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CODE DRIVER

In my story, I want to have a world in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, but I also want it to feel different from any other interpretation out there. I call my monsters "Odd People" or "Oddities/Odds" for short, because of course I don't want to actually call them Zombies. How do I make some sort of mutated creatures contaminating our world's civilization new and interesting to an brand new audience watching it?

  • How could I structure the introduction of these types of creatures in a way that doesn't feel like treading the same ground over and over again? We all know how much Zombies are over-used these days in modern media. The real reason I want to try this idea at all is because I like designing totally creative mutant zombie creatures, I'm really good at making up body horror in some of my stories. These things aren't like the "undead" zombies, their based on pure science, not magic.

Here's what I have so far:

The zombie apocalypse was not what everyone expected it to be, the “Odd People” are not your ordinary, everyday zombies. Odd People are very intelligent beings, although not sentient like the regular humans they once were, they function on a Hive-Mind style of thinking, and treat all the other infected like those of a partner caste.

They are stunned by water and light, they only walk out in the open when it’s cloudy or at night, and pouring clean water will upset them. On the flip-side, Odd People tend to live the abandoned sewer lines and swim in the sewage, most likely because it is contaminated with unhealthy junk. Where they hate pure water, they feed on the dirty water and illness.

Humans who dare go out into the ruined world and fight back against the hordes of infected soldiers are known as “Code Drivers,” as they drive the code of the new order right into the beast that feeds upon us.

Odd People are only truly vanquished when their weak points are destroyed, luckily enough they can be easily killed by being shot at or punctured with some vial of hot moisture (fire-acid). This process is because the “Red Thorn” within their infected bodies form dense concentrations of the virus that clump together into growths known as “Thorn Bushes” or “Thorn Fruit.” These tumor-like parasites attack the human victim’s most vital organs to transfigure them into their Core, therefore an Oddity’s weak point is usually the brain or sometimes the heart, rarely anywhere else will do.

If a human were to be pricked by one of these Thorn Fruits, they would undergo the virus process, eventually turning into an Oddity. It is called Red Thorn because of the crimson, thorny vines that jut out of an Oddity’s bullet wounds as their limbs get shot off, but if their weak points are still not destroyed, the detached body parts slowly grow back made entirely out of the Red Thorn. The flesh of the dead Odd People molds away, growing all around the walls and floor.

The reason this whole thing started is because a secret government organization wanted to weaponize normal human beings to control guns with their mind, unstoppable warriors dubbed as "Gunsmiths." Their underground bunker was nuked, and the resulting radiation caused the adjacent cities to be infected by a strange virus. Odd People eat the humans who they think are worthless (people who don’t deserve to be infected and transformed), they feed on our DNA to mutate further in the evolution chain.

When the “Red Eye” (red thorn origin) imploded within the Technology Complex, it released a highly potent mixture of energies that were absorbed within the lifeless bodies previously killed. Scientists found the bodies during a cleanup operation, for a moment the people came back to life and acquired the power of “Red Eye.”

Each Oddity of the Odd People has its own job with its own special ability to boot, it all depends on how they mutate their bodies and regenerate their limbs again and again to become stronger.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding! If I may offer a suggestion, would it be possible to reorganize the question to put the more general content (like your final bullet) up front. I think "how do I make an old cliche feel new in my world" is a very valuable worldbuilding question, but there's so much story content in this question that people are going to skip over it (or close) it because we don't answer "Story based questions" which are questions that are too dependent on your particular story to be useful to anyone else. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jul 8 '17 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ You may find my notes on writing questions to be useful. You need to abstract out your question from your story, and not dump your plot/backstory as your post. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jul 22 '17 at 12:30
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I do like the idea of fire being a form of hot moisture.

As for the rest I suggest you watch the Maze Runner movies again but this time take notes. I am sure you did not mean to copy them, but your zombies are perilously close to the Cranks in many respects - the sewer living, the origin story, the sickness etc. The movie version shows the Flare as being some sort of vine / thorn sort of deal.

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Take notes on all the things the movie Cranks are then make your things not that. As for the rest, the same. Go through your description and flag every thing that seems a tired old rehash. Do not throw all of them out because some familiar stuff helps ground a concept. Keep one or two elements of that sort but then riff on the things you have thrown out. If you want to borrow, borrow distantly - sort of like jazzing up beef Burgundy by adding some Nigerian flavors.

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  • $\begingroup$ Odd People do not really look like that at all while they are "alive." Red Thorn is of course, red, but when a human is infected they don't look disgusting or gory, they look monstrous. Their skin changes to some distinct color (green, blue, purple, pale white, etc.) and they lose all their fat. It is only when they die that their Red Thorn starts to grow outward, leaving the whole body to become a tumorous blob. $\endgroup$ – WaterFire .RTH Jul 8 '17 at 19:40
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Put a spotlight on the difference! If your zombies don't behave like the zombies we are used to, start by showing us behaviors which rule out that they could possibly be zombies. Keep us guessing as to what we are looking at, while you slowly reveal what is really going on.

Your Odds differ from zombies in their intelligence, their ability to work as a team rather than a herd, and their hive-mind. Their affinity to corruption is also interesting, but might be difficult to describe quickly during the opening scenes of your story. Their intelligence and ability to cooperate are your most obvious differentiators. Show your zombie horde advancing towards your heroes using swat tactics, covering each other's movements with assault rifle fire and smoke grenades. When they finally have your heroes cornered, have the Odds throw throne fruit at them and then run away without killing anyone. Allow that one of your victim's body armor failed and that they've been scratched by the thrown fruit. Show that victim's transformation beginning as the surviving heroes argue over what to do.

None of your readers will be thinking zombie after an intro like that.

-- additional thoughts --

The major similarity which I see between your story and a dime-a-dozen zombie tale is that you are starting in the middle of the apocalypse. Your Code Divers are up against an established enemy and civilization has already fallen. This is often the starting point for zombie flicks which prefer to reveal their origin stories in an after-the-fact manner.

At it's root, your story is building on the super-slug sci-fi trope; an infesting organism which conquers a living human host and integrates them into a hive/mass-mind in an attempt to conquer the world. You cherry-picked a few zombie-trope concepts, like the bio-weapons research accident and an infestation process which maxes out the body-horror gross scale, but at its core, your story is about individuals against a mass-mind. That is super-slug, all the way.

What you've got that is different from those slug tales is your starting point. Super slug stories tend to start early in conquest as the infested subtly infiltrate our unsuspecting society. You are starting after that initial conquest is complete; when civilization has fallen and the war against the infested is anything but subtle.

You are hanging in between two very well traveled tropes and you are wise to consider how you might differentiate your story from its predecessors. I think you've got plenty of distinct features on the monster side. Time to invest some of your creativity in your heroes. What makes your Code Divers more than just your cookie-cutter good guys?

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  • $\begingroup$ How can I start off my story neither in the middle or before the initial attack from the Odd People? I'm willing to start my story anywhere really, because even before the attack, the story's going to start in our world's future. Also, I should say the Odd People aren't really a hive-mind all together, they can only read each other's thoughts very well while in range, under the rule of a distinct "Leader/Elite," maybe. These alphas are able to control the "hive mind" trait, but how can i change my origin story to explain these abilities? I need more detail, please. $\endgroup$ – WaterFire .RTH Jul 8 '17 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't say that you shouldn't start your story at either the beginning or the middle. I was pointing out that different tropes tend toward different opening scenes, and that yours was apparently breaking that practice. I liked the starting in the middle. I just didn't like your referring to your intelligent adversary as a zombie. As for changing your origin story to explain telepathy, search this site for scientific telepathy. It has been already covered in detail and then some. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 8 '17 at 22:31
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I think, there are two main strategies to win a fight used by zombies: Eider overwhelm your opponents with your numbers or beat them by your superior physical strength/speed.

Make it a well known fact, that your zombies can do neither: Since they rely upon humans as their food or as a replacement for breeding (by making them zombies) or most simply died already, they never reach the numbers of humans and in a fair fight they don't stand a chance.

Of course nobody says that a fight has to be fair. They need to use their intelligence to beat humans (you said that they are smart). They might place traps or wait until humans get careless. They never attack, retreat even, unless they know they will win. Often it is them who hide from humans not the other way around.

But when their chance comes, they are the scary monsters, we know zombies to be. That might happen when there is no light or when the humans are weak for some reason. Because of illness, wounds, children, old people, pregnant women, because the don't carry weapons or simply because they don't work together (or even fight each other). I guess you get the point.

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