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The Walking Dead Discussion Nov 10

The Walking Dead post has legs

Coolest Walker

My vote for the coolest zombie ever featured on The Walking Dead.

There’s been some great discussion happening in the comments section of the post about my Walking Dead gripes. I can always count on my Scriptwrecked readers to provide intelligent insights, answers and counterpoint to my posts.

It’s nice to know that there are many others out there whose brains don’t check out just because they’re watching a show about zombies.

One comment in particular was so comprehensive and thought-provoking that I’ve decided to promote it to regular blog post.

Here is “Vector’s” (RRL’s) commentary on some of the logic/science issues that plague The Walking Dead, as he answers the questions I posed.

I have similar questions about the logic of the Walking Dead also. I suspect some of the contradictions are set up deliberately by the writers to cause exactly what we are doing: debating about the show. Now matter what the debate, it’s good “buzz”. Anything to keep peoples interest in a show when it’s over is good.

Okay, that opinion is debatable so I won’t go any further with it. It could be just crappy writing. (Or simply deliberately throwing out logic for cinematic effect or budget)

Here’s my 2 cents on your 3 questions.

I’ll answer them in reverse order as that way one will lead to another.

3. How do you become a walker?

I believe that isn’t the real question you meant to ask. We all know you become a walker from physical transition of the virus (it’s not airborne) it must be transmitted through saliva or blood. There are many real viruses that are spread the same way, each with different levels of how easy they can be spread. The basic rules are a small amount of either blood or saliva in your blood stream is instant infection (from a bite or contusion). Contamination through the mucous membranes (blood or saliva in the eyes or mouth) and possible contamination through blood or saliva on the skin is possible. The problem is that is has never been made perfectly clear yet in the “Walking Dead” world every possible way the zombie virus can be specifically transmitted.

Some viruses can be transmitted through a simple touch of dry skin on dry skin, (of course others are so sensitive that they can be transmitted through close proximity, (airborne viruses), or even by being carried on an inanimate inorganic object (getting a cold from touching an infected doorknob) Most viruses are actually transmitted these latter, easier ways but that would not make for good cinema, unless the point was to wipe out everyone except the immune as fast as possible and focus on the survivors living in the post apoc world (as opposed to focusing on “trying not to get the virus”). BBC’s “Survivors” is one that comes to mind that uses the more realistic way of airborne transmission to good effect. (everybody dies quickly except the immune and the extremely isolated in artificial environments.)

Becoming a Zombie always is transmitted through physical means. It would be stupid if it was airborne. That would take out the “bite” factor that is key to the Zombie genre’s success.

What I really think you were asking is “what’s with all the dead uneaten bodies?” That situation doesn’t make much sense to me either, especially if they were uninfected. I won’t even try to come up with an explanation for that right now, hopefully it will be explained in future episodes. If not I’ll come up with something to justify the crappy writing.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that zombie infection only happens with blood to blood transmission. Saliva and through the mucous membranes might not be enough. That’s the only way I can wrap my head around it. It seems ridiculous that they seem careless when smashing zombie heads when they are afraid of the blood even getting on their skin, but it seems they are realizing that skin contact doesn’t matter. I just wish they would make it more clear.

2. Are the Walkers Dead or Alive?

What is your definition of alive? Spiritual? Biological? One of the definitions of “Alive” is simply “animated”. It’s a relative question that brings in spiritual debate whether the Zombification is supernatural or scientific.

In The Walking Dead it’s made clear that the brain dies. All the synapses that make cognitive thinking and bodily functions shut down, resulting in clinical brain death. The body is dead.
Then the virus takes over the motor part of the brain and uses the body as a host. The body reanimates but is now a vehicle driven by the virus. It is alive, but not the same lifeform it once was. What makes something alive only means that a spiritual or mental or artificial force is moving a “body”. If my brain could be implanted in a car and I still had all my current thoughts, but the car was now my body, wouldn’t that make it “alive”. Is that any different than when I drive a car now? I essentially make the car “come to life”. Does “life” have to rely on biology?
It’s all relative to your spiritual believes really. Take Wall-E for instance. he’s just a robot, no biomechanics, but he’s alive.

One theory is that the zombie virus can only live in the body while it is still “alive” so it’s main purpose is to make the body find food. If the virus just sat in a dead unmoving body, after time the body would dry up and decompose and the virus would die having nothing left to live off of being primarily a parasite.

Another motivation of why the zombies want to eat you could be just for the sole purpose of spreading. Maybe eating for sustenance has nothing to do with the virus and it is just a primal instinct left over in the human brain, the main purpose being the “bite” to spread the virus. The left over primal instinct (remember dude’s wife continually returning to her house?) brings up another point. There is still something left of the “real person”. Is it just residual memories? Is the person’s soul still in the body? Are they trapped knowing what is happening, not able to control? can they control a little? Just that opens up volumes for debate.

That brings up the point of why they eat? Is it just to spread the virus or do they really need the sustenance? Does their digestive system work? but they don’t breath and their heart doesn’t pump, or does it? I think it all does. Depending on how intact the body is would determine how long the zombie would live. All it needs is the brain and nervous system to move. but without a digestive system and a working heart the body would shrivel up and dry up and decompose within weeks. This brings up a whole new world of zombie debate. How much of the bodies systems that sustain life are working, what systems does the virus depend on for longevity?

Look up time lapses of decaying body experiments, it happens faster than you would think. Ever seen a deer on the side of the road dead that the DNR or DoT neglects? It doesn’t last very long (even without scavengers). In reality (a very twisted reality where there actually were existing zombies) I believe the problem would readily fix itself. The zombies would decompose very quickly (within weeks). There would be no flesh for the nervous system to control (it would all fall off the skeleton or be too mushy to pull on the bones). Animated skeletons are not zombies. Although there is plausible scientific explanation for the zombie theory (look up zombie insects and parasites(real world), it’s quite interesting) I’m sure moving skeletons can only be explained by the supernatural.

3. What are the walkers attracted to?

In the walking dead definitely smell. Pluchar’s theory of sight and sound first and smell to confirm makes sense but the plain truth is that the writers of Walking Dead are not sticking to their rules. There are times when only smell attracts the zombies. Sounds always definitely does. But there are times when smell doesn’t. Maybe it depends on the “mood” of the zombie at a given time. That’s the only explanation i can come up with for the zombies blood thirst at one moment and their indifference to scent at another. (perhaps it depends on the level of decay of their sensory organs)

Smelling isn’t only dependent on the nose either. You have to think of how smelling works. Small particles of something float in the air and land on special nerves in your nose. Those nerves send a signal to your brain”hey guess what I found in the air”. Those nerves could be anywhere. You could smell with your bellybutton if you were wired right. Some animals/insects “smell” with antenna, some with their tongue some with their skin. It all depends where the “smelling” nerves are branched out to from the brain. It could be possible that the zombie virus (being a virus that directly manipulates the nervous system, hence the walking) could manipulate the way your body smells (detects particles of something in the air). A zombie may still smell with his nose, but if it rots off he may be smelling with his eyes or ears.

just opinions, what are your thoughts?


The Walking Dead Gripes Nov 07

Safe Slaughter

The Walking DeadMy first gripe with The Walking Dead is that it’s only on once a week. Damn, that show is addictive.

My second gripe is more of an actual gripe. You know how those zombies are highly contagious ‘n junk, right? For instance, in the last episode they were worried about shooting the zombie in the well and contaminating the water supply.

Well then why in the hell is everyone so cavalier about killing the zombies and letting their juices splatter all over their faces? I’m a bit of a germaphobe, but if I were in that world, I’d be the guy in the HazMat suit. Barring that, I’d at least have a gimp mask, or something!

In the season opener. The sexy blond lady stabs a walker with a screwdriver, while screaming at it, with blood spattering all over her open mouth. In the latest episode, the black dude smashes the poor water logged zombie without even thinking about the resulting splash.

There are many more such instances from both seasons. How hard would it be to have the characters at least pull a scarf up over their mouths before Al Caponing the walkers? What’s with all the unprotected slaughter?

Obey the rules of your own universe

When you’re crafting a story, it’s so important to obey the rules of your own universe.

Say you have enchanted stone warriors in your story who can crash through solid cement walls. Well then you can’t have those same warriors succumbing to a punch by Brendan Fraser in the next scene! It takes the believability down a notch.

So here are some things I’m genuinely confused with about The Walking Dead. If there are any super fans out there, perhaps you can enlighten me.

1. What are the walkers attracted to?

In the first season, the zombies could smell the humans. There was even one scene where the good guys had to smear themselves with zombie guts to disguise themselves.

Yet in this season, whole herds of zombies can pass by a bunch of sweaty humans hiding underneath cars. Hell, they even passed by the black dude who had a gaping wound in his arm. Couldn’t they smell the blood? Isn’t it like the scent of freshly cooked popcorn to them?

The Walking Dead
Quick, hide under a car!
In Season 2 it’s like a zombie forcefield.

2. Are the walkers alive or dead?

So I kinda liked the scientific explanation of the walkers at the end of season one. There’s some small primitive part of the brain that is still alive or some such. That avoids the supernatural angle.

But then that raises all kinds of questions. If a small part of the brain is alive, then doesn’t that mean the zombies are alive?

They eat food. We saw the contents of one of their stomachs. So does that mean their digestive system is still working? Maybe these zombies just need a better PR guy.

3. How do you become a walker?

In that big traffic jam they find themselves in this season, there are a bunch of dead bodies just lying around. What did they die of, starvation? Wouldn’t the zombies have feasted on them while they were still alive? And if they did feast on them, wouldn’t that have turned them into zombies?

And if the zombies feast on bodies until there’s almost nothing left, then how come most of the walkers are so intact?

I love The Walking Dead. These are smallish issues, but they do reduce my enjoyment of the show.

Anyone else have a problem with these things, or do I just need to access more of my zombie brain while watching?

How do you spell iPod? Jul 26

Hermione-iPodTypoSpellOne of My Pet Peeves

I don’t know why, but I’d say over 75% of the amateur scripts I read spell iPod in some bizarre way.

Some examples:

  • I-Pod
  • I Pod
  • IPOD
  • ipod
  • Ipod
  • I-pod

I’d be curious to hear from other readers about their experiences. But for me, this mistake pops up with alarming regularity. And whenever I see it, it yanks me out of the script.

My mind starts to wander…

I bet they don’t have an iPod themselves…

What else are they simply winging?

Is this symptomatic of other sloppy errors I’m going to find?

Mind wandering = bad

It’s definitely not the end of the road for a positive review, but it is a bump in the road. The more bumps you have, the less enjoyable the journey.

So please, no more crazy spellings of iPod or iPad!

The one possible exception is inside of dialogue — where you need to spell out odd terms or acronyms to ensure they’re read correctly by those who may not be familiar with the term. Even though I still don’t think it’s necessary, you could make a case for the following use:


Where’s that rectangular thingy? I need to shove it under this table leg.


You mean, a newspaper?


No! It’s small and shiny... well not so shiny any more. I always use it to balance the table. Where did it go?


Wait, are you talking about my I-Pod?!

Perhaps when the iPod was first introduced, it could have been worth it to clarify the pronunciation by capitalizing the first letter, etc.  But these day, I don’t think it’s necessary.

And it’s absolutely not necessary in your action lines. So I’m officially banishing all future iPod misspellings with a Harry Potter spell — Typo-iPodio!

What are some of your pet peeves when reading a script?

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Passive Plagiarism? Nov 07

The Whole Internet Truth

ANOTHER UPDATE:  The Story Department article has been edited and all is well. Thanks everyone!

UPDATE: The article in question on The Story Department‘s web site has been taken down pending review. (P.S. The Story Department is still one of my favorite sources of information on screenwriting)

I consider myself a pretty fair guy. I go out of my way to cite sources of any material I use, and am even happy to promote fellow consultants if I think they’ve got something important to say.

So imagine my surprise when one of my readers pointed out that they found several of my ideas posted in a recent article on The Story Department‘s web site, without any credit.

In this post about passive protagonists, written by Jack Brislee, the following appears:

On the other hand, a passive protagonist displays some or all of the following traits.  He

has no strong desire
does not make decisions
does not pursue a goal
is reactive instead of active
allows someone else to dictate his life

Now here’s what I wrote in my post on the subject of passive protagonists earlier this year:

A passive protagonist is a main character that displays some or all of these traits:

has no strong desire
doesn’t make decisions
doesn’t pursue a goal
reactive, instead of active, as a rule
allows someone else to dictate their fate

Look familiar?

Now obviously the concept of what constitutes a passive protagonist has been around a while, but the expression of this particular concept was unique to my site.

And what about the controversial hook of Jack Brislee’s article — i.e. breaking/bending the rule of no passive protagonists?

Here’s what he has to say:

Even the most rusted on admirers of the traditional Hollywood screenwriting style admit that there are three occasions when the protagonist may be passive –

  • in the first few pages of the script, where the protagonist can be passive in his normal world
  • after the inciting incident, where the enormity of the call to adventure might result in initial refusal.
  • at the end of Act II in the “All is Lost” or “Dark Night of the Soul” moment, when the protagonist, having just been beaten up (physically, mentally or both) is consumed with self doubt and unable to act.

I’m not sure I’d qualify as a “rusted on admirer,” but here’s what I had to say in one of my posts last year:

In a Hollywood script, there really are only three allowable times that your main character can be somewhat passive:

  1. In the first few pages of your script… your protagonist can be somewhat passive in their normal world…
  2. After the catalyst/inciting incident/call to action… Sometimes the hero refuses the call flat out.
  3. When “All is Lost” — usually late in Act II… the hero gets the crap beaten out of them (either physically or mentally or both), and has a moment of crisis. The protagonist takes a moment to wallow in self doubt, after having just endured some form of tragedy or failure.

This one’s especially irksome. The point being made may not be earth-shattering — it’s more like one of those, “Hey yeah, you’re right!” kinda deals — but as far as I know, I was the first one to make the point. Is it too much to ask for a shout out? There are other authors cited in the post, just not me.

I’m happy that Jack Brislee is writing posts that show how some screenwriting rules can be broken.

But plagiarism should not be one of those rules.

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Category: Plagiarism, Rants  | 5 Comments
Dear TV and Movie Vampires Apr 30

Wipe Your Face!Dear TV and Movie Vampires:

As mesmerized as I am by your moonlit adventures, I continue to be confused by several aspects of your behavior. Most notably:

Why do you have so much blood on your face?!

I get it. You love blood. It’s colorful, iron-licious, life-sustaining and all that… but then why does so little of it end up in your damn mouth?

When I eat french fries and gravy, it’s something of a supernatural experience for me — so I can relate. But when I finish my plate and there’s even a weency bit of gravy left — I’ll sop it up with bread. If there’s no bread, I’ll sop it up with more gravy. Bottom line — if there’s any gravy left, it’s because someone’s hidden it from me.

If blood is at least as powerful a tonic to you and your kind, then there must be some other reason why so little of it ends up in your mouth.

False Advertising?

False  Advertising?
Since when do you
ever lick your lips?

Perhaps you are not really vampires. Maybe you are actors that hate the taste of corn syrup and food coloring, and are content to let it run down your face.

Or perhaps your director wants to make sure the viewers know what’s happening in the scene where you bite your victim’s neck with sharp fangs (because we’d all all be really confused if we only heard drinking noises and saw red teeth and lips afterwards).

Whatever the reason — having that blood, that you were so desperately craving moments ago, run down your face instead of into your gullet, breaks the fictive spell (the thrall if you will) of the viewer. It undermines all of the brilliant writing, tension, acting and plot twists that you’ve worked so hard to achieve up to that point.

TV and Movie Vampires — you need to sharpen your act… or possibly your teeth. Maybe that would improve your blood drinking skills.


Bloody Baffled

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