One of the first exercises Chris Baty has you do in the beginning of No Plot? No Problem! is to draft two “magna cartas.” One should be composed of all the things that you personally like in the books you love to read. He says to be honest, even if it means admitting that you like books with a lot of white space because you do not like reading large blocks of text. The other “magna carta” should be the opposite list – all the things you find boring in books. Again, he encourages you to be honest with yourself, even if it means admitting that you really hate books about old people or love stories.
I did this exercise, although I have not yet hung them up by my desk like he suggests. I will not post them here either, but I do want to take this opportunity to be honest about the kind of book I want to write, based on the kind of book I like to read.
I am a genre reader. I love me a good urban fantasy. I also enjoy straight-up fantasy, science fiction (both soft and hard), apocalyptic dystopias, some steampunk, and the occasionally mystery. Add to that Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and John Donne, and that about rounds out what I prefer reading.
I also LOVE vampires. Love them…I get all feisty with people who try to disparage my beloved vampire and I feel the need to spout long diatribes, explaining their importance as archetypes of the human experience. I will spare you that spiel here.
First of all, I would like to concede the fact that the current state of literature is filled to the brim with vampire stories. Well, I don’t care. This first manuscript (and probably the second and the third) is just for me. I need to get in the practice of writing creatively again. I need to experiment with story-construction, from beginning to end. The first manuscript I write, edited or not, is probably not going to be publication-worthy. I am okay with that, which is why I decided that one of the main characters in my first manuscript will be a vampire. It will not have to compete with the market and that is what I want to write about, so that is what I am going to do. So there!
Secondly, I just want to mention something that I find ironic. I love reading and I love vampires, but, honestly, I cannot think of a single book about vampires that I would give five out of five stars too. I am not entirely sure why. It just seems that even if I enjoy the story and the characterizations, I always end up disappointed – as though the author could have treated the vampire mythology just a little bit better. Of course, I have not read every single book out there with vampire characters, and I am sure there must be at least a couple that would become favorites. Nevertheless, my experience to date cannot provide me with such a book, with the one notable exception of Dracula by Bram Stoker himself. However, Dracula works for an historical setting (today anyway), but I like my vampires to feel a little closer and that involves a contemporary treatment.
If I may momentarily set the novel aside, Joss Whedon is my hero and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (along with Angel and the irrelevant-to-this-discussion Firefly) is, in my opinion, one of the best shows every produced for television. I wish I could find that in a novel.
I believe part of my desire to focus on the vampire is that the part of my brain which has never been introduced to my internal critic thinks that maybe I can do it “right.” When I say that out-loud (or the written equivalent), however, that little guy takes note, glares at me and shames me into believing that I could never do that. My inner critic’s opinion is irrelevant, though, since he is barred from reading my first manuscript.
Well, there it is… *Whew!* I have come clean. I like vampires. I feel so much better having gotten that off my chest. Now you, dear reader, know what you are getting yourself into and I can no longer be held accountable for leading you down a dark path that leads to a genre you hate.
My name is Marilyn and I am a vampire addict.