The phenomenon of “Walking Dead” isn’t really surprising. They tell a damn good story. And it’s ZOMBIES! Who doesn’t love a good zombie flick?
But it isn’t the zombies that make Walking dead great. In fact, the zombies don’t always play a huge role in the story. They are an obstacle for the characters to overcome. They are a background. But they are not the true focus of the story.
The major theme in movies like “Resident Evil” and “28 Days Later” is the zombies. How did they happen? How do they escape from them? How many interesting ways can we kill them? How much blood can we show on screen?
“Walking Dead” centers around the survivors, their interactions, and their characters. How do they cope with being alone? How do they interact? Who do they turn to?
Themes of racism, adultery, survival, and family overshadow the zombies. The zombies are present, and often become tools used by the writers to pull the characters together, or push them apart, but the zombies are not the theme of the story.
“Walking Dead” showcases how a character driven story can really captivate an audience no matter what the backdrop of the story may be. They managed to take something that is usually used as a two hour show and stretch it into two seasons of some of the best TV I have seen in a while. This is, of course, my opinion, and I am partial to zombie movies, so take that with a grain of salt. However, the ratings don’t like. People love this show.
Remember this in your own writing. A great book is usually about the interaction between characters, not the sensational item. Throw in a zombie, a dragon, a wizard or a spy. If your characters don’t make us feel something (amazement, sadness, laughter, edge of our seat suspense) then we won’t care to come back and read again.