Groundhog Day. We all know the movie. We all love the movie. That is when Bill Murray has the same day happen to him again and again and again. I grew up in the frozen ghettos of Northern Wisconsin; I knew what reliving the same day after day after day felt like. No, it isn’t the absolute death of culture that I was trapped in that made me feel like Groundhog Day, rather it was NBC playing the Night of the Living Dead every–single–night before having the station sign off.
That’s right. The one channel (we sometimes got PBS for Doctor Who…sometimes) our tin foil laden television (now with colour!) could pick up was NBC. Let that sink in for a bit.
The good news is, the Night of the Living Dead kicked some major booty. It was scary. It was intense. It was what hope could be if not stomped on by every other creature on this blue marble of ours. I won’t bore you about the story. I will, however, tell you what lesson we can learn as writers from this masterpiece.
Struggle sells. We rooted for the man to survive. He almost did. Almost. Why did he have to die? Think of it: Why do we have our ‘favourite’ characters live in our stories? Does your audience connect with those stories? I’m guessing they don’t. Why not? Because life isn’t like that. We like to see, even in fantasy, something real happen. Throw a car at your protagonist. See how she gets out of the way. Hell, even Superman died. Why? Because he became boring. Kryptonite wasn’t his weakness–not having a real one was. The same applies to the Living Dead. He dies because he has to.
Who do you have in your own story that is ‘too precious’ to throw a curve ball? Maybe a favourite character or even a line (darling) you just can’t toss. My suggestion, and that of Romero, is to kill them (or at least toss a car their way).