Playing A Game
“Playing a Game” came out of one of the most useful pieces of writing advice I have ever encountered. As a writer, it is more or less inevitable that one will cling to a piece far past the point at which it is rationally clear that it Just Isn’t Working. One technique that perfectly addresses this phenomenon could be called the “scrapyard method”, but I think grave robbing is a more apt metaphor in this case.
The idea is simple. In every ill-fated, festering, abomination of a half-formed creative effort, there is a flash of something awesome: a character we love, a setting described in such a way that it captures the essence of a place, or a great piece of dialogue. It’s these glimmers of something better that keep us hanging on; the enchanting eyes or silken hair that keep us cuddling a fetid corpse.
When it comes time to cut ties with a piece that isn’t working, I’ve found it a useful exercise to go through the story to copy and paste those elements that have kept the piece alive. You put them in a document of such snippets so that they may one day be resurrected should the opportunity present itself.
“Playing a Game” was sprouted from one of these little snippets:
“Do you think I can ever love you again? That’s ridiculous. I know that I once loved you, and I know what that once meant and I know how that felt when . . . I . . . could . . . feel
“That is irrelevant now. I can’t make my heart flutter at the sight of you. I can’t give myself that warm glow in the pit of my stomach. All I can do is look at the man who has trapped me in this prison of flesh and feel the hate vibrate within me.
“I now know that we are all just electrified meat. Steaks and chops and quarts of blood given the illusion of life by chance electrons coursing through this buffet. We, the dead, eat you the living because we want you to know what we know and because we still hate you.”
That little monologue originally belonged to a zombie screenplay that never quite became what I would have liked. The character of the scientist turned zombie who had retained the capacity for speech, strategic thinking, and brutal psychological torment of her former lover stuck with me.
When Stacey Turner at Angelic Knight Press put out a call for zombie erotica, this monologue immediately popped back into my head, though in an entirely different setting. A story was soon born, feasting on the flesh of its fallen comrade and finding new-found strength.
The original monologue was not originally part of an erotic sequence, but rather the (anti)climactic scene when the lover tried to convince our zombie queen to direct the zombie hordes away from the last outpost of civilization. Ye Gods, did I mention that the screenplay didn’t really work out?
Once the notion of zombie erotica was put on the table, it was easy to focus on the monologue’s reductive view of human anatomy. The notion of our sexy zombie queen making use of that knowledge to torment her lover in a more intimate setting was just too good to pass up.