Sunday, May 29, 2011

Horror geniuses... and stereotypes

Under scrutiny for the day: vampires.

Ironically, I have quite a few fiction books on vampires. Christopher Pike's The Last Vampire, one of Anne Rice's books which has Lestat at word (I forgot the name), Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, The Vampire Diaries and The Return Trilogy (still waiting for the third book to be published), and Dark Visions which features a psychic vampire, all written by L.J. Smith, I have garnered myself a small collection on the fictional creatures.

I also used to be a fan of Buffy, and later Angel (well, I was a fan up to the point where Cordelia was doing Angel's son, really WTF was up with that?). I've watched Queen of the Damned, Blade, Twilight, Vampires Suck (how could I not watch that?), Interview with a Vampire, Underworld, The Vampire Diaries series, and that other movie where a vampire can be made human again via brief exposure to the sun (I'm good at forgetting names, aren't I?)

Despite all I've watched and all I've read on vampires, ironically, I'm not a fan. You'd think me one, but I'm not. I suppose it's because I read too much into the characteristics of vampires and find them somewhat offensive and blasphemous to my beliefs. I have played with the idea of writing a vampire. Only once, and only briefly, but I just can't peptalk myself enough to try it out.

The thing about all the books and movies/TV shows I've watched is that they're all stereotype vampires. Back in the day Lestat was it, and surely has made his mark in the vampire realm as one of those vampires that will never be dethroned from his position in the literary world. But even he was stereotype - he later decided he wanted to become good, opposing his own brutal nature. I haven't yet read Bram Stokers Dracula, so I don't know whether Dracula decides he wants to fight his evil instincts as well.

So who set the trend?
Or more importantly, why has no one tried to set a new one?

I don't mean changing the qualities that make a vampire a vampire. Eliminating the fact that sunlight kills vampires and substituting it for some lame 'sparkle' excuse, or completely leaving out the matter that they have fangs that set them aside from the human species, is not setting a new trend for vampires. Maybe for cannibals who have blinding white skin because they never go into the sun, yeah, but for vampires, no. That's like sabotaging the fictional creation. That's accute to giving werewolves the sudden ability to talk to all animals and to have the power not to transform on a full moon just because they ate a bloody steak for supper and live with a house full of cats.

I mean the perspective people have on vampires. You can look at an object from a lot of angles, so why are writers not looking at vampires from a different view? Why is everyone copying the stereotype?

Blade was an interesting character, because he was a bit different from the others. He was a vampire himself, or half-vampire, I'm foggy on the details. But stereotypically, he was fighting his own kind because they posed a threat to humanity, and because he was batting for the other team (you know what I mean), he had to fight his own nature and become the 'good' guy.

The same goes for Stefan, and eventually Damon (sob sob), in the Vampire Diaries. Stefan fought his nature because he acknowledged it as evil, and tried to fit back into society. I always said Damon was the best next thing after Lestat and Dracula, because he admitted and accepted that his nature was wrong and he thrived in it. But now I can't say that anymore, hence his personality change in the Return trilogy, and the fact that he's become human at the end of the second book. Funny, yes, given he loved being a vampire, but ultimately I feel it butchered him as a vampire to set the new bench mark. No more Damon. My heart bleeds.

And then there's ol' Eddy. I won't go into Twilight much as I still find the similarities between that series and the VD series grossly revolting, but it comes down to Edward wanting to fit into society and fighting his nature in order not to go on a cannibalistic rampage through his high school (straight for Bella, apparently).

Angel eventually went down the same path. He fell in lurv with a human girl (what is WITH these human girls, I wonder?), had to fight his inner demon Angeles, and finally he set up a business to help humanity. Bad guy gone good. Over and over, again and again. It becomes monotonous after a while.

Now, there is this Swedish guy who watched Cloverfield, and loved the different perspective of the story on alien invation, and he found inspiration therein to write a vampire story that (I hope) is to set a new trend in the vampire franchise. A movie was produced based on his book, titled Let Me In.

Nothing of this vampire contradicted what everyone knows about vampires, but he still managed to cast this creature in a new light without sabotaging the fictional creation. It's about a young girl (the vampire) who moves into a block of flats in the middle of the night. She walks barefoot in the snow and claims that she doesn't 'get cold'. The human boy, who is actually the focus of the whole movie, tries to approach her, to which she responds that they can't be friends. Murders start taking place, only two of which she is personally responsible for. All the others are committed by the man whom the boy assumed was her father, but it turns out that the guy was just like the boy was - just a kid who befriended a vampire. The boy later tries to approach her again, and they gradually become friends. There are hints throughout the movie that suggest what she is, but it's not fully voiced until halfway into the movie, and even then I think the word 'vampire' was only mentioned once. The guy collecting blood, the pale, indifferent little girl who keeps telling the boy 'I'm not a girl' and is never seen outdoors except at night, who's windows are boarded up, who claims that she is stronger than she looks.

Aside from the fact that the girl is not upfront about what she is to the boy, she doesn't deny or try to hide her nature when the boy finally does discover what she is. She doesn't decide to try and fight herself and become good. She doesn't restrain her instincts. She goes feral and horrific when she feeds - it's not the delicate little bite in the neck, it's the attack of a savage monstrosity. Which is what a vampire is, or ought to be portrayed as. The main factor of a vampire is that it is something that once was human, but no longer is. Like a refined zombie, less the rotting flesh and mindless 'uuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhh'. I like that, breaking the stereotype, this vampire in particular has no silly notions to become more 'in tune' with her human side. She has fully accepted what she is.

It's not often you come across a vampire who is more vampire than human.

Anyway, I'd recommend you watch the movie. Vampires used to bore me or amuse me. Until I watched Let Me In. I will shamelessly admit that, if all vampires are like her, I'm very much afraid of vampires. More so than I am of zombies.
And that's saying a lot.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Limitless and the art of writing back to front

Listening to: my kids driving me bloody insane - JUST GO TO FRIGGIN' SLEEP!
Reading: writer's digest
Mood: incredibly irritated that it's 12:10am and both these snot-nosed monsters are still awake

Before I cut down to the art of writing back to front, I want to brag...I mean blog about my day. It doesn't happen very often because my days aren't exactly fun, exciting or interesting. Unless you think me recounting how many times I said 'no' to my kids until I resorted to the full-throttle screaming of a banshee and chucked them in the naughty corner is worth reading about.

I got up late this morning, around 12pm, because I only got to bed at around 1.30am last night. Later than that, since I have developed this problem of actually falling asleep. I had a sandwich and juice waiting for me when I got up, and by 1.15pm we were packed in the car and off to Porirua to go find a graphics/screen card for our computer that is bust downstairs. We went everywhere from Harvey Norman to DSE but couldn't find a suitable one. We did end up going to the Warehouse and coming out of it with several Wiggles and Spongebob DVD's for the kids, and a few items of clothing for me. After which we paid a visit to Undercover in the mall where I got treated to some maternity *cough* wear *cough*. And then we got hotdogs and milkshake from Wendy's before heading back home.

So...what's to brag about, you wonder? The fact that I didn't ask or even hint at getting some clothes, yet my hubby took me out and bought my necessities for me. Now since being pregnant, I don't enjoy shopping much. The maternity wear is often in colours that make me want to vomit (really, tossing some bright colours like yellow and sky blue and red in there won't make the baby go colour blind people!) so I go browsing through the usual sections. Only I look for size L and up, which is somewhat of a demotivator and depressing when I was able to get away with medium size in my previous pregnancies. But it was good having my hubby there, because he picked out some clothes for me and made up my mind on the ones I was contemplating over.

And no, you can't have my hubby! :p

On to the writing part of the blog.
Seeing as my kids now have fallen into the habit of going to bed between 7-8pm and waking again at 11pm until...well, we're going on 12.35am now, so it'd be wishful thinking that they'll go down before 2am... I decided to keep myself busy (and ignoring them as much as I can) in these wee hours of the morning by writing/blogging. Since blogger was down last night, I resorted to pen and paper and sat down to work on, not the novel I'd been planning to work on, but Book Number One. It's not the actual title of the book (which is The Boy Who Said No), but that's how we refer to it when we speak about it in my family. Well, good news guys! I wrote a page and a half of it last night!

It doesn't sound like much. I mean a page and a half is what, less than 600 words? But the content! It is superb! Coorall now actually has a defined shape in my mind and isn't just a couple of trees in the middle of a choppy ocean anymore, because unfortunately Galen has to travel through that land to get back to his own. But see, he's in a disguise that his new-found comrade, Joh, helped create for him to smuggle him from Argelos and get him safely through the throng of the trade market on the beach lining the kingdom of Coorall, where merchants and customers from Baronia, Argelos, Derenvere and Coorall were buzzing about. Of course he made it to a boat, which is currently a few miles into the ocean and heading for one of the bigger ships which Galen will board to gain access to the islands of Coorall. He's in a tricky situation though. See, right across from him is a Baronian boy - what a haughty, nosy fatass! - who would rat him out the second he realises who Galen is. Good thing Baronians are a bit dumb, though. And next to Galen is seated a boy from his own kingdom, who is all but mocking the kingdom of Coorall, saying blasphemous things, and being downright insulting toward the Baronian race (and why wouldn't he be, seeing as they've abducted and held prisoner the future king of his kingdom?) He's that guy who knows exactly what to say at the worst possible time ever, without considering the effect of his words.  He does, however, give a beautiful opportunity for Galen to 'reveal' himself. It all just...kind of worked out. The thing I did not foresee is that the boy is Sebastien.

Which messes up my already written and revised Second Book, Beyond Pearl Woods, because when Galen reflects on how he'd met Sebastien in that book, it was with Sebastien saving Galen from a group of his own kin who had short of ganged up on Galen. He saves him with a broom and some mean-ass martial arts moves, and only much, much, much later does he learn who Galen really is. Now I'm going to have to scrap that part - this is also why I told my mom the Second Book will need a third drafting, because detail from Book One needs to coincide with detail from Book Two, and I'm too chuffed with Galen and Sebastien's first encounter in Book One to let it go, so Book Two is going to be in some dire need of serious editing. I like that they meet on someone else's turf. I like that they are among enemies and secret allies. I like the fact that without question, Sebastien's loyalty to his kingdom has made up his mind to protect Galen and see him safely back home, no matter what. And I like that Galen is wary and nervous about asking his own people for help, because Sebastien is going to do a thorough job by setting aside Galen's unease about trust by showing him just how far his people are willing to go for him.

Now you might think I'm jumping from topic to topic, but it's all relevant. If you've watched the movie Limitless, you'll understand where I'm coming from. This is different for every writer, but my best writing comes forth when I'm either in a zombified state of exhaustion, or when I'm so sick that I see double, or when I'm on a coffee/energy drink high. I kid you not - when my head is clogged up and I can't think straight, I write fantastic stuff.

The fact that after hour upon hour, week after week, year upon year of sitting with a blank piece of paper and a clear, focussed mind to puzzle out exactly how to create this kingdom of Coorall and manage to be original not only in the landscape but in the people of that kingdom aswell, I finally pull it off in an hour in the coldest part of night with freezing satin PJ's on, a runny nose and a persisent dry cough,with my son crying and screaming for Elmo from his cot right behind me and completely ignoring me when I told him to lie down and go to sleep every five minutes.

Not ideal writing conditions, and I won't say that I thrive in chaos when I sit down to write. I want as much refuge from reality as I can possibly manage when I want to sit down and write. In fact, I can get really nasty when I'm on a roll and someone dares to disturb me. This doesn't apply to my kids, of course. Usually a bowl of biscuits and a glass of milk and a movie keeps them out of my hair for that extra hour I need. I've never been nasty to my hubby either, but that's because I purposely restrain myself from writing when he's home (unless he gets back into his workshop of robot building, because then we'll both get some time to ourselves). But I did lock my bedroom door and put the headphones on maximum volume back when I used to live with my parents for a reason.

Ah well. We've got a study/spare room downstairs now. I'm sure if I can work out a schedule with my hubby, I'll be able to sit down and write without interuption for an hour at least. Of course I need to actually prep the room before it's people friendly - we need to go buy a bed settee and I want to look for a second hand bookcase - because at the moment it's just used as storage space. And I'll make myself a nice little corner to write in the computer room too, for when my MIL comes down next month to stay in the spare room.

Back to the movie Limitless. For those of you who haven't watched it, it's about this amazing drug that stimulates the parts of the brain people don't use, and turns you into a supernova genius. So this guy is a writer, and as some of us experience at one point or another, the writing just doesn't come. No matter how long you sit, now matter how hard you think, it's all just a great big blank. He loses his girlfriend because he's sponging off her, because his sole occupation is being a writer, and not producing the goods means he's not getting anywhere fast. Things look really gloomy for this dude, but then he bumps into this guy who deals in drugs, and there's something new that's not even on the drug 'market' yet. He takes one pill, free of charge, and his mind goes into super-clarity. I mean he cleans his house spotless (how many writers do that unless they're procrastinating?) and then shifts in behind his computer, and has twenty pages of his book that's been overdue done in one sitting. He has it on his agent's desk the next morning. That night she calls him and declares how excellent it is, and when she can have the rest.

It is a drug, however, and his mind is transported to a different 'place' if you will. He looks alert and fine, but he sees everything in a different light, perceives things in a different way. I thought it was much akin to what I experience when I'm on a roll with my writing. Not that I could be bothered with an untidy house when the muse strikes, or that I actually see things in a literal 'different light' (I'll be sure to ring my doctor if that ever happens), but I do go into a different mindset of sorts. When I start writing, I'm fully emersed into that ink and paper, so much so that when I reach a point in the story that I feel I need to sit back and think what happens next, the real world kind of snaps back to life all around me with sounds and motion and colour, and it feels like I've just woken up from a very pleasant dream. I find it to be incredibly embarrassing afterward because, no I'm not paranoid, I have caught people staring at me when I'm writing. I can only imagine how dof I must look when I come out of it.

I still wouldn't mind writing an 'excellent' piece of twenty pages in one sitting without revision being necessary, though. I'd like some of that drug, too, please.

About the back to front thing. I've noticed that I have a tendency to write backward in the storyline whenever I pick up an unfinished manuscript. I don't know if this is due to my first line jitters - my opening sentences are just never what I want them to be - or whether I just have this insatiable need to know what happened before the present.

In The Boy Who Said No, the original manuscript started with Galen running from a fleet of charging Baronians. It was an alright opening, maybe a bit cliched, but not bad. Then I had to know why they were chasing him, so I wrote a whole ten chapters before that scene of how it had come that he'd been abducted and held prisoner and escaped. So now my opening is, once again cliche, of Galen sitting awake at his window in the middle of the night because he's got a bad feeling something is coming for him. Now, once again, I'm going to write several more chapters before that to introduce the villain properly and figure out what the complexities of their 'friendship' are, and exactly how and why it had come down to the abduction. See, writing backward! I am still adding to the rest after those ten chapters, but at this rate I think I'm going to end up with a thirty chapter book!

In my novel that I have been wanting to work on, which has a title, only I haven't worked on it in such a long time that I've forgotten what it is, I find myself wanting to do the same thing. It starts off with my male lead being banished to Midgard by his elders and with him lying on a ledge in a crevasse, wounded and near-death, and my female protagonist happening upon him and saving him. It's a really good intro. But now I want to go back a bit - why was he banished, why did his elders hurt him, who are his elders, where is he from, who or what is his counterpart, what exactly went down for him to be so brutally tortured and then dumped in a pit? What was he like before this happened?

This might be only for my knowledge and enjoyment, because the only part of the novel I want him to be 'at word' is right at the beginning. Thereafter it's all my female protagonist - what she sees, what she feels, what she thinks. Third person narrative all the way, because I suck at first person. I like consistency in the books I write - either one or the other character is the MC, the limelight can't be shared by another. I don't like jumping from character to character unless I feel it's absolutely necessary.

Plus, I don't want the reader to know everything about him already. I want them to discover these mysteries around him along with my MC, instead of letting him short of tell the reader what is what. Maybe I'll just keep his side of the story to myself, and share the story from her POV.

Well. It's 2.20 am and I think my monkey boy has passed out about half an hour ago. I need to go crawling through our dark lounge to find where he's dropped now. I'm waking the kids up at 7am, by the way, regardless of how buggered I'll be. Maybe if I wake them up early they'll be tired enough to sleep through in their own beds tonight.

Until tomorrow night.