I am trying to add some dramatic ‘zombie-virus’ suspense to a short-story about boy-meets-girl young love, which already has an unlikely (but not the first sort of) antagonist

The boy named Ethan is acting out in anger in front of Debbie, the girl, because his father is away fighting in the Middle East (the story is set in the year when The Iraq War started in 2003). Early in the story, Ethan lashes out at a child named Gordie who deems revenge on Ethan for interfering, implied to be a personal and hateful feeling against Ethan

Debbie isn’t patient with Ethan after that,but she doesn’t give up on him, they still walk around when he feels better. One day she takes Ethan’s dog out with her, the dog has fleas and Debbie has lots of bug bites the next day. At school Debbie’s bites worsen, later Gordie finds her in a strange state where she is starting to EAT Ethan.

  1. Ethan’s internal struggle

  2. Gordie’s Grudge (The child who comes between a couple, like in Irwin’s Atonement)

  3. Debbie’s Zombie Form (which is a reminiscent transformation for the dog in Stephen King’s Cujo)

So far it doesn’t seem to be realistic, a sudden zombie-outbreak in a love story. In any other general story. Could I make the story great with these three elements?

  • Your question is currently in the close vote review queue as "off-topic - we don't do what to write? questions here". Could you please edit your question to make it more visible that this question relates to a general process that might be useful for future readers? For example by emphasizing that it's more about how many elements are needed in a short-story? You can use your own writing as an example, but it should be obvious that your question is about more than just your specific example.
    – Secespitus
    May 4, 2018 at 19:47
  • @Secespitus Thanks, you say it’s “more about emphasising” my question for other readers, what if I just changed the title of my question? May 4, 2018 at 20:22
  • That would probably help.
    – Secespitus
    May 4, 2018 at 20:24

3 Answers 3


Tropes are Tools

Quoting/Paraphrasing the mantra of TVtropes: Tropes are not good, tropes are not bad - Tropes are tools.

Some stories have a lot of tropes - TVtropes have a list of them. Some have really few, usually because they are minimalistic in it's style or are trying to do something innovative. Some becomes Ur-examples to new tropes (Seinfield is an infamous example in that it for some today feels boring, been-there-done-that, even though some (if not most) of the ideas used were innovative at the time).

The number of tropes used does not make a story good nor bad, but it gives the reader something to relate to - and can make a story less innovative.

I personally believe that it's good to think about tropes - because even if you don't, your stories will end up having tropes either way. That does not mean that you should shoehorn them in, of course!

By the way - what you are basically writing is Warm Bodies in reverse (A zombie apocalypse story that becomes a love story) - which by the way is not necessarily a bad thing, if it gives the reader/watcher a sense of familarity and/or expectation (and prehaps suprise!)

  • Warning: I've assumed that you have the self-control to not get engulfed into the world of TV-tropes while reading the links above.
    – Alicecold
    May 7, 2018 at 15:18

I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at. Because there's no rule, no guideline, that can help explain this away. It's about knowing your core audience, and what they want. Let me explain.

If you go on YouTube, and you look at "tropes I hate" or "cliches I hate" videos, you'll get some trends. But you need to understand that really, they're talking about tropes/cliches that are either overused, or poorly used.

No one has ever read a well-written story and said, "You used too many tropes, mate." Ever.

Tropes are nothing more than literary shortcuts, used for saving time or because they resonate with the intended core audience. If, for example, you are writing a romance for women between 28 and 40, you're going to have a boatload of cliches you cannot leave out.

It doesn't matter the length of it, simply because the point of a story is to make the core audience happy with it. If you can write it well with no tropes (and I really can't imagine a means of doing just that, given the staggering amounts of tropes out there), then good on you. If you use nothing but tropes every other sentence, that's fine too.

What you should instead focus on is who wants to read this (who are you writing for) and what do they expect. Then you decide if you want to consciously go with that, or go against it (within the confines of guidelines from whichever medium you publish with/via).

Just go on tvtropes (I refuse to put a link, because I'm not going to take responsibility for anyone who loses a months of their lives going back into that addictive pit of tropes), and you'll see the sheer scope of what constitutes a trope. So you can hardly go more than five words without invoking at least one.

(Specifically, you aren't talking about tropes, but about theme and setting. Zombie apocalypse, love, and life versus death. And really, those three things are common for this type of story. What you need to focus on is making it feel real enough to encourage immersion and the suspension of disbelief, because vampires and zombies aren't real, but people enjoy writing about them and reading about them all the same.)

  • On paragraph 2 what is ‘tends’? May 5, 2018 at 9:54
  • @EdmundFrost Trends. Corrected, sorry.
    – Fayth85
    May 5, 2018 at 12:53

You're much too meta.

Don't think about "tropes", when you write. Think about the story you want to tell.

If your story is about a zombie virus, then that's the story you need to write. Whether it will be a good story will depend on your mastery of the craft. Anything can be told well. And if what you write turns out to be told badly, then you will have learned something for your next story.

Because, a writer is someone who writes the next story.

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