Storytelling: Everyone Has a Life, Even a Zombie

by Ken Mueller on October 9, 2012 · 5 comments

The Walking Dead

I love to read, as well as watch compelling movies and television shows. Through Netflix I’ve been enjoying a number of shows that tell great stories. One of these is The Walking Dead, the zombie apocalypse tale from AMC. I actually had no interest in this show when it first went on the air, mostly because the idea of “a zombie show” held no real appeal for me. But earlier this year I noticed that a number of my friends were talking it up on Facebo0k, and because I trust their opinions, I decided to give it a try. (Yes, I could make this a post on the power of online word of mouth and influence, but I’ll save that for another day).  I’ve fallen in love with the program, not because of the zombies, but because of the writing and the story it tells. I’m intrigued by the characters and their development over time.

You see, in a show like this, or any show, or book, each of the characters has his or her own story. But with books and movies, it is the writer or author who determines whose stories we focus on. They are known as the main characters. But what about the others? In The Walking Dead, the focus is on a few different characters, and at times, certain episodes might focus more on one character over another. There are several main characters, and a few peripheral characters. But if the writers had wanted to, they could have  chosen an obscure character who shows up in just one scene for a few seconds, and have created an entire story and written an entire  new series about that character. We would learn more about that character and what his or her part in the greater story might be.

In our lives, we are the main character. This is our story. But everyone who crosses our path, from family members and friends, to mere acquaintances, or even the woman who waits on you one time in a restaurant, they all have stories. In their stories, they are the main characters, and you might just be a supporting character, or perhaps just have a cameo role.

In The Walking Dead, we see some of the main characters as they turn into zombies. But most of the zombies walking the land are just generic zombies, whose only job is to shuffle across the screen for a few minutes and perhaps take one to the head and die (again). With the main characters, even after begin zombified (is that a word?) we know their story. But all those other zombies, they have stories, too. Each of them was a person at some point, with a life, and family, a job, and so on. They were human once.

Some people become a bigger part of our story than others, but it’s not just about us and our story. What about their story? What about the waitress who spilled the drink on your table? Do we lash out at her based on that one particular scene in the part of the story that we share with her? Or do we understand that she too has a story, and that some aspect of that story might explain why she was having a bad day?

As we scroll through our Twitter feed and see what people are posting in 140 characters are less, do we understand that that one tweet is just a small portion of their story, and not the sum total of who they are? And when we read through our Facebook newsfeed, we need to recognize that we are merely seeing slices of life; the slices that people choose to share with us. Some share a lot (or perhaps too much) while others reveal very little.

The customers writing on your wall, they have a life and a story, of which you are only a very small part. They might play an important part in your story, but your part in their story might be rather insignificant.

You know your story inside and out, but take a look at what you choose to share on Facebook and Twitter. If that’s all that others knew about you, would they get a good sense of who you really are, or would it be a skewed perspective?

Everyone has a story and a life that exists outside of our contact with them; outside of the confines of Facebook and Twitter. Stories are important, but your story is no more important than theirs. As you tell your story, don’t forget about their story.

With that in mind, how does that change the way you read the stories of others? And how does it change the way you look at your story?


I highly recommend reading the graphic novel series. It's a powerfully gripping story that makes the TV series pale in comparison.  

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