My characters in a book are watching zombies, ie people watching, but the people are the walking dead. Anyway, I'm wondering what the correct tense usage is, as I'm writing in past.

'drinking from tea cups while they zombie-watched.' is the exact part of the sentence at present.

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    Zombie-watched is fine as it stands, but since you've cast drinking in the progressive aspect, so you could equally say "They were drinking from tea-cups while zombie-watching". – Dan Bron Mar 20 '16 at 15:14
  • Jarred sat with Sarah at the gate house to the compound – really just a wall of cars on their sides around nine skyscrapers with Brock Industries in the approximate centre – drinking from tea cups while they zombie-watched. (the original sentence, in UK English) My guts says to end it with 'drinking from tea cups while zombie-watching.' – Dark Word Dan Mar 21 '16 at 6:08
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    @DarkWordDan Either phrase works fine, IMHO. – Barmar Mar 21 '16 at 11:03

As @DanBron says in the comment above, zombie-watching is the normal way to say it. In this case the sentence is:

...drinking from teacups while [they were] zombie-watching.

This is how it would normally be used with people watching. There is nothing technically wrong with zombie-watched; it just sounds more awkward than zombie-watching. Other options include while they watched for zombies, on their guard for zombies, and looking out [or around] for zombies.

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