Erin Roberts is the winner of numerous literary awards and grants including the Speculative Literature Foundation’s 2017 Diverse Worlds Grant. In 2017, Erin was selected for the ‘Zombies Run!’ training scheme under Naomi Alderman. On completing her training, Erin was kept on as a writer for the exergame and her scripts have been used in the long-form audio narrative. She also has written a short interactive fiction piece which will be featured in the upcoming December issue of Sub-Q. Erin shares her experience of the training programme below.
It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been over two years since I traveled to London for the start of the first-ever Zombies, Run! writing trainee program, ready to learn everything I could about writing for the running-app-meets-audio-drama. As I got ready for my first in-person meeting with co-creator Naomi Alderman and my fellow trainees, I was alternately nervous, jet-lagged, and full of anticipation. Would I ever be able to write a great Sam Yao line or a tightly-plotted mission?
“I was alternately nervous, jet-lagged, and full of anticipation.”
The program began by alleviating a lot of my worry – instead of throwing us into the deep end of immediately writing a zombie mission, Naomi and Rebecca Levene (an author and long-time writer on ZR) talked us through how those missions are structured. We looked at scripts for existing missions and how the scenes within each one build on each other to create a tightly-plotted audio experience with a set goal, continual reasons to run, escalating tension, and ongoing character and emotional development.
Next, we got a chance to put our learning into practice. One of our first assignments on-site was to work together as trainees to write out a potential outline (or beat-by-beat, as we call it) for one of the season 6 missions that the ZR team was actively working on. It had its flaws, of course (we were newbies!), but Naomi and Bex were on hand to talk through what we’d done, told us about similar issues they’d had in the past, and helped us to pare that episode down into one that could potentially be used on the app.
“I even got the chance to listen to words I wrote in missions on the app…”
That structure – learn about something, make an effort to do it, and then learn from what we’d done – is one that we used throughout the training, both in those initial in-person days and the remote training on outlining, season arcs, and script writing that followed. Over time we began writing (and rewriting) our own missions – each time with helpful notes and feedback on how to make the script better. And eventually,I even got the chance to listen to words I wrote in missions on the app and to become part of the regular ZR writing team.
This time with ZR has been an incredible journey, and one I would recommend to anyone looking not just to write for ZR, but to learn to paint a picture with words, plot a good story, execute sharp revisions that make your work better, and convey powerful emotions through character development. Time flies when you’re having fun and learning, and I can’t wait to see what the next two years of working with ZR brings!