I'm writing a vampire novel. Just started Chapter Six in fact and am pretty pleased at the progress. Check out the cool concept art at left!
Right now I'm at the stage where I'll let folks know what it is I'm working on, mostly in a blatant effort to generate buzz and therefore eventual sales. But there's also a reason psychological. I'm deliberately applying pressure to myself. Ah what a tangled web we weave when in writing we would achieve...!
Simply, in the 1840s a "penny deadful" novel titled Varney The Vampyre saw the light of day. At over two hundred chapters (that's right -- CHAPTERS) this best-seller proved a pivotal work in vampire fiction. With it began the whole trope of the Reluctant Vampire, as well as stuff like a portrait providing a clue to the vampyre's human identity and a team of intrepid would-be Slayers visiting a crypt as part of their anti-vampiric operations. Plus lots more. It really is a seminal work in the genre.
Unfortunately, it is very poorly written.
Look to the right. Among the links under Elsewhere On The Web is a blog devoted to Varney, in which an intrepid soul is going through the work offering her (very entertaining) commentary on each chapter. She'll show what I mean about the "poorly written" part. A few examples: Varney has something like seven different origins. Characters change names, subplots lead nowhere, major characters vanish for no apparent reason, the whole thing is chock full of compound complex sentences in the passive voice. And so on.
Having finally read Varney The Vampyre about the same time as someone mentioned the Darker Passions series and coinciding with the publication of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, an idea grew inside my mind. Such is often an omen. This was no exception. My notion seems relatively simple -- edit/adapt the original manuscript into something better, or at least something I'd rather it be. Arrogant? Well, yeah. Not an accusation I can truthfully deny, but on the other hand perhaps that is a necessary ingredient for my writing.
So--I titled my novel Baneworth. The family the Vampyre "haunts" for much of the first third enjoys the name "Bannerworth" but I wanted something more gothic. Rather than recreate the entire opus (which seriously loses the plotline after a time), my focus would be on said family. Along the way I nailed down a specific origin for the vampyre, along with cutting some superfluous characters (as well as truckloads of meandering incidents involving lost matches and the like). Likewise, the story takes place circa 1815, during the Regency. And because my sensibilities associate the undead with eroticism, the book is not simply a vampire story but also a kind of romance.
Regarding this last, allow me to state a preference or three. Frankly, what displeases me most in too many attempts at erotica remains the instant beginning of mechanical descriptions of coitus. How dull. What makes something sexy is not the act but the context, the story, the seduction and discovery. In other words -- foreplay. Hence my decision to write Baneworth with a gradually increasing air of sensuality. Part of that involved laying the groundwork for different potential couplings, yet allowing for uncertainty. Really, I'm not against formulas in fiction. Not at all. But at heart such should be a tool, not a set of laws. Without going into details, it seems to me that if you hint that A and B are getting together and they more-or-less do, then all the effort you put into C and D should lead up to some really startling surprise. For example, perhaps C and D are in fact rivals for the affections of E who in turn desires F. Expectation must be created if the writer is to thwart it effectively.
Writing Baneworth will probably take many more months, but my hopes are high. Wish me luck!