Thursday, May 29, 2008

Vampires and Werewolves and Dragons, Oh My!

Yup, all three exist in harmony. Well... okay that was a lie. Not in harmony. But they co-exist anyway and sort of tolerate each other. The dragons don't appear much; in fact, they haven't made any appearances so far, save for a brief mention. But they are there, and they exist in my novel, and they will make a future appearance.

So, on that note, let's discuss cliches and stereotypes.


They're furry. They're uncontrollable. They howl at the moon. They symbolize the wilder side of human psyche, the darker side. Typically:
1 - they transform around the full moon
2 - they are known to hunt and kill (and sometimes eat) other humans without remorse
3 - they are killed by silver (bullets, stakes, what have you)
4 - they are notoriously hard to kill, usually because of cellular regeneration

So, what have I borrowed, and what have I made "unique?"

The Moon. I kept this one. It's so deeply ingrained in modern legend that it's a tough one to break and retain loyal readers. So, I've tweaked it, but in keeping with more recent trends I've given them some flexibility. They are forced to shift forms for three days - the day before, the day of, and the day after the full moon. Other than that, they have a choice as to when they want to change, and can control it. Nothing really unique about the setup. It's been done before. I like it, so I'm using it.

Personality. This is another trait which I've kept to more recent trends. My wolves aren't the uncontrollable, ravenous beasts that hunt and kill any time they change. They retain human intelligence/reason but do have to fight some instictual urges. This is so common now that it is almost a cliche, but really, there is nowhere else to go with this particular thing. Either they are "wild" or they are "human." At least I can say my werewolves don't mourn their condition or pine for their former lives. I don't like emo wolves. I bet you don't, either.

Wolfsbane. There always has to be a trump card with non-human monsters. Some way for the humans to come out on top. Typically, this method is silver (usually a bullet) or the plant "wolfsbane." To me, the only way this is credible is in the form of an allergy, but that too is almost becoming a cliche of sorts. As this particular issue never pops up in my novel I haven't quite worked it out. If there is a bane, it will probably be silver, and it will probably be an allergy. But in all honesty I don't forsee giving my wolves such a weakness, though I don't plan on them being supermen, either. If one of my wolves drowns then it's game over. They aren't going to spontaneously regenerate a recovery from prolonged lack of oxygen. So I suppose in this, I'm as close to "unique" as I can get.

Regeneration. Speaking of, I have also kept this particular trait. I even found a scientific excuse for it! Stem cells. There something scientists are playing with right now called "pixie dust" that tricks the human body into activating its dormant stem cells to regrow lost fingers, organs, whatever. So, why can't werewolves and other supernatural baddies simply have the awesome characteristic of active stem cells? They could be the new white blood cells. Any time an injury happens, BAM!, here's the stems cells regrowing and repairing the injured area. Within limits, of course. If one of my wolves gets their head cut off they aren't going to regrow it, brain and all. That's just silly. And horribly overpowered. And not believable.

What's Unique? For starters, I have done what only one other author (that I know of) has done so far. There is only one female werewolf in existance. O snap, you say. That sounds like Kelly Armstrong. Yes, yes it does. But Kelly's girly wolf was not a disaffected college student drunk off her ass having a one night stand with a local werewolf, now was she? No, I didn't think so. Also, mine didn't shift on the full moon. She missed the shift like one might miss a period. As of the end of the book, she still hasn't "gone wolf." Holy shit, a werewolf novel where the main character doesn't become a wolf. Bet you'd have a hard time finding another author that did that (but please, if you find it, link it so I can read!).


Ahh, the brooding, emo, ennui-filled ladies' men of the night. Symbols of sexual predation and death. Bloodsucking nightcrawlers closely associated with their cousins the zombies (except, you know, they aren't still decaying or trying to eat your brains). Typically:
1 - They are literally blood-thirsty. Human blood is their entire diet.
2 - They sleep during the day and only come out at night.
3 - Sunlight kills (hence the pale, emo look).
4 - Aversions include holy objects (such as crosses), garlic, running water.
5 - Superior European attitudes.

So what have I borrowed, and what have I made "unique?"

Blood. Yeah, I had to. What's a vampire without their need for blood? Nothing, I tell you. Just some goth kid with filed teeth. I have also, sadly, conformed to recent trends with this one. My vamps can wait to feed, and they needn't kill every victim they drink from. That would sort of give away their presence, don't you think? Buncha bodies with fang marks all drained of blood? Not good for survival purposes, methinks.

Nightcrawlers. Yup, this one too. Easier to hide the blood-sucking activities at night, and really, vampires that can move about in the daylight are a big cheat. Takes all the fun out of being scared in the dark.

Sunlight. Okay, yes, I kept this one too. Sunlight may not kill my vamps but it'll hurt like hell, and anyway, they sleep during that time so they can be up all night stalking young stupid people for food.

Crosses, Garlic, et al. Here is where my being "unique" is really just conformity with recent trends. My vampires have no other bane besides sunlight. Holy objects do not have effect. Garlic just makes their breath stinky. Running water is laughable. Plus, it makes a vampire scarier when you can't fend them off with anything other than your bare hands, which, as you can imagine, don't work well.

Attitude. This is linked closely with the accent. I can't even begin to tell you how many French vampires I've seen in movies and literature. Even if they aren't French, they're horribly superior and laugh at the puny human's attempt at escape. Their indifference to everything is so strong you could almost reach out and touch it. I'm happy to say my vampires aren't brooding old European types, though one does have a British accent, and they are understandably feeling a little superior to humans. (I mean really, wouldn't you?) They have a healthy respect for humans en masse, though, and my main vampire likes to do whatever suits his interests at the time. But he, like my werewolves, doesn't miss his human existance or despair that he's lived for so long with no end in sight. He isn't jaded. A small miracle, on his part. Again, I don't like self-pitying characters, so I try to steer clear of them in regards to my non-humans.

What's unique? Ever wonder how a vampire manages to finesse (or force) a victim into giving blood, and then, magically, no one in the area realizes what's happening? Even with that nasty slurping noise and the limp body? I mean, anyone could walk in on anything at any time. How embarrassing for the vampire. So, my vamps have developed the nifty ability to deaden the sound within a certain radius. Anything inside of this "bubble" will not be heard by anyone, anywhere, unless they are inside said bubble. Leaves the door open for a lot of detection-free naughty activities. Also of note are their extreme psychic abilities, which seem to be a mix of coercion, mind-reading, mind-talk, memory wipe, and anything else your little imagination could come up with. I've seen vampires with some of these traits, but I'm straining to remember any vampires with all of those combined. Again, if you find an example, link it to me. And hell no, there is not one single vampire "council" anywhere in my novel. Anyone looking for that needs to look elsewhere.


Yes, I am talking about those big fire-breathing, virgin-eating lizards, the ones typically categorized into colors and associated elements. But Sass!, you whine, I don't want dragons mixing with my vampires and werewolves. If I wanted dragons I would go find Anne McCaffrey or those "Forgotten Realms" books. Get those things outta my werewolf novel!

And to that, I have only one thing to say.

Typically, dragons:
1 - are freakin huge (but can still fly, somehow).
2 - breathe fire.
3 - speak to each other using telepathy.
4 - are either totally with or totally against humans.

So, what have I borrowed, and what have I made "unique?"

Size. Traditionally size does matter. Not many dragons (outside of McAffrey's) are small. Some are large and fast moving, others are fat and lazy and hoard treasure. Either way they're big. Mine aren't gigantic. It's a little hard to hide something that big in modern times, especially if it flies. Thus is born the economy-sized dragon. About horse-sized in height if you really want to be that specific about it. Much easier to hide, much easier to get airborn. And not all of mine are airborn, nor do they all have wings. One type isn't even dragon-shaped.

Fire. Let's be honest, shooting huge columns of flame is pretty freakin' sweet. Why would I take that away? That is so staying with my dragons, and by God, I will find a plausible way to make that work.

Telepathy. This one is a little silly. Us humans think any mythical being that can't talk like we do must be able to communicate mind-to-mind, otherwise how do they talk to each other and reason like we do? Pure unimagination. My dragons don't have mind speak, nor do they manage to twist their scaly mouths and forked tongues into anything resembling human speech. They simply don't talk. Most of theirs is body language and other noises like grunts, honks, bellows, roars, purring, clicks, and what have you. They are intelligent, but they don't speak.

Humans. Humans and non-humans don't seem to get along much in most myths and legends. It seems like we're always fighting anything different from us. This is why my dragons have copied some other modern dragons and become human shifters. Much easier to hide amongst the humans when they look alike. Yes, it has been done, but I like it, so I'm using it. It fits my purposes. Other than that little survival method, my dragons generally avoid humans. They generally avoid everything, actually. They're rather like Switzerland in their neutrality. It's the reason they aren't often seen, and the reason they don't show up in my novel other than through a brief mention.

What's unique? Well, like I mentioned earlier, not all my dragons are dragon-shaped. I actually borrowed from a lot of different cultures to form my unique blend of creatures. There are three main appearance types I use, though: Chinese, Babylonian, and Aztec (or Mayan... or... something South American. I might need to look it up again). I use three because there are three head honchos of the dragon community. One is Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent deity (feisty old guy, he is); one is Ninhursag, which is an old goddess I've made to resemble a Sirrush; and the last is Huang Long, a dragon I've taken and made into an ageless being that is constantly but subtly changing its appearance. Also of note is that even though my dragons are human shifters, when they shift they lose all dragonlike characteristics except for their ability to shift back to their normal dragon selves. This means they are not super strong, cannot breathe fire, or even identify other dragons in human form. They are as close to human as they can get.

Soooooooo, there you have it. A basic rundown of three of my major creature features in that novel o' mine.

And wow, I just wasted an entire morning at work. lol. Oops.

Ponder of the day:

The man who smiles when things go wrong has thought of someone to blame it on. - Robert Bloch


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