature where I introduce my upcoming characters. I just decided this and it starts today. Instead of starting with main characters, I’m going to go with some side characters just for fun.

Up to this point, I’ve only written humans (or human-like people.) In my fantasy comedy, Legends of Auhlg, that’s changing. I have two animal characters.

First is Blaze, a cerulean hellhound. What’s that? Well, imagine a dog that can breathe fire and then imagine that dog is blue and breathes blue fire. Blaze is the animal companion to one of the main characters, Melysoni the sylph.

He doesn’t speak and is protective and loyal to his mistress. Despite being terrifying to look at, he’s a good boy.

Blaze is a lot of fun to write. As a non-verbal character, he communicates through body language and the sounds of a regular dog. By mixing his expected behaviors with his magical abilities, it creates a realistic dog character with bonus features.

The second animal sidekick is Gary the Arrogant Unicorn. I posted an excerpt of him here on my blog when I first came up with the idea. Gary is a verbal character and he also lends to the comic relief.

Gary, however; is not a human and is of the equine family. He doesn’t have the same physical cues to his dialogue. Unicorns don’t sigh, for example. This helps to change things up a bit when writing dialogue tags. Again, giving him a mix of realistic horse traits mixed with human language and dialogue presents a new challenge to writing.

That’s all for today. Have a great week!


Character Analysis, Musings, Uncategorized, Writing Tips

“Who are you?” – The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 3

This post will contain spoilers for The Walking Dead which aired November 6th, 2016. If you haven’t seen the episode, turn back now!

Last night The Walking Dead took us along for the ride with Daryl and his adventures with Negan. These adventures include being locked in a dark closet and tortured with super happy music all day. Sometimes Dwight, (also known as Burned Face Guy,) would take Daryl for a stroll in the yard, which consists of a big cage full of zombies and prisoners. The Savior’s main compound is big and prison-like, but if Daryl is a good boy and decides to join Negan, he’ll get a studio apartment including a bed, chair, kitchen, and even a TV so that he can watch himself on The Walking Dead. (I know they probably have a DVD player or something, but it was funny to see the TV in that room.)

We did get to learn a little bit more about Negan. He’s just as crazy as he first appeared, a real tyrant ruling over his army of loyal ants. How loyal are those ants, exactly? We also learned what happened with Dwight and his wife Sherri after her sister Tina died in the woods and they betrayed Daryl. This came via tell instead of show, where the villain gets to share a customary evil bad-guy speech.

Tina was supposed to be Negan’s fiancé, but she didn’t want to marry him. He was just being a nice guy allowing her to marry him so that she wouldn’t have to work so hard for her insulin anymore. Of course, Tina didn’t like that idea and the three of them ran off. Tina was eaten by zombies; Dwight and Sherri stole Daryl’s crossbow and motorcycle and returned to Negan. In order to save her husband, Sherri married Negan and Dwight worked himself up to being a big dog in the Savior’s army. Of course, he still had to have his face ironed. That’s unfortunate.

If we base the timeline of The Walking Dead on the age of Judith, who is still a baby under a year old, all of this has happened in the span of maybe one or two months. Negan is way more forgiving than expected! It’s fine that they didn’t spend a whole episode hanging with Sherri and Dwight, because last season had a lot of other important things going on. This type of storytelling is lesser than if we’d seen it happen, do we really care about Dwight and Sherri when they are torturing Daryl, who we all know and care about already? I’m guessing we’ll get to spend more time with Sherri and Dwight before it’s all done, but at this point, it’s their fault for returning to Negan instead of going with Daryl to Alexandria.

Also, I’m not the only one thinking “There is only one Negan vs. many unhappy people.” No matter how many people claim to be Negan, there is only one. As the escaped guy told Dwight, if there was an uprising he would be screwed. Too bad Dwight doesn’t seem to be the leader they need, not yet, anyway.

The leader they do need is Daryl.

Last night’s episode was another great look at the characterization from a fan favorite. Daryl is a prime example of how strong characterization can not only shape a story, but uphold it through dark times.We watch him take his torture silently, with that same stoicism we’ve all come to know. Even in the midst of fear, he still takes the opportunity to try to escape, reminding us of his resilience and confidence in his skills. Sherri begs him to go back, but he won’t, because he believes he can get away. After being recaptured, and forced to listen to Elvis crooning about loss, he finally lets it all out. I think, however; that just helped him grow stronger. Sometimes you just need a good cry.

We watch him take his torture silently, with that same stoicism we’ve all come to know. Even in the midst of fear, he still takes the opportunity to try to escape, reminding us of his resilience and confidence in his skills. Sherri begs him to go back, but he won’t, because he believes he can get away. After being recaptured, and forced to listen to Elvis crooning about loss, he finally lets it all out. I think, however; that just helped him grow stronger. Sometimes you just need a good cry.

Daryl knows what is at stake, but he won’t give up, and this is something we’ve seen from him since the first season. He could have turned against the group after Meryl was lost, but he stuck by them and continued to survive. When Negan asks him “Who are you?” he answers “I’m Daryl,” because he knows who he is at the core; he doesn’t need a false identity to know what he’s capable of.

Daryl is a true survivor, which probably isn’t true for a lot of Negan’s followers.


“Jokes on you, shit sandwich was always my favorite.”


Negan lets him live. Why? Negan is building his character for us as well. Yes, he’s a crazy man with a baseball bat, but he’s also smart. He was smart enough to see the weaknesses in people and build the Saviors around fear. He also knows that there is only one Negan, which is why he’s trained his soldiers to say “I’m Negan.” By giving them a new and shared identity, he’s making them feel part of something bigger, pushing back against possible rebellion.

Those who do not wish to live under the tyranny of the Saviors need someone like Daryl, but Negan also needs Daryl. Killing him would be easy, but breaking him would prove a point to those witnessing the process.

If Negan’s soldiers can see a man like Daryl break down and change, then any misgivings they have about Negan will be quelled. It’s a dangerous game, and one I don’t think Negan will win, at least not in the way he wants. Daryl is walking a very fine line. Either he needs to start gaining support from Dwight and Sherri and others, or he’s probably going to die. A crazy man only has so much patience.

At the very end, Daryl makes his first move with Dwight. He understands. Dwight had to think about someone else, so he gave up. Daryl says that’s why he can’t, and at first it may seem like he’s saying “I don’t have anyone else to think of,” but I actually think this means the opposite. He has a lot of people to think about, everyone at Alexandria, and he can’t become a Savior because he can’t turn on them, even if it costs him his life. Again, this is the same characterization we’ve seen from Daryl before. He had an opportunity before to join a villainous group, but he can’t and he won’t.

Other thoughts:

Poor zombie nerd guy might have been a good ally if he knew about Daryl.

Sherri is in a prime position to do bad things to Negan, like poison or a knife to the throat if she has the guts and opportunity. Andrea never did with the Governor, but we don’t know Sherry very well.

Speaking of Sherri, I bet she’s going to be one of the first to rebel and possibly die.

Thanks for reading! If you have anything to add, please leave a comment.

Writing Tips

NaNoWriMo Week One – Getting Started with Character Motivation & Relationships

This week I started up my National Novel Writing Month project on November first. That means spending time in a whole new world with a whole new cast of characters. These characters have been in my head since January, building up some basic background information for me to work with as I get started. Despite that, I’m just getting to know them and learning how they interact with each other.

One of the easiest ways to write a story is to know your characters. Stories consist of two key elements: an event and a character’s reaction to that event. A character’s motivation will dictate their reaction. By allowing your character’s motivations to drive the plot, the story moves forward organically. When stories move organically, they are more believable to the reader.

Motivations are discovered by character development. The character’s role in the story is only the first step of characterization. The antagonist’s role is to create a problem, and the sign-697220_960_720protagonist’s role is to solve that problem. But why? The answer comes from character background, personality, and current events; a complex combination that produces motivation. Side characters also have motivations, and they are created in the same way. They can either help or hinder the protagonist, but either way, those reactions need to make sense based on the narrative of their characterization.

I already knew who was playing which role before I began writing. I knew the backgrounds for my protagonist and antagonist. I knew the background of the primary side characters. I knew the activating events. Now that I’m putting the characters on paper, they begin to develop their personalities.

What I’ve learned in my first week is that my protagonist is not only intelligent and willing to ask questions, but is also playful and caring. It will be interesting to see her grow and change over the course of 50,000 words knowing what is happening around her. I’ve also learned that the antagonist is much colder than I expected, even when he’s attempting to hide his true nature.

Another type of motivation comes from character relationships. When two characters connect, it builds emotional investment for the reader. The more a character resembles a real person, the more a reader will connect with them. Real people have friends, family, or lovers that they connect with, and so should your characters.

It also gives the characters deeper levels of motivation; it may cause them to act when they would otherwise be still. Producing driving forces through the people they care about is another organic way to drive a story forward.

What I’ve discovered this week is that my protagonist is quite close to her younger sister. Not only does it give her motivation to act, it also adds to her personality. By allowing the reader to witness this relationship, they are given another reason to care about what happens in the first few chapters.

So remember:

  1. Organic motivations make it easier to move a story forward
  2. Motivations are created through personality, character background, and relationships with other characters

As of today, I have 4,950 words on my NaNoWriMo project, which puts me a little behind but I’m worried about it. I’ll catch up.

Thank you for reading. If you have anything to add please feel free to leave a comment.

Fun and Games, Musings

Welcome to The Kingdom: The Walking Dead season 7 episode 2

Spoiler Alert: If you have not seen The Walking Dead season 7 episode 2 on October 30th, turn back now! This is your only warning.

This isn’t a review, but more of a look at the successes and failures of storytelling through mass media. I think last night’s episode was a clear success based solely on the characterization, but the storytelling was well done, too.

Although last week’s episode was the big reveal, this episode was even more revealing. Morgan and Carol are back, rescued by people from The Kingdom.

Now, I love the renaissance festival, but at first glance, The Kingdom isn’t such a place. Until you meet King Ezekiel and Shiva.


“Hast thou come to feast upon pomegranates?”


It’s a great form of characterization for this show. We’ve seen a deceptive character before in the Governor, and his attempt to make Woodberry seem like Main Street, but his deception was for a sinister purpose. Carol can also be deceptive, hiding her true  nature to give her the upper hand. Ezekiel is something new. He’s a character playing a character, not for deception but to keep his people’s minds at ease.

At first, it’s easy to think that maybe he’s unstable and perhaps has a mental illness. After the fall of civilization, a person with delusions of grandeur could be given the opportunity to live out their own reality. Carol is barely able to contain herself when she meets him, and I think her face said what those of us who haven’t read that far in the comics were all thinking.


As we learn, however; Ezekiel has not fallen off his rocker. He knows he’s not the king. Showing up with a tiger made him legendary, and he just went along with it, using his time in Community Theater as a jumping off point. The people like having a king and painting his quotes all over the town in scrolling font. (Do they have a stencil or did a calligrapher survive?)

Okay, so maybe it still is a little nutty, but at least they aren’t carving up people and roasting them on an open fire. When you really think about it, running around in armor with swords, spears, cleavers, and bows and arrows really isn’t that much different than what our own group of survivors has been up to. Daryl with his crossbow, Michonne with her samurai sword, and even Rick with his axe are merely missing the fake accent and regal titles. Plus, most of the people in the kingdom are dressed as modern day people and they even have guns on hand for emergencies. It’s an interesting mix.

They’re also under contract with Negan’s army. One of the things I enjoyed most about last night’s episode was the subtle rebellion. Ezekiel doesn’t want to risk the lives of his people, but he also knows the Saviors are bad. So, they feed the pigs walkers. This is an interesting concept and brings up some questions.

First, do the pigs turn from eating the contaminated meat? We don’t know and they are soon butchered off camera1. Secondly, the fact that pigs are fine eating a still squirming walker is kind of terrifying. I know pigs can chew through bone, and eat rotten food, but this is a whole other level. Last, if you eat meat from an animal that has eaten a walker, can you be turned? This last question is interesting because it’s kind of like marinating the pig from the inside. Corn fed cows taste different than grass fed cows. Does bacon from a walker fed pig have a strange taste?

If it is the making the Saviors sick, they haven’t noticed it yet.

Also, Ezekiel hasn’t told his people about the Saviors. He’s done this on purpose to prevent them from wanting to fight. The situation wears heavily on those who know, as is evidenced by the knight who gets into a scuffle with a Savior. It’s clear that Ezekiel understands the danger where others do not, and makes me wonder what he’s seen or been through with Negan. Then again, he was a zookeeper tending to tigers, which gives him insight into dealing with unpredictable wild animals.

There was also great characterization this week for Morgan and Carol. They have both been shaken to the core. Morgan is hiding it a little better, trying to resolve who he was with what he became and what he needs to be. He’s a man in a crisis of faith. Carol, however; is on the opposite end. She’s seen her confidence in what she became crumble and hated what she saw: an angel of death. They are the same but different, and somehow they both need to find the middle.

I’m curious to see what Carol learns from her solitude, and what her actual plan turns out to be. With the Saviors running around it’s hard to believe she’ll be left alone living right off of the road in her little house.

Also, how will they respond when they find out what happened with Rick and Company?

Next week it looks like we’re going to meet up with Daryl and what tortures are in store. Will Burned Face Guy switch sides? Is the teaser trailer only teasing? Maybe we’ll find out, or we won’t.

Other thoughts:

Shiva eats as much as ten people. What are they feeding her? Walkers? She seems happy.

Carol moved into such a cute little house with its own gothic cemetery. There has to be a story there.

Could Ezekiel be the key to healing both Carol and Morgan… and maybe even Rick?

The Kingdom is a nice little town, too bad all I could think was “this place is going up in flames.”

Thank you for reading and if you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

Fun and Games, Musings, Writing Tips

A Bloody Mess: Fear the Walking Dead season 2 episode 7

This post contains spoilers from Fear the Walking Dead which aired May 22, 2016. If you have not seen the episode come back later.

What in the hell did we just watch?

Seriously, this episode was a nightmare. It wasn’t the type of nightmare that forces you to stay awake because there may be a zombie in the closet. Oh no. This was the type of nightmare which ends with you staring in utter confusion as the preview for Preacher starts to play.

To top things off, the episode was moving at a frantic pace in order to cram all of the ill conceived plot devices in before the hour ended. The storytelling was disjointed and chaotic. Perhaps that was on purpose to showcase the chaos happening on the vineyard. All it did was serve to show just how little plot and character development was being used.

Fear the Walking Dead needs to change the title to Missed Opportunities. The list of weird, pointless decisions in the storytelling continues to grow. It’s too bad because for a couple of episodes it was starting to get better.

I want to discuss insanity. Mental illness is a real issue with real problems and real stigmas in the real world. Using mental illness as a turning point for a character can be catastrophic, and that’s the feeling I get from this episode. It was already bad enough last week when Chris started to fall off the deep end. Nick has always had issues because we know he was a drug addict, but his sudden flip to siding with Cecilia made very little sense. To top it all off, Salazar falls into religious delusions and hallucinations about his wife. That’s three characters making huge changes in two episodes. Is there something in the water? Maybe the land is cursed.

Let’s break down the demise of three lines of character development:


We discussed last week that he could be suffering trauma. Sure. This week he goes full tilt crazy by fleeing into the night. Not only that, but he ends up holding a stranger’s child hostage. Really? He becomes the pirate he killed. Did he also eat Reed’s heart and cut down one last immortal before the final battle? From being a scared kid to terrifying a kid, this leap is too far and too fast.

Travis, my least favorite character, was actually one of the better characters of the episode. Staying with Chris until he is well is what Travis would do, and that’s the best we can expect from the episode.


Okay, so Nick has always been a special character because he has issues that are unique to every other character. Being a drug addict comes with a set of problems. Nick’s drying out ended quickly. From being half dead at the quarantine to totally cleared up the very next day on the Abigail.

His discovery of the blood making him invisible was good. He never tells anyone else and they obviously just think he’s crazy already. Why is Nick covering himself in blood all the time? Even after he tells Madison outright that he’s invisible, she doesn’t put it together. It’s fine, she tends to be slow on the uptake, but still frustrating.

“For the last time, it’s not a vampire phase.”

I do believe he thinks he’s invincible. That’s not far fetched at all. What I don’t believe is that he teams up with Cecilia instantly. Sure, she might persuade him over time, but within a 24 hours a stretch. I get that he wants to stay safe, and even thought maybe he was just playing along. Nope. The end of the episode proves otherwise. It doesn’t make sense. He abandons his family for people he just met? I don’t buy that, not after begging to let them stay.


This is a tricky one. Could the boy at the church have triggered massive PTSD? Sure. Out of all the issues happening, this breakdown is the most plausible. It would have been nice to have had hints of this throughout the season, especially knowing he is leaving Ofelia behind with people he doesn’t trust. I think this could have been powerful, but it wasn’t, merely because it happened in such a chaotic episode. We also lose one of the best characters in the series.

On top of that, we now have yet another antagonist and conflict resolved within a couple of episodes. The pirates were built up and then easily dispatched. Alex from flight 462 and the pregnant pirate are left behind with no resolution. (Will they come back despite hundreds of miles and needing “payment” to cross the boarder? Probably, because that’s predictable.) Getting into Baja after so many arguments was boring. Cecilia was introduced with such fervor from the church scene last week, and now she’s gone. This place we worked all season to reach is burning to the ground.

Our cast is now cut into the three groups. Travis with Chris, Madison and friends, and Nick with the fanatics. Where are we going from here? Who knows. When we get there it will only last one episode.

I believe the show is trying very hard to differentiate itself from The Walking Dead. Crazy people is not really that different. Rick has been slowly descending into madness ever since the Prison. The little girl who believed the dead were her friends is another example of insanity the show recycles.

Fear the Walking Dead had an amazing opportunity to be different, and they bypassed that in season one. Instead we get halfhearted attempts to build tension for characters we do not yet care about.

Do we want to get the characters on the water? Great. There could have been a far more organic solution to that than Strand meeting Nick in the quarantine and seeing potential. Do we want to deal with pirates? Okay, let’s actually deal with pirates. Do we want to go to Baja? Fine, but let’s go there for a reason that will keep us there, not because of a mystery that turns out to be pointless.

Give the characters plausible motivation to drive the story other than contrite plot devices. That is the lesson of Fear the Walking Dead.

This is the mid-season finale. That means the rest of the story begins August 21. Will I be interested in watching the rest? Maybe or maybe not. Now that we are at the end, however; I want to change up the blog.

Starting next Monday I’ll be writing up character analysis from different popular shows, movies, and even some books (or characters that exist in multiple media.) I want to dig up the clockwork and show how a well built character functions (or how a poorly built character comes apart at the seams.) I’ll continue to use spoiler alerts at the top of those posts. I hope you join me!

Thank you for reading! If you have anything to add please feel free to post in the comments.


Writing Tips

The Importance of Concrete World Building


I talk a lot about characterization on the blog. This is primarily because characters can become props to a story instead of the driving force. It was one of the major issues I had to overcome in my own writing and something that needed serious correction for Darkness Falling. When characters come second to The Idea, a story becomes flimsy and dull.

Today, however; I want to talk about another very important character. This character is one you may not even realize is a character; and that is the world in which your story takes place. Just like the people in your story, the world needs to feel realistic. It doesn’t matter if your characters have magical powers, fly in spaceships, live on a different planet, or exist right here on Earth; the world needs to have a set of rules by which it adheres.


Your world will also have a personality. This will be created by the types of landscapes, cities, and cultures. Languages, naming conventions, social structure, and “laws of science” all exist within a balance that creates a unique setting in which your characters exist. The world and these rules will have a direct effect on the plot and characters.

Another point to consider is that your world also needs a background story. It may  have appeared in your mind in the blink of an eye, but to create a rich world it helps to have some idea of the world’s history. The Kingdom may be falling apart now, but there was a time when it was prosperous. Living on a space station has been common for centuries, but have the people always lived in space? The more you understand your world the more realistic it will feel.

The Law of the Land

Not everyone understands physics. I have a very basic knowledge of how it works. For example, I know that gravity holds me down on the ground. I can’t just suddenly leap off of my roof and fly away if I’m being chased by the bad guy. Creating similar concrete laws for your world keeps your readers invested because it makes the story believable, even when the characters have amazing powers.

Let’s look at Superman and Super Girl for a moment as an example. They both come from the planet Krypton and while on Earth they have special powers. These powers are explained by the effects of the sun on their alien bodies; it’s fictional science, not magic. Both Superman and Super Girl have the same powers; super hearing, x-ray vision which can be blocked by lead, laser eyes, frost breath, super strength, super speed, and flight.

These are amazing powers, but they are concrete and governed by the laws of the world building. By giving them both the same abilities it gives the characters a sense of realism and plausibility. Super Girl can’t suddenly read minds when the story could use a helping hand. Superman can’t become invisible or change his appearance to be sneaky.

To complete this, any Kryptonian who comes to Earth has the exact same powers. Superman and Super Girl are “average people” for their species. They only appear Super to humans because we do not have the same gifts. These “laws of science” are consistent and has kept fans believing in the world for 78 years.

Clued In

World building can be tricky. If you sit down and create the world first, it’s easy to want to share everything in big globs of exposition. You want to make sure everyone knows everything about the world so that someday the super geek fans will debate your discuss your world with a passion on the internet. Unfortunately, this type of storytelling drags a story down and your characters and plot get lost.

I had this problem in the old manuscript of Darkness Falling. The first chapter bombarded the readers with names and dates and history. It was all very scholarly and maybe someday I’ll have an appendix to share all of these wonderful tidbits for the geek fans to discuss. (A girl can dream, right?)

For actual storytelling, it was a horrible beginning. I cut the first chapter down from being twenty-six Word document pages to four pages.

Yeah, it was that bad.

World building should be subtle. Very much like revealing characters, you want to give your readers what they need to know in digestible chunks. A great way to do this is through your point of view character. How much would they really know? What is their level of education? The laws of your society will come through your characters beliefs and actions. Giving certain characters different knowledge and experience will slowly widen the view for your readers.

Let’s consider J. K. Rowling and her wizard world. We are introduced to Hogwarts and wizards through Harry, a character who doesn’t know anything about the world at the start. He is introduced to the world through Hagrid. This is important. Why would she send Hagrid instead of Dumbledor or McGonagall or anyone else, for that matter? Hagrid is a perfect character for the role because he knows things, he’s loyal, and he’s willing to share a little bit of information either on purpose or on accident. He also adds a little bit of comedy which keeps the mood light.

Giving characters limited information about the world adds to both the feeling of awe and mystery. When your readers share discoveries about the world with  your characters it causes immersion and bonding. It makes your readers wonder “what’s next?” and that’s what keeps them reading.

Language Arts

Not every book will use new languages. If you’re working with present day Earth, your characters are going to speak real languages. Even if your characters speak in slang or dialect, they will still follow those rules. The same goes for fictional languages. Not everyone is going to be J. R. R. Tolkien and create the entire language from the ground up. You can learn to speak Elvish if you choose. You can also learn to speak Klingon from the Star Trek  universe, which is another example of complex language building.

Even if your language only goes far enough to create names and places, you still want to have concrete rules. Being writers, we all have a firm idea of how language works, at least within the languages that we speak. Designing rules for a language should be based on the real languages of Earth.

In Darkness Falling I have six different languages that come into play based on five continents and cultural backgrounds. The languages are primarily made evident through naming conventions. The language of the Empire is a complex system based on clans. This was an area I debated a great deal, and actually made some changes to it based on reader feedback. In the end, the language requires that I adhere to strict consistency to help prevent confusion. This is true of any language you create. Consistency is what makes it believable.

Mapping it Out

The last thing I’m going to discuss is maps. Not every book contains a map for readers to follow. Despite that, you have a good idea in your mind as you write where your characters exist. If they stay in one location through the story this is easy. If your characters are on a long journey you need to consider distance, time to travel, and alternate locations.

Even when you do not include the map, you need to remember your story takes place in time and space.  Science-Fiction stories about time travel may jump backwards or forwards (or both) in time, but this still applies. For example, the Back to the Future films all take place in different times, but they exist within the same space.

Hill Valley is just as much a character as Doc and Marty. Throughout the series we get to see the town and surrounding areas grow up from a dusty western farm town to a metropolis. The town is given specific features to make it recognizable at different eras; the clock tower, the development sign, the old theater in the downtown square.

Once again this shows how consistency creates a believable world even when the circumstances of the story are impossible.

That’s all for today about world building! I hope you enjoyed it and thank you for reading. If you have anything to add or share, please feel free to do so in the comments. I’ll see you Monday for my thoughts on the Fear the Walking Dead mid-season finale.

Fun and Games, Musings, Writing Tips

The Road to Hell: Fear the Walking Dead season 2 episode 3

As usual this post contains spoilers from Fear the Walking Dead season 2 Episode 3. If you haven’t seen the episode please come back later.

This is not a recap but a discussion of how we can learn from the successes and failures of storytelling from popular media and improve our own writing.

I’m going to begin today by saying this episode is by far the best in the series. Once again, it is the teens that set things in motion. Even Strand, as shady and suspicious as he is, could leave us all dead in the water with his desire to remain isolated.

At this point Nick is my favorite character with Chris and Alisha tying for second. Sure, staying safe is what we would all desire in a situation such as the zombie apocalypse. That isn’t why we watch this show. Kids doing dumb things, like walking up to a zombie while covered in blood, is far more fun than watching Travis and Madison argue.

A lot happened in last night’s episode, but I want to focus on character intentions, which go hand in hand with motivation and core beliefs. To set a character in motion, we first need to know why and their plan.

Core Beliefs: Important values and beliefs that guide a characters

Motivation: what a character desires.

Intentions: The plans a character makes to meet their motivational or belief core goals.

Motivation and intention can also cause conflict, either when two characters are at odds or a character is forced situations that go against their core beliefs. We get to see this in action a couple of times this episode. Core beliefs are very important to your character, because it will dictate their behavior. Putting them in situations where they have to choose between their core beliefs and survival are great for causing conflict.

We started off with the Abigail sucking a zombie into the engine. This forces our survivors to anchor while Travis attempts to fix the problem. We all know it’s also because with Strand on board we need reasons to force the boat to stop. (At least this one is plausible.)

Let’s look at the different motivation and intention combinations of the evening.

First we have Alisha who at her core wants to be helpful. This drives her motivation to go to shore and her intention to find supplies.

Next we have Salazar. He has two motivations. The first is to take control of the Abigail away from Strand, who is not trustworthy. The second is to protect Ofelia who is out of antibiotics. For the first motivation he reveals the Mexico destination to Madison, his intention is to win her to his side. For the second motivation he offers to escort the teens ashore with the intention of finding antibiotics.

Hopefully the Abigail is well stocked with Fabreze.

Madison’s core is to keep the teens safe and help others. Her every move is dictated by these two motivations. These core motivations come into conflict when she confronts Strand about Mexico and he reveals he has a safe place in Mexico. In order to keep her kids safe, she will have to keep Strand happy. In order to keep Strand happy, she can’t help others. This has already been true, but now she has a solid reason not to argue when he tosses newcomers overboard.

One of the most important things about intentions is that they will not always work out in a character’s favor, and this drove the action of the episode. Finding supplies in the wreck was not an easy task. Much of the luggage was destroyed by fire or water. Although Salazar found some medication, he didn’t find antibiotics. Salazar’s plan to increase Madison’s suspicions about Strand was also a failure, because to meet her motivation her intentions have shifted.

All of these motivations and intentions are building toward a greater conflict. Following this dynamic, you can create deeper characters who act for a reason rather than doing things merely to move the story forward. They present consequences, both positive and negative.

The highlight of this episode, of course, is when Salazar encounters Charlie from Flight 462. We met Charlie, Jake (who is severely burned,) and some others at the beginning of the episode. The others are gone, and only Charlie and Jake remain. What happened to them in between is a mystery.

Now we come to the next set of motion/intention. Arriving back at the ship, Strand once again is unwelcoming of newcomers Charlie and Jake. He doesn’t want them on the boat. This time, Madison flounders because she is caught between her core beliefs and her desire to keep Strand happy. Instead of doing so grudgingly as we saw in the past two episodes, this time her motivation and reasoning is clear.

Strand has one motivation, which is to get where he’s going with as little “dead weight” as possible. His intention is to ensure the other survivors do not hinder this plan. For a minute as I watched him struggle I thought he might crack. I thought he might feel guilty. If he did feel guilty, he ended it by cutting Charlie and Jake free from being towed, leaving them to die.

Hopefully they return in future episodes, and Charlie’s speech about this being the hardest day will bring about consequences to our survivors.

Other Notes

My favorite scene was when Nick was drenched in zombie juice and “communicated” momentarily with a walker.

Chris’ character development will hopefully take an interesting turn now that he’s suffered the trauma of a mercy killing.

Will Ofelia die of infection and become a zombie?

Hopefully the next episode will continue the trend of action and conflict. Thanks for reading and if you have anything to add, please feel free in the comments.