The Power of Fiction: Jasmine M. Sarmiento on The Walking Dead

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Can you believe we're already half-way through this series? We've talked about Peter Pan, we've talked about The Avengers - we discussed the influence of writers like Ellen Hopkins and characters like Harold Fry. This week, we'll be hearing from writer Jasmine M. Sarmiento, who has been influenced from works like A Series of Unfortunate Events all the way to AMC's The Walking Dead. Like me, and like many of us, Jasmine has had a long-term relationship with fiction throughout her life. Today, we'll hear about how that relationship has shaped her, changed her, and affected her. 

by Jasmine M. Sarmiento

Fiction is a strange thing – ranging from movies, television, to a made-up story spewed forth by a second-grade girl on a playground in some Midwest town – it's everywhere, but somehow, it's fantastical glow has fizzled out into background noise for most people. I've always been drawn to fiction and even now, I am a hopeless passenger to every word in a novel and every scene of a movie – being dragged forward by a desire to continue the creation of a new world that I otherwise would not know. This keeps me stumbling far past the pages and the end credits because a story is never really over for me until I've exhausted ever means of keeping that flame alive is consumed and this has brought me so much more enjoyment than just settling for what's given - it's the theories of what could have been (or in most cases, what should have been), it's the fan art that breathes new life into characters that have been tragically forgotten or underdeveloped for the sake of moving a plot forward, it's the re-runs and re-reads trying to discover more. Although there are thousands of people who engage with fiction like this, it's looked down on by most people who see it as a waste of time or more often, who see it as childish. I've always taken more than what's been given with most media since fourth grade – The Series of Unfortunate Events pushed me to make an elaborate system of pulleys and baskets to get my stuffed animals from up bed to the shelf of dollhouses above it because Violet Baudelaire was an inventor and I wanted to do what she did – and that never really stopped. It's become less hands-on over the years, but there's always a spark of inspiration when I finish something that I don't think will ever fade.  

Growing up, the idea of the first work of fiction that had a significant impact on my life was The Walking Dead, which is fitting considering that it was the show that first introduced me to Lexi. Anyone that knows me personally, knows that The Walking Dead held a significant place in my heart from when I was in 6th grade to my sophomore year in high school. Just about five years of my life, it was the only thing that I cared about; those characters and their stories became an odd little safe haven for me. W I'm not going to sugar coat or lie it, I used to write fan fiction for The Walking Dead when I was in 6th grade, but those stories are deleted from public view under an alias I don't remember, most likely nestled in some server permanently and hopefully re-purposed as some kind of paper product because I hand-wrote them in a series of about seven composition books before I started posting it online. It's was a weird time for me because I've never really had friends, I would talk to people but I've never had anyone outside my family to talk about the show with, and suddenly people were there. For the first time, I was a part of a community and I had friends, which is something I never really thought would come from just indulging my own little stories. After each episode, people would message me with their thoughts and theories and I would do the same, it was the first time that I had people to talk to about something that I actually was interested in on the same level of excitement that I had. It's hard to put into words the sudden relief that I felt when I was able to talk to other people about The Walking Dead and my own feeling about the show without the look of "You're a freak" that I would get in school. Not only did it help me make friends, who I still talk to today even after I stopped watching the show, I was honestly inspired to write because of the show. The whole fan fiction aspect died quite quickly, but I found myself writing more personal pieces – from short stories to attempts at full-length novels, and small collections of words that never fit into other pieces but I could never give up. The show inspired me to do something that I never really thought that I would love as much as I do. Writing has always something that I would try on and off throughout my childhood, but I would always stop because I was too embarrassed to continue it, let alone publish it for other people to read, which is why I owe a lot of my own confidence in writing to the show. Without the show, I would have never published any work of mine and I would have never gotten the encouragement from others to continue growing and expand as a writer.

Delving a little deeper into the reason that The Walking Dead is such an important work of fiction is the characters really inspired me. The words "My favorite Character" come out of my mouth frequently, an ever-changing and mood-based preference from every fandom I've been in since I was little, but The Walking Dead has the most important characters in my life. Merle Dixon, while he was sexist, racist and a bit hotheaded, is the most important fictional character in my life. If I had to pick one single character out of all my fandoms as my favorite, I will say Merle Dixon without hesitation because it was his character that inspired the most to write. His character was hated, both in the show and in real life, he was unlikable and he was complicated and I absolutely love him. I want to make characters with that much depth and I want to be able to make people see a character for their worst and in their dying moments make them rethink everything about them. It was that complexity that makes Merle Dixon my 'staple character' when I write, I want characters like him in my work; deeply flawed, emotional, ambitious, and human. Merle was really only in the show for a season, not even a full season at that, yet his entire arc is something that really pushed me to write.

Putting it into words - the impact of fiction on my life is something I never really thought about in terms of "this show helped me make friends" and especially not, "this show is the reason I found out writing is a huge part of my life." Yet, here I am, writing about a piece of fiction that still means the world to me despite the fact that haven't watched it in about two years. The characters and story gave me such a push out of my comfort zone and helped me find a place in a community. Fiction to me will always be more than just what I can observe, but it's what I take from it that really makes it such a special media.  

Jasmine M. Sarmiento is a student and writer based in the United States. I want to extend so much love and gratitude for Jasmine for taking the time to take part in this series and share her story. It's always touching to hear people speak so passionately about works of fiction that they love, and I'm so thankful that Jasmine shared her passion here.

The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018. This week, I would like to share the official Spotify playlist for Fictitious. Have a listen, and let me know what you think!