Before starting this…if any of you haven’t read the story “Shelter” in Imagine Magazine, or the acommpanying side stories, “Walker Road” and “Rotting Apples”…this article may contain some light *spoilers*! So…be warned!
Some years back, when I was asked by readers if I would ever write a zombie apocalypse story for the Shack, I said that I would only do it if I thought I could bring something ‘new’ to the table. I didn’t just want to write the typical zombie story and add a gay teen romance to it. I wanted to think up something that might be considered fun and creepy, interesting and unique. Considering that zombie stories have been done a billion different ways in movies and television (You might even say….they’ve been done to DEATH! ::Snickers:: Ehh? Right. Sorry.), I couldn’t think of anything original to add to the whole concept. I didn’t think it was possible.
But, eventually, I gave the idea a try. Just a one time story that was more about the actual shelter that people were using to escape the carnage outside than the zombies themselves. That’s ultimately where the continuing chapters came from.
I didn’t expect it to go over as well as it did, especially since the walking dead were more of a backdrop for the plot than anything else. So, much like I did with the very first chapters of “New Kid In School” and ‟Gone From Daylight‟, I wrote the first chapter with an ending that COULD be added on to, but could also end right then and there and still be satisfying to anyone who stumbled across it and wasn’t looking for any further developments.
Jump ahead a few years, and I noticed that the “Shelter” storyline was still getting new fans and requests for it to continue. And since the site was re-launching Imagine Magazine, I figured that would be the perfect place for me to build the new series up and have it get deeper into what was actually going on during this chaotic crisis that I had put into motion with the first chapter. However, one problem remained. How do I make the ‘Comicality’ version of a zombie apocalypse different from the many many versions that came before it? Especially since I LOVE zombie stories/movies/TV shows…and they’re my main inspiration? It took a while and a LOT of notes and crazy ideas…but I think I found my answer! And I hope the readers will enjoy my horrific spin on the zombie idea as it unfolds over the next few chapters. I want to do with the zombie genre what I tried to do with the vampire and werewolf genres in “Gone From Daylight” and “Savage Moon”. Where it feels familiar and relatable in terms of the legends and mythology that readers are used to…but it will also offer enough twists and new concepts to give readers a whole new experience and a different perspective on the idea. It’ll be an adventure for me too, believe me! Hehehe!
Making “Shelter” into a full blown series instead of just a simple stand alone story took a lot of thought and planning before I even got started. Now…I, personally, love having an ensemble cast of characters to work with whenever I’m writing. Different backgrounds and personalities to add some depth and complexity to the storyline itself. So my first task was creating my list of superstars to carry this series in all of the directions that I wanted it to take. That’s always the fun part! Hehehe! It IS! I love it! I get to develop their attitudes and personalities, one at a time…and then I get to personally build a collection of back stories to explain WHY they are who they are. I take time to figure out how they’ll interact with one another in a place where they were all just kind of thrown into this hostile situation without really knowing one another prior to the last week or so of being trapped in this giant high school fortress together. Creating these brand new characters was extremely fun for me, and I hope that will be evident in the story itself over time.
I think the story plot that I had in mind got increasingly more detailed as the characters became more defined in my head. Those fictional creations started to take the story in ways that I hadn’t even considered in the beginning. I’m used to having that happen, but it was exceptionally easy this time around. I can’t tell you why, but thank goodness for great inspiration! Sometimes, a story just ‘feels’ right, you know? You put the pieces of the puzzle together and you can’t stop until you see the completed picture for what it is.
The ideas for the spinoff stories came next.
I definitely wanted “Shelter” to be a constant and dependable part of Imagine Magazine, with frequent updates every issue, but with the introduction of all of these new characters and personalities…it was going to take quite a while to fully develop them all individually in the main story without slowing things down to a snail’s pace. I wanted to let readers explore each one of them, giving everyone an opportunity to learn about these people one by one, and providing a little action before the coming storm. So I decided that it might be better to deliver all of the character backstories through a collection of solitary, 3-part, mini series that all stood on their own and were all told from that character’s point of view. Something short and sweet and to the point, telling the tale of the lives they led before coming to the high school, and what they each went through in order to survive the horrors outside of their newly appointed comfort zone.
I was surprised at how quickly I was able to find boys in movies and online that fit my character ideas PERFECTLY when I was putting that first ‟Shelter‟ story trailer together! There were some that blew me away, and I got super excited all over again as I found clips and music to make a trailer that I thought would truly give this new ‟Shelter‟ series the visual appeal that I was looking for. That was something else that just fell in my lap as I was seeking out the material I needed. Making those YouTube trailers is a difficult process, but it truly relaxes my brain when the writing overwhelms me. It makes the writing better when I take breaks and do something else, even if just a little bit at a time. The first ‟Shelter‟ trailer allowed me to bring all of these new characters to life, and I was shocked at how many scenes I found that ‘fit’. Spinoffs and all. So that was another small accomplishment that I was proud of with how it turned out! Hehehe!
The first spinoff story to hit the site and further promote ‟Shelter‟ definitely had to be “Walker Road”, telling the story of a young boy who got caught in the middle of the rapid breakdown of society and was forced to live on his own in complete isolation without any human contact whatsoever for well over a month! That was the first story that I wanted to tell. It was so VIVID in my mind, even before I wrote the first sentence of the story. “Walker Road” sets the standard for all of the spinoff stories to follow, so I wanted it to paint the right picture of what the immediate onslaught would be like, tragedies and all. The idea that all of society could suddenly dissolve into confusion and utter madness SO fast is absolutely terrifying! Anyone old enough to remember the morning of 9/11 knows exactly how fast human history can change in a matter of hours. It was that kind of intense shut down of our sense of sanity and security that I wanted to bring to this series…followed by the threat of what may still be coming our way in the future. “Walker Road” was the perfect prototype for that. I’m kind of proud of that story and how it turned out.
Then comes Donovan’s personal story, “Rotting Apples”. This one surrounds a character who hasn’t really had the best of experiences with every day ‘reality’ as others would see it, and is left to wonder if maybe a complete upset in a supposedly civilized society is exactly what was needed. He’s a bit more conflicted as a character. A little older than the others in the ‟Shelter‟ story, Donovan spends a lot of time detaching himself from his own emotions, trying hard not to care about much of anything for fear that it will somehow pierce the armor he uses to defend his heart. A heart that may be a lot more vulnerable than he’d like to admit it is. I definitely wanted his story to be the next in line. He’s no angel, not by any means…but he’s hardly the delinquent that others may assume he is either.
Before the next issue of Imagine, the “Shelter” spinoffs will continue on with the story, “Miles To Go”, featuring the slightly awkward character of Preston Miles and the life he was a part of just before the viral outbreak, and introduces him a spotlight role as the ‟Shelter‟ story continues. I really do hope that you guys will enjoy the spinoffs. And look for more to come.
Naturally, any reader can pick up the ‟Shelter‟ series without reading any of the spinoffs at all, and get just as much out of it. The mini stories are all just bonuses if you wanted to know more. Either way, have a blast!
This has been ‘Comsie Talks’ for the month of March! Take care! And I love you all!