I introduced a young person (called Raven) who the main character was friends with in my story; Raven is an excellent student who the main character is also teaching music to. The story is the result of experimenting with Discovery Writing.

This character is one of the many others in the story - most of whom appear in flashback scenes , Raven doesn’t show up again until seven more chapters later when his body is discovered by the villian who wants to do something bad with his remains. Only he comes back to life, when he’s killed again and again he keeps coming back to life.

The problem is is that he is the only other character with supernatural powers, or a technical curse - What sort of creature that was once human (not like Gollum from Tolkien’s work) gets back up and fixes itself like **Christine ** the car by Stephan King?

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    You could call it wherever you like, as this is your story: Immortals, Revenants, Awakens... It's your choice, but I would avoid zombie, because of the current conotation of it and association with famous series and blockbuster movies.
    – Chaotic
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 19:27
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    Hm, someone named after bird of Corvus genus, that came back from the dead, and now is almost immortal. It reminds me something.
    – user28434
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 12:14

6 Answers 6


Not a traditional zombie

There are many ways to label this kind of creatures. Zombie doesn't quite fit, as they normally only regenerate once in the sense that they are coming back to life. But their bodies are still the way they were when they died and they normally can't regain lost limbs. Zombies tend to be quite dumb, too.

Many opportunities depending on the style

Depending on the style of the regeneration you could draw inspiration from different existing works of fiction. The names however should be used carefully. You want to show some measure of originality to make them your own.

Frankenstein for example created a monster from different body parts. If your character can simply take limbs he finds lying around and sew them to his body this might be an ideal source of inspiration.

Doctor Who can regenerate completely, too. Each time in a completely different body, though and as far as I remember there was a limit for how often timelords can normally regenerate.

Markus Heitz used the term "Soul Wanderer" in his book "Exkarnation - Krieg der alten Seelen" (as far as I know there is no english translation of this german book - it basically means "excarnation - war of the ancient souls") for a concept where souls come from one source and normally return there - but there are a few who can inhabit a different body once their old one dies and thereby "escape" the normal cycle of rebirth.

Vampires can also regenerate as long as there is no sunshine and there was no silver or holy symbol involved. The same applies to werewolves and other werecreatures.

Often Fey, Elves and other magical creatures like dragons, anthropomorphic unicorns (Elder Races Series) are described as having heightened regenerative abilities - what looks to normal characters like a sure death may feel like an inconvenience to magical creatures of any kind.

Necromancers are often playing with the dead. Ensuring yourself won't become one of them is just a necessary and obvious step. Often this can result in a lich, who may never die as long as you don't destroy his phylactery.

The anime Ajin has a complete recovery, no matter how you kill such an Ajin. Except for one thing: they have a shadowy impersonation of their emotions that helps them regenerate and can only be seen by other Ajin. If one Ajin destroys the "head" of another Ajin it is killed and the person is really dead.

You could simply go with "immortal soul", "devil", "demon" or any other such, often evil, creature and just say that your version works the way it does in your world.

Conclusion - do what you feel is right

Choose a name and be consistent. Or don't choose a name.

Who says that the character has to know what he is?

  • This is too small addition to be a whole answer, so I hope you can add this to yours. In Dragonlance series one of the major characters was Berem Everman who kept coming back to life for no apparent reason (it was explained later in the books), so another archetype will be cursed mortal. Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 9:49

What you're describing doesn't meet the conventional description of a zombie. Whether this matters or not is up to you. Every work with zombies in it has a different idea of what is and isn't a zombie. If you want to call your character a zombie that's OK. You could also call your character a half dinosaur, clown soul, or never label what they are in the text.

The only one who can answer the question "Is my character a zombie?" is you.


You could be describing an immortal, in many such descriptions it looks like they are killed, but they magically heal their wounds and rise. For example, the Outlander series. Usually they can only be killed by some secret formula (chopping off the head, a particular potion, or destroying Dorian Gray's magical portrait, or a wooden stake through the heart of a vampire).

In most zombie stories, their bodies are dead and rotting and continue to decay; and their brains reduce them to basically animals that feel no pain.

  • But immortal means immune to all causes of death. If only some causes such as disease and age are they immune to dying from, that is technically speaking a semi-immortal.
    – Caters
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 5:22
  • @Caters Fair enough; but a minor distinction. Outlanders could be chopped up, burned alive, riddled with machine gun bullets: They could be killed by ONLY one thing, a completely severed head. Vampires are similar, a stake in the heart or a severed head. NO illness or bodily injury could kill Dorian Gray. They are all described as "immortals", for lack of a better word, so the common usage of the word, in writing, does not match the literal meaning of it.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 11:36

I agree with Chaotic's comment:

You could call it wherever you like, as this is your story: Immortals, Revenants, Awakens... It's your choice, but I would avoid zombie, because of the current conotation of it and association with famous series and blockbuster movies. – Chaotic 8 hours ago

To expand on it, the word "zombie" is now associated with a particular genre of stories with associated tropes. Using that word would suggest to your readers that you will be making use of those tropes in some way (either playing them straight, or subverting them—although many things that could be thought of as "subversions" of the stereotypical zombie traits are also fairly well-explored by now).

Your use of the words "body" and "remains" in the description, as well as the sentence "Only he comes back to life, when he’s killed again and again he keeps coming back to life," make make me feel like the word revenant that Chaotic mentioned would be a good choice. It is not a new word by any means, but it is nowhere near as well-known as "zombie", which means people won't have so many preexisting expectations about what a revanant should be like. It literally means "returning" or "coming back" in French, which fits your description of someone who died, but comes back. It has been used in various ways in fantasy literature as a term for an "undead" entity, but I don't think any of the portrayals has become overwhelming or thought of as definitive (unlike the similar word "lich", which started out as pretty much just a synonym for "corpse" but which is now stongly associated for many people specifically with the Dungeons and Dragons portrayal, basically "an undead sorceror with a 'soul jar' that is called a 'phylactery'", as mentioned in Secespitus's answer).


Based on your mention of Discovery Writing, maybe you are or you aren't; perhaps you haven't "discovered" it yet.

It might be that what you're describing is some form of resurrection or "zombification curse". Your mention of curse reminds me of the Dark Souls series of video games, in which the player character and many NPCs are "undead" but have retained (at least some amount of) sanity. The player can and likely will die often. An undead's dying can lead to it becoming hollow, a state characterized by little or no sanity and decayed flesh. Depending on the game, this hollowing has different gameplay effects on the player.

If you're definitely wanting to distance yourself from stereotypical zombie traits, you can figure this out yourself with research and playing with it. Ultimately, like other answers have stated, it is up to you; however, since you're writing by the seat of your pants, you may not even know yet. Perhaps your thoughts now are that your character may not be a "traditional zombie", but maybe you'll find something out later.


Definitely not a traditional zombie. There are alternative depictions of zombies which you might want to draw on, but all of them have more zombie-like characteristics than you describe. Still, the film Warm Bodies and the British TV series In the Flesh are worth looking at, for characters who start as traditional zombies and come back to being human. Game of Thrones also has some resurrected characters, although they lose some of their ability to feel human emotions each time they are resurrected (and the longer they stay dead). You may need to decide whether the person comes back exactly as they were, or whether some part of them is lost when they come back.

Assuming you want them to come back as they were, other answers have referenced Doctor Who. They're close, but not quite there. The character you need is Captain Jack Harkness. His body regenerates, no matter how badly damaged - one episode features him regenerating from nothing more than a pile of scorched bones after being literally blown to pieces in an explosion. He's basically human, but with a handwavy pseudoscience reason for regenerating. It's all just a magic spell, basically. Another Doctor Who character Ashildr (Me) is also unable to die, although she is not shown as regenerating in the same way. The immortals in Highlander are similarly unable to die, and heal almost immediately from any wound except decapitation. And of course you've got vampires - Interview with the Vampire, for example.

This should give you some reference points for your own interpretation. You may somewhat be asking the wrong question though. A creature's nature is not defined by its name, it is defined by what it does. And the story is not really about how it got those powers, it's about what it does when it has them. (Every superhero has an origin story, and they're always the boring exposition part of the character arc.) Some of the best supernatural films like Groundhog Day don't even try to explain it - they simply roll with it.

What makes the writing around Doctor Who, Highlander and Lestat compelling is not that those characters can't (easily) be killed, but the effect this has on them and those around them. To start with, it's great that they can't be killed (Connor Macleod has a brilliant duel scene), but eventually they all realise that they're going to keep living while everyone they love dies. Are you going to stick with this trope too? Or are you going to allow them to die of old age, even though everything else heals? Good character writing isn't just showing what they do, it's showing what they think about what they do.

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