Jackson Dean Chase has carved out something of a niche for himself with his series of phrase books and guides to writing. Sure, there are a lot of general self-help writing books out there but not so specifically tailored to the dark fiction genre and certainly not with the author’s inimitable style. He is well qualified to write such a book seeing as he is a best-selling horror and YA author, as well as having an encyclopaedic knowledge of horror films and the zombie phenomenon in particular.
The book is structured with extensive footnotes and cross references which make study of this craft very clear without slowing up the narrative. The introduction sees Jackson lay out the attraction with zombie/post-apocalyptic culture and why it continues to draw a horde of fans. He also makes it clear that the advice presented not only applies to zombies but any aspect of post-apocalyptic fiction. So don’t be put off if you’re not that much into zombies. The principles here will help no matter what your personal preferences are : vampires, plague victims or post-nuclear civilisations.
The main chapters work in an orderly manner beginning with how to start your story, they lay out the common apocalyptic scenarios before moving on to how a writer can flesh these out into unique and original stories that have in-depth characterisation and vivid descriptions. He deals successively with stages of the apocalypse, how infections can be spread, types of zombies and even includes a custom zombie builder and reading/viewing list for your research.
One massive attraction to this book is the passion that the author has for writing and post-apocalyptic fiction, and the way he makes you believe you can actually write your own book and produce a quality story. After studying just the first couple of chapters I was fired up to start writing a dystopian story I had been allowing to ferment for the last twelve months. This flurry of activity was fuelled by Jackson’s exhortation to NOT SKIP the writing exercises he puts at the end of the chapters.
One final caveat, and Jackson would be the first to point this out, his scaffold is exactly that. A structure allowing you to build a unique story with your own writing voice. It is not a recipe for concocting formulaic tropes – there are enough out there already. So, if you’d been hesitating to take the plunge and write your own zombie short story, novel or screenplay, here is a book that provides all the tools and encouragement you will need.