Tag Archives: Anne Rice

Story: In The Beginning…

Where do you start your story? A key question and one of hundreds if not thousands to be answered when writing and publishing a book. Do you start when your character is born or before? When they are a child? A teenager? An adult? When they get married? When they are old? Do you start at the point of death or after and tell the story in flashback?

If you were telling the story of your life, where would you choose to start and why? Looking at your characters in the same way and treating their lives as real can be hugely beneficial. When you start treating them seriously, they become more realistic to you and hopefully your readers.

When a potential reader opens your book, how do you pique their interest? Your first sentence is crucial. The point you choose to start the story will determine that first sentence. The whole structure is like a line of dominoes (no, not the pizza place); set the first one right and the rest should stand. Get it wrong and they all could topple.

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It took me many years to publish my book The Vorbing and, during that time, I wrote many different versions of it. I went through a city map of blind alleys but it taught me what worked and didn’t work each time and sharpened the story. When the time came to pull all the strands together, I could use all the best bits from all the various drafts to come up with a kind of “greatest hits” version of the story. All those ideas gave the whole thing a fast pace and fresh perspective. I won’t have that luxury on book two, but such is the challenge of writing.

This is where a fresh pair of (preferably experienced) eyes on your work can pinpoint a loss of initial focus. Even if you need to lose earlier material, you can use it later in the story or in a sequel or even just as backstory to help you know your characters better. No piece of writing is ever really wasted. You can cannibalize it later or even combine bits to create a new story (Anne Rice was writing a book set in Atlantis and hit a dead end, so she put her vampire Lestat into the mix and, hey presto, got a new Vampire Chronicles book out of it – Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis.)

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That old cliche “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” is doubly true for writers, especially in the internet age. If someone is viewing a preview of your book using the “Look Inside” option on Amazon, that mouse button is right at their fingertips and they are ready to click off if you fail to hook them. So think carefully about that first sentence. Be original. Be surprising, but be true to your characters, your story and yourself above all.

© Stewart Stafford, 2016. All rights reserved.

 

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Inward View of the Vampire

“As the vampire myth developed and went through a rationalising/secularising process, various authors have posed alternative, non-supernatural theories for the origin of vampires – from disease to altered blood chemistry.”

– J. Gordon Melton

I published my first novel, The Vorbing, at Halloween 2015. Even though I began writing my vampire book nine years before the first Twilight novel appeared, you could see my book as the antithesis of that series. I don’t see vampires as being sparkly hunks with six-pack abs. Far from it. My vampires are disgusting, parasitic predators. I wanted to give the vampire its nasty bite back.

That’s not to say I’m dissing the work of Stephanie Meyer at all. I applaud anyone that can get a piece of writing out there. To be as successful as Ms Meyer has been is even more impressive. I thought the basic premise of Twilight was interesting – an updated, supernatural twist on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (instead of the Montagues and Capulets keeping the young lovers apart it’s humans and vampires and then vampires and werewolves) Fifty Shades of Grey began life as Twilight fan fiction and it’s been widely panned but remains mega-successful.

It just demonstrates how the vampire is an archetypal mould into which we pour our obsessions with sex, sexuality, disease, death, addiction and rebirth. The core material can be tweaked to fit any era and its fears (some would argue that the human condition is a constant state of fear – fear of the unknown, fear of loss, fear of sickness and death, fear of alienation from family, friends and wider society, etc). Different writers see different things in the vampire legend just as writers always bring their own perspective and baggage to any story.

In her very fine book, Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice stripped away all the Christian folklore around her vampires. In the movie version that Ms Rice wrote the screenplay for, Bram Stoker and Dracula were dismissed as “the vulgar fictions of a demented Irishman.” (Neil Jordan did some uncredited rewrites on the script and it’s possible that the line is his.) Is Anne Rice disregarding Stoker and his Count or is it the “real” vampire in the story setting the journalist interviewing him straight on fictitious misrepresentations of his kind? I believe it’s the latter. Nevertheless, it takes a brave and unique voice to disregard convention and strike out in a new direction.

I’ve nicknamed Interview with the Vampire “Inward View of the Vampire” as, shorn of so much of their outside mythology, they reflect inwards on their eternal state of ennui. In the December 1998 issue of Starlog magazine, director John Carpenter said of his movie Vampires: “I wanted to get away from the Anne Rice aura, of the vampire as lonely bisexual. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not my approach.” In the last scene of the film Interview with the Vampire, Tom Cruise’s Lestat reappears after several centuries to berate Brad Pitt with the words: “Still whining Louis!” At least they’re starting to have a little fun with this undead thing.

I like to believe that when I read another writer’s work, I’m filtering their imagination through mine which alters and improves my thought process as my mind is opened to new possibilities and different ways of approaching the same subject. In a June 2014 Moviepilot article on Interview with the Vampire, Laylla Azarbyjani wrote: I’m not saying I don’t watch vampire films/series that portray vampires differently, I don’t mind them, I just prefer films that stay true to the original story about vampires. For example burning in the sun, stake to the heart and crucifixes – these are just some examples, there are so many more.” All of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series are important works in the vampire canon.

As I drink my blood-red tea and return to the world of my vampires, it’s comforting to think that the vampire legend will continue and change ad infinitum. What do you think?

[The Vorbing is available here; getBook.at/TheVorbingAmazon]

© Stewart Stafford, 2015. All rights reserved.

Vampire To Some, Lost Soul To Others

“They say he’s some kind of vampire,” a young cop says about Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. “They don’t have a name for what he is,” Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling replies. Oh yes, they do. Lecter is an oral sadist. When he can’t physically bite someone in the wild, he does it verbally from behind bars with stinging insults and taunting clues. Serial killers are nothing if not expert manipulators. Lecter’s oral sadism probably began in infancy when he was either forcefully breastfed against his will or he was denied it when hungry. He began to have fantasies of biting his mother or even consuming her. A real psychiatrist said that Lecter would be untreatable and that the only way to stop him would be to have his teeth removed by a court order (effectively castrating him).

The vampire is somewhat different. He has to bite and feed on blood or he will perish. He is something of an oral rapist. Several women I have known over the years have confided their rape fantasies to me. This surprised me (I have always said that women are an enigma even to themselves, hearing those statements confirmed it to me). They then quantified their remarks by saying that they only wanted to be raped by their partner and not a stranger. They would never admit it publicly for fear of being branded a slut or being accused of letting the feminist cause down. Taking these admissions as consent would be walking into a moral and legal minefield for a man. Nevertheless, these feelings bubble away under the surface. Sexuality cannot be compartmentalized into simple black-and-white parameters no matter what the propaganda says. Fifty Shades of Grey was aptly named for a reason.

The actress Barbara Steele once said that women feel sorry for the vampire and feel that they can save him. You could argue that from a feminine perspective, the vampire could be viewed as a sort of desperate, lonely addict impelled to attack strangers to survive. Anne Rice put that female perspective across very well in her Vampire Chronicles series. She rejected the mythology that had gone before (“The rantings of a demented Irishman,” Brad Pitt’s Louis says in Interview with the Vampire when asked if he is afraid of crucifixes, a reference to Dracula and its author Bram Stoker’s suspected death from Syphilis.) Her work focused on the eternal ennui of the vampire. “Still whining, Louis!” Tom Cruise says near the end of the movie, sending up all that has gone before and ameliorating the withering Stoker put-down earlier.

Even the glittering, hunky teen Twilight vampires have a place in the lexicon. The vampire as a psychological symbol has always thrived as it touches on so many of our desires and fears. It is a mutating virus that fits the human psyche hand-in-glove. It is open to the interpretations of any era. As sophisticated as we think we are in the modern world, the vampire is always lurking in the shadows of our subconscious to fascinate us. Comments welcome.

© Stewart Stafford, 2014. All rights reserved.