I recently wrote a post about “customer pain points” and addressing them through future revisions of past published books. One future revision I already did was to address a pain point in the story Zombie Nights where the final assassin had only appeared in the final chapter – I inserted a bit about her earlier in the story and that seems to have resolved that particular issue. Zombie Nights still has two major pain points and a possible path towards their resolution only occurred to me today, after serializing the story on Wattpad and getting the same feedback there.
I wrote Zombie Nights five years ago and through a lucky coincidence it became quite popular on Smashwords and remains so even now. garnering more than 100,000 downloads in its lifetime and still seeing around 10 per day. Future revisions will mean that future readers will encounter a different story, but fortunately for me I remain “nobody nowhere” so I still have this freedom.
The pain points are these: the story ends too quickly, and most readers wanted the zombie to follow the path of helping the homeless when he had the chance, when the charity guru “Cookie” makes him an offer to do so. In the current version, he sort of decides against it, being more compelled by his zombie nature to return to his gravesite, where he meets his sudden demise at the hands of the people who had killed him in the first place.
At the time when I wrote it, this made perfect sense to me, but I discovered that readers identify strongly with the protagonist – any protagonist – and they take the protagonist’s fate personally. It has to be led up to, they have to be guided, if that fate is to be unpleasant (witness the TV series Breaking Bad, where Walter ends up dying, but it was pretty much okay with everyone even though they loved him). Lenghtening Zombie Nights would let me prepare the reader better for the zombie’s fate. And, I could do this lengthening precisely by having him go to Cookie’s and do some work there, or try to. Essentially I want to close that possibility for the reader. That path cannot go anywhere but readers’ imaginations want to think it can. That escape route has to be cut off.
I believe I can still keep the ending exactly the way it is. I would need to extend chapter thirteen, where he turns left instead of turning right, earlier he could turn right first (into the first new chapter) and then later make the exact same fateful choice.
To pick up a story after five years and write new stuff into the middle of it is a challenge, because I will have to re-immerse myself into the story, and write the new stuff in the same voice as the person I was when I first wrote it. Who was that guy anyway and what was he thinking? It could be an interesting challenge.