Instructions How to Write

Personal Narrative

You’ve been bitten and rather than turning full skel you’ve become a straggler. Where do you go? What do you do there? Is this a place that has particular significance because of a positive or negative association? Or is this a place that you have been often and thus represents your life because of your repeated visits? Is it a place you love, or one that you’re not particularly fond of? What does the place look like post zombie apocalypse? How long after the apocalypse is it? And how can you tell? And how are you going to communicate that to the reader? What did this place look like before? Has it been looted? Has it been used in any capacity since “last night?” Is it useful at all? Is it secure? And, again, what details are you going to use to communicate that to the reader? What you’re trying to do is tell the story of you, and your relationship to a place, through the lens of the zombie apocalypse.

This should not be written in the first-person perspective from your perspective. Remember, you are a straggler, forever trapped in a moment, incapable of the kind of coherence required to construct a cogent narrative. The first person would also limit you to your own observations of what is happening in your immediate surroundings, where other perspectives create opportunities for you to explore and enable you to include, if you choose, details that extend beyond the scope of a first-person narrator’s observations. So which perspective are you going to use and who, if anyone, else is going to be in the story? Zone One features three-person sweeper teams that often play a game called Solve the Straggler. You could frame your narrative around such a sweeper team discovering you and playing Solve the Straggler. What would you look like to a team of sweepers during Reconstruction? Or a group of survivors during the interregnum? What about to someone discovering you 50 or 100 years in the future, after the events of the zombie apocalypse, and particularly the ways of the old world, have largely been forgotten? You could frame the story in the second person where your narrator describes to the straggler (you) where the straggler is and what the straggler is doing and why the straggler is there. Or you can either use Whitehead’s language to refer to different periods of time (i.e. the old days, “last night,” interregnum, reconstruction) as well as to other ideas that are pertinent to telling your story or you can invent your own, but there should be some way for your reader to understand the frame of reference if you’re going to be describing things that happened during different periods. Keep in mind that language represents an important form of understanding, but also of control. There’s a power in naming, so think about the power conveyed by the words you use.
As a straggler, your entire existence occupies a single moment. In telling your story, how much do you want your narrative to extend outside that moment? This is entirely up to you as a matter of style. Do you want to include your “last night story?” Or an account of how you became infected? And again, whose perspective is that story going to come from?

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