The Walking Dead TV series is back.
There was a period of time earlier this year when my existence was measured out in episodes of the Walking Dead. My housemates and I would ‘reward’ ourselves at the end of an evening with a shot of pure horror.
I was scared from the first episode of the first series. Needing to resolve that fear, to get to the ‘happy ever after’ kept me tuning in.
I have spent many episodes watching parts of the show from behind my hands, my head buried in a cushion, with one eye peeking out.
I’ve spent a lot of the heart racing 45 minutes shouting at the stupidity of the characters. I’ve made some bad calls on staying up to watch ‘just one more’ rather than going to bed to get a good nights sleep – all in the insatiable search for resolution.
I’ve been angry at the show for breaking all the rules, giving us too many characters, none of whom we can relate to terribly easily and then, just when we think we’re established with someone – bam (or more like sucking blood type noise and the gnawing of flesh amid screams) they are dead. And then dangerously undead. *Shudder*
By the end of season three I became hardened to zombies and to endless zombie death. Scenes that only weeks earlier would have had me diving for cover and wanting but not wanting to see the horror unfold I now sat through quite brazenly. I was even able to critique whether or not they were ‘good’ zombies from a makeup, costume and acting point of view.
Imagine my horror – forgive the pun – moments into settling down to watch season four this week* to discover that I really didn’t want to watch it.
The Fear was back. My heart pounding, my palms sweaty, my brain reeling from the realisation that this universe had not gone away, that there were still people trapped in this world. I was back to hiding my head in cushions again.
Watching the Walking Dead is exhausting. I invest an enormous amount of emotional energy working out what I would do in the same situation whenever any of the characters find themselves faced with life or death.
To be fair, my emotional engagement in most things is pretty intense. I remember a friend finding me with tears streaming down my face as I read a biography on Virginia Woolf a few years ago. She stopped by to ask if I was okay and was pretty stunned when I looked up and croaked, ‘Virginia Woolf just died’.
But that is the beauty of a story that works. I’ve been compulsively reading a novel (this is bad on at least three counts – (i) that it may have distracted me from more academic reading this weekend; (ii) that (i) is why generally I ban myself from novel reading in term time and (iii) because it was……a bodice ripper, another darned historical novel – shhhhh!).
For the sake of my grades at least I have, thankfully, finally finished it. But again what drew me back and back was that I hated, literally hated, one of the main characters. He was a thorough ‘bad un’ and my leading lady was behaving in a way I thought was really rather pathetic (as well as unethical).
Wanting resolution, wanting the universe to be set right was again the driving force behind my addictive pattern of reading.
Much of my own writing tends to be character rather than plot led. This can mean I spend forever wondering around in a universe with someone who is quite lovely and complicated but doesn’t really have anything to do. Unsurprisingly I lose interest in him/her, decide my idea is rubbish and move on.
With my latest revelation from the weekend I think I’m going to challenge myself in the next few weeks to write each next paragraph in an opposing direction – make the character do the thing I least like/least want them to do and see what happens.
This is after, of course, I have caught up on all my university reading…
(*apologies to @bdesignforge – really happy to watch it again with you?!? Stew and popcorn and whatnot included!)