Tuesday, October 17, 2023

3T Writing Tidbit


We're delving into another of the three elements of story: character. (The three elements being character, setting, and plot 😄) I'm not going to go in any special order with these. 

Here's a provocative sentence I came across: 

Archetypes are masks of a complete human being.

Last month I unpacked the complete human being. Let's put it all together.

Our characters start out with a vision of themselves, either good or bad. They see themselves perhaps as the Hero, a Captain America, or perhaps as a Villain, like Felonious Gru in Despicable Me. More, all their actions and attitudes consciously reflect this archetype -- they wear their vision of themselves like a mask.

But it isn't their real selves. Real people, and characters who feel real, are messy. Conflicted, inconsistent, flawed. They change. They grow, they shrink, they lose, and they win.

Because their mask isn't their real self, it keeps that character separate and distanced from change, contradiction, interaction with other people, and even fully understanding themselves.

So, like a real person, they must learn and change to embrace their own truth, to remove the mask of the static, idealized archetype or even burst it, to become a complete and full human being.

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

2T Repeat Performance - what makes your vampires different?

I've done a number of blog tours over the years, posting on different sites. Now I'm bringing them to you!

Originally published August 22, 2012 for My Odd Little World

What makes your vampires different from the others out there?

Keeping it real.

I can’t claim to have read every vampire book or seen every movie or show. But there are three ways I know of to “make” a fictional vampire—physically (like the plague in I Am Legend), magically (like the witches’ spells in The Vampire Diaries), or morally (divinely cursed like Dracula). Mine are the physical variety. The underlying mechanism has yet to be revealed, but there’s one noticeable aspect that sets my v-guys apart.

My vampires don’t drink blood for their stomachs—they drink it for their veins.

Like humans who can’t make their own blood, my vampires must have regular transfusions (taking their transfusions by mouth).

I like this a lot (especially for romance) because it’s hard to have a real relationship with someone who looks at you as a giant barbequed chicken. My humans are donors, not dinners. Even better, vampires only have to drink about three times a month (just often enough to replace dying red cells).

Now, I do have to say that my vampires have many similarities to those out there. They’re strong, fast, rich, highly sexual and fall in love hard with one person. There’s a group of savvy warriors united by the mysterious Ancient One to protect humans.

But real physiology grounds my vampires, no matter how whimsical the plots get. The blood they drink goes directly into their veins instead of their stomachs, which is frankly more authentic to me because the stomach digests blood. Mini-rant here—feel free to skip to the next paragraph :). That’s one reason I have a problem with turning rituals where the human drinks blood. How effective can blood be, churned up with gastric acid? Assuming it stays down, that is. In humans, blood is an emetic—drink enough and you, um, you know. Email me if you don’t :).

Of course, because my vampires don’t use blood for food, they have to get their energy another way. It’s not revealed yet, but there are indicators they get it from being buried in the soil (perhaps like plants do) honoring the “native soil” needed by Dracula, and the vampires-sleeping-in-graves legend.

The physical differences also have a real social impact. Those who successfully make the change keep their human intellect and morals: silly, smart, wise; good or bad. So on one hand we have the Iowa Alliance living in harmony with humans, and on the other we have the Chicago Coterie trying to take over the world. Some vampires don’t make the change successfully. They lose what makes them human, becoming pure vampire hunger uncontrolled by their rotting human brain. There’s a nice tension between the good guys protecting humans, the bad guys using them as minions, and the rogues mindlessly hunting them.

Lastly, some vampire characters are developed ignoring popular lore. Lore may not be real, but popular means a lot of people understand vampires in terms of the legends. I try to honor all legends that are physically based. My vampires are hurt by silver. They get a buzz from running water. Sunlight fries them. They do have reflections, but no reflection is part of the divinely-cursed vampire mythos (no soul). After being undead long enough, they can turn their bodies into mist; longer yet and they can shapeshift. These all have real reasons tied consistently into the physical nature of my vampires. Which will get revealed eventually :)