Friday, February 06, 2009

What Is Your Philosophy?

My brain “writes ahead.” I promised myself I would write whatever grabs me this year. And what grabbed me?

A vampire novel.

Of all things. I keep Googling, but I haven’t found a vampire book with a similar hook. (Well, one, sorta comes close, but I’m pretty sure we’re okay.) If it turns out that there is one, well, I have to write it anyway. I promised myself.

So my brain is working out “What I Want To Say” in the novel. If I don’t know what I want to say, I can’t really pick the characters or plot or situation.

image My brain is also working out the “vampire rules.” I’ve been trying to think out of the box, but I confess I don’t know the genre well.

Why are vampires never wise elders who are treated with respect? You would think a person who’s lived for upwards of two or three hundred years might perhaps have a few drops of wisdom and perspective to share. Often, vampire “groupies” in novels are drawn to the danger, the excitement, and the sexuality of vampires, but why are there never a group of professors hanging on for a tidbit or two of wisdom?

And I gotta tell you: I’d become a vampire in an instant. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have the perspective of centuries to inform you? Just think of all you could learn, all the different subjects in which you could become a true master! Think of how many books you could write!

Why are vampires not inventors, artists, and philosophers? After hundreds of years experiencing life, why the heck would you only be running a nightclub?

Then you’ve got a whole slew of issues: spirituality, souls, religion, the meaning of life, the meaning of death, what happens after death… 

Why do vampires never seek to understand themselves? Why are there no vampire monks, no vampire religions, no vampire gods?

imageWhy does a lot of vampire lit claim that vampires have no souls? What purpose does that serve in us, the readers? Does it reassure us that people die for a reason? Does it reassure us that we want to eventually die, simply because we all must die? Does this fulfill a need in us to give our death meaning, as we give our life meaning?

And then there’s the HUGE topic of sexuality which underpins all to do with vampires and how humans relate to and view vampires. One thing I’ve discovered is that we all have these sexual desires and fantasies and urges, but we’re more “okay” with them when they are presented in a nice and safe “just-is” box.

People will watch a male vampire sink his teeth into another man and it will be a box office hit, but fifteen years later, they will vote against gay marriage.

I am starting to understand why vampire novels are still resonating with readers. What an amazing treasure trove of issues to explore!

A whole lot of writers in history wrote a ton of essays. I love to read these: they are like the blogs of the 19th and 20th century. One such book of essays, by an author I’ve just forgotten, began with a declaration of her life’s philosophies, what she believed to be true thus far.

If you write, I think you have to have philosophies, whether you're aware of them or not. Even if you’re “just” writing an entertaining story, your stories will be informed by your beliefs: little things here and there. Your story doesn’t have to be profound to be infused with your worldview. It’s your “trademark color.”

Have you ever written an “I believe” essay? Listed your life philosophies? How do these things inform your writing?

And what say you on vampires?

40 bonus scribbles:

Bevie 2/06/2009 11:29:00 AM  

"And what say you on vampires?"

When I was young (teenager/twenties) I was fascinated with the subject. Some time after that I lost interest. My understanding is there is a whole new slew of vampire stories, but I couldn't name one.

Yet I still love fantasy. Wizards, dragons, unicorns, medieval quests. Go figure, huh?

What I remember about vampires is:

a) They hate being immortal, but are terrified of dying.

b) They often do take on the role of a "wise professor-type" person. It's one way to lure the innocent.

It's probably changed in the past thirty years.

Edie 2/06/2009 11:37:00 AM  

Liz Kreger is writing a vamp book, too. Like you, the story took hold of her.

I'm not a vampire lover, but the way you're looking at it sounds awesome! I'd love to see vampires with spirituality. And why shouldn't they have souls?

I see what you mean about living all those years. It's like the movie "Groundhog Day." After awhile you figure out how to live right.

If I were a vampire, I wouldn't want to spend my nights skulking in shadows. How boring. I'd want to dance and sing and learn how to play musical instrument. I'd read EVERYTHING. I'd want to meet everyone who's interesting. I'd meet Obama. LOL

Anonymous,  2/06/2009 11:46:00 AM  

Be sure you read "Sunshine" by Robin McKinley - a very different take on vampires, will help you roll around some of those questions, I think.

Somewhere I read in dream interpretations that vampire=sex. Definitely there's a darker side to vampires, a loss of innocence thing, but I will leave it at that. :)

Avery DeBow 2/06/2009 12:02:00 PM  

Take a look at "Priest of Blood" by Douglas Clegg. He has a very innovative take on vampires and their mythos.

Charles Gramlich 2/06/2009 01:40:00 PM  

If you have a new way to do vampires you might be on your way to stardom. They've been done so much. I did a vampire series of short stories back in the 90s but have never tried a novel.

Sarah Laurenson 2/06/2009 02:30:00 PM  

Working on my own Vampire WIP and I did take a lot of liberties with what Vampires are supposed to be (and do).

One of your questions struck a chord for me in the overall meaning of life way. Vampires own nightclubs and don't do all those other wonderful things to leave your mark on the world because they have all the time in the world and nothing pushing them to become figuratively immortal.

Melissa Marsh 2/06/2009 04:07:00 PM  

Not a fan at all of vampires. Don't like to read them or watch them. I think you've got some interesting issues to think about with them, though.

And I definitely think that your beliefs come through in your writing.

Aimless Writer 2/06/2009 04:18:00 PM  

I read Nocturn books (Harlequin's line) by Caridad Pinero. She's got a good Vampire series going.
I wrote something like a vampire book once only my main character wasn't exactly a vampire. Just something like that. Mapping out the "world" was the hardest. I've got three big thick books on Vampires at home. Still struggled. Then I abandoned it. Someday I'll go back....

Kath Calarco 2/06/2009 04:21:00 PM  

Read Christopher Moore's "Blood Sucking Fiends" and you'll see an entirely new take on the vampire scene.

Personally, I think they suck. :) All that cape flapping, quick moves and bad complexions...who do they think they are? Mick Jagger?

Angie 2/06/2009 07:10:00 PM  

The problem with letting professors gather at your feet to listen to your wisdom is that they're academics and they're going to want to publish. :) Unless vampires in your verse are "out" (which is becoming a bit more common in recent books/TV/movies) the number one rule is to keep your nature a secret. You only tell a few chosen people you know you can trust, and anyone else who finds out is killed. (Or hypnotized into forgetting, if your vamps can do that sort of thing.)

That said, though, my favorite vampire books are the St. Germain chronicles by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. The first one, Hotel Transylvania, is kind of weird and reads as a stand-alone, but once she got into the actual series, St. Germain changed a lot, became less over-the-top. He is a wise ancient, and is respected as such by many of the people he meets and hangs out with. There are books set in many different times and places, including Ancient Rome and China, Renaissance Florence, WWI, up to modern times. And a woman he met in the Ancient Roman book, Blood Games, became a vampire herself and got her own trilogy. Highly recommended if you haven't run across them yet.


Lisa 2/06/2009 07:54:00 PM  

Have you watched "True Blood". I like that series and look forward to it returning.

Anonymous,  2/06/2009 10:11:00 PM  

I've never written an "I believe" essay, but I've had fun exploring my personal thoughts in my stories. ;)

I think what you bring up about vmapires are very valid points and the beginnings of putting a twist to a classic genre. That's how many authors got their start in the vampire genre and why I feel it'll never die. There's too much to explore if you're dealing with vampires who lives for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

mom2brie,  2/07/2009 01:14:00 AM  

Wow - I'm fascinated that you said "And I gotta tell you: I’d become a vampire in an instant. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have the perspective of centuries to inform you?"

I could not disagree with you more. I would HATE to be on this specific earth for centuries [shudder].

But, I'm not criticizing your opinion, I'm just intrigued that we feel so differently.


Richmond Writer 2/07/2009 08:03:00 AM  

The problem with living too long is you're either stuck with someone or you've lost someone you love.

There was a tv series called the Highlander that I enjoyed and they explored the theme that living 400 years means suffering.

One thing, you could write some realistic historical novels!

Pink Ink 2/07/2009 08:28:00 AM  

Fascinating questions, Spy. I like how you ask why there aren't more inventors, because they would know so much over the centuries.

I like Edie's point about taking advantage of all the time to learn so many skills and enjoy hobbies while being undead for centuries. :-)

Kath Calarco 2/07/2009 09:25:00 AM  

P.S. Spy, hope you realize my post was done in complete jest. I should have mentioned it within.

Truly, I love a well done vampire story, and those naysayers who think they're dead I hope say so with pun intended.

Kate S 2/07/2009 09:44:00 AM  

Loved this post, Natasha! Lots to think about.

I'll have to mull it over and get back to you. :)

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:16:00 AM  

Bevie, every time I look at your icon thing I smile. What a cute kitten! :-)

That's great to know! It does make sense they'd be wise, you know?

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:17:00 AM  

Edie, I love that movie! I don't know why, because it's so repetitive already, but I've watched it a million times.

Yes, yes, yes! Me, too! I would learn so much! I'd learn to play the cello, no, every instrument. The sitar! I've always wanted to play the sitar! And I'd read everything to, and I'd PLAY every piece of piano music, and I'd write so many books!

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:18:00 AM  

Aerin, there is a direct connection between vampires and sex. The whole sink your teeth thing is synonymous with... well, you know. LOL!

I bought Sunshine yesterday, on your recommendation. Great so far!

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:19:00 AM  

Thank you, Avery! I've just downloaded it to my Kindle. :-) I do need to know which ones I need to be certain to read. I have read vampires stories here and there, but I definitely don't have what you'd call an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject.

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:21:00 AM  

Oh neat, Charles! I keep checking, because I find it hard to believe this twist hasn't been done. It has once, kind of, but it's at a tiny, tiny, teensy-tiny press and not the same.

Maybe that's a bad sign, though!

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:22:00 AM  

That's is a fascinating take, Sarah! Wow! You're right. Excellent point. They do have all the time in the world, so what would push them?

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:23:00 AM  

Melissa, to each her own. :-) I mostly enjoy the sexuality of them and the philosophy you can play with. It's going to be an exciting challenge!

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:24:00 AM  

Aimless, mapping out a world is hard! There is so much in-depth work! I'm really psyched for the challenge. It's a rush, having all this power to create a world the way you want it!

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:25:00 AM  

Hah! That's funny, Kath! I meant to check that out last night! Will do this afternoon. Thank you! I need all the help I can get!

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:26:00 AM  

Angie, hah! So true! LOL! I downloaded one of her books to my kindle. I love that take! That sounds like an awesome take on it. As I browsed through her books, I thought that she must have had fun, exploring all those different facets of history.

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:27:00 AM  

Lisa, I LOVE Sookie Stackhouse!!! Have you read the books by Charlaine Harris? They are AWESOME! I read all eight, plus watched the whole season of True Blood, all within a couple weeks, they were so good!

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:29:00 AM  

Marcia, you're write. There is just so much to explore. It's hard to imagine it could die. All of that stuff, in one package! It's fascinating to me.

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:36:00 AM  

Mom2Brie, it's funny, your take doesn't surprise me in the least! What I find ironic is that you're so lucky: you have Blake home with you, a nice house, Brie... and if I were to look at the two of us, I would definitely say you had the better life.

It's such a funny thing, really, because you're so amazingly strong--the strongest person I know--and you always believe you will survive anything, without any doubts. It sorta looks like optimism at first glance, LOL.

You would make a good Buddhist, LOL.

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:37:00 AM  

Richmond, such a good point! That's the weird thing about some romance novels with vampires: would they really allow themselves to fall in love with someone who will be gone in a blink of an eye?

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:38:00 AM  

Jewel, I'm so with you. If I were alive for centuries, I'd explore every nook and cranny of this world. I'd get to know every kind of people, speak every language, play ALL music, read every book... ohmigosh, the list goes on FOREVER!

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:40:00 AM  

Oh, Kath, never worry! :-) LOL! I can see why you like Christopher Moore. I can't wait to check out that book!

spyscribbler 2/07/2009 11:41:00 AM  

Thanks, Kate! And thank for that tip you gave me... it looks, fingers crossed, like it might get me started! Yay!

Melanie Avila 2/07/2009 11:44:00 AM  

Spy, it's funny you ask this now as I'm still floating on my vampire high. The Twilight series is the first time I've read anything with vampires, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. That series touches on whether or not they have souls but never really answers the question.

Good luck!

LaDonna 2/07/2009 01:51:00 PM  

Hey Spy, I loved the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Before that, I couldn't get into the whole Vamp thing. Like you, I wanted something different, unique. By reading that book, and seeing the movie I discovered I'm open to the genre, I just want something new and more. Thank goodness you're plotting and planning as we speak! lol. You go, Girl!

Zoe Winters 2/07/2009 04:03:00 PM  

I'd be a vampire's pet.

Though I think Edward is a pussy.

Favorite T-shirt:

"And then Buffy staked Edward. The End."

laughingwolf 2/07/2009 04:27:00 PM  

great ponderfuls, have fun with em :D

Kate S 2/07/2009 07:12:00 PM  

"And then Buffy staked Edward. The End."


Spy - yay! I hope it works out. :)

Realmcovet 2/10/2009 08:51:00 AM  

I love this post! Vampires with spirituality...I've tried doing that one before, but kinda got lost in taking care of the kiddos and homeschooling and what not. So I never did pick it back up. I did have this half-breed Elven Vampire guy I was working on. He struggled internally with spiritual issues, and I wrote a poem especially for him titled "Dark Realm". Of course I was living vicariously through my character's POV those days too, y'know. Sometimes being a mommy can be shall I put it? Boring. :D