Guest Post: Charles Yallowitz—Spinning the Vampire Mythos

A big thank you to L. Marie for helping to promote the first book of my newest series, War of Nytefall: Loyalty (see book blurb toward the end). While this takes place in my previous series, Legends of Windemere, it focuses on a world-changing event. Specifically, the emergence of a new breed of vampire called Dawn Fangs. Due to the topic, L. Marie showed me this quote  from Stephen King:

Here’s what vampires shouldn’t be: pallid detectives who drink Bloody Marys and work only at night; lovelorn southern gentlemen; anorexic teenage girls; boy-toys with big dewy eyes. What should they be? Killers, honey. Stone killers who never get enough of that tasty Type-A. Bad boys and girls. Hunters. In other words, Midnight America. Red, white and blue, accent on the red. Those vamps got hijacked by a lot of soft-focus romance.

I both agree and disagree with Stephen King here because I don’t think anyone can really say that a vampire shouldn’t be something. If it works for the story then that’s what they should be in that world. People seem to take their own preferences for vampires and deem them to be the true standard. Look, I prefer my bloodsuckers monstrous and vicious instead of lovey-dovey stalking a high school. That’s just me though. There’s always been a strange seductive aura around vampires, which the romantic series play up more than the monster side of the extensive mythos. Problems come about in any genre when people step up to say that they should ONLY be done this way because that’s gatekeeping and you lose a lot of potential stories when you go down that route.

Edward Cullen from the Twilight series

Now, while my vampire preference is similar to what King talks about, I don’t think his works for every situation. To me, he’s talking about the monster who is terrorizing the heroes and needs to be overcome. Whether it be one or pack, these are the evil and inhuman beasts that lurk in the shadows. If you want a vampire to be the protagonist, then this doesn’t work because they’ll be driven to do evil. Once they begin fighting against their monstrous nature, they start to fall into the previous examples King mentioned. You can’t keep them as the slavering monster or sinister immortal noble that bathes in blood if they’re going to be a good guy. A sacrifice needs to be made to spin the classic monster into something that people can relate to; many times that’s their ferocity.

This is something I had to consider for War of Nytefall because it isn’t a story about mortals fending off vampires. It’s about the rise of a new breed of vampire in a world of magic and the vampire civil war that ensues afterwards. Mortals are merely bystanders, meals, and the occasional agent while the main cast consists entirely of immortal bloodsuckers. I couldn’t make the vampires entirely monstrous because I wanted readers to connect and I felt like such creatures wouldn’t have a complicated war. This required that I design two breeds with one being the Old World vampires and the other being the newer Dawn Fangs, which I’ll explain in brief.

Old World
These are closer to your classic vampires that can’t feed without killing. They can cast spells and hide in cities of darkness. Since this isn’t Earth, I threw out a lot of weaknesses that didn’t make any sense for Windemere. Holy magic is their bane and I went for an older version of the myth where sunlight weakens instead of kills. This is why Old World vampires in Windemere carry night cloaks, which they wear to retain their powers during the day. Doesn’t help against a smite spell to the face, but not much does. These would normally fit into the type that King recommends.

Dawn Fangs
These are the vampires that required a lot of work since they are the “heroes.” They’re still monsters, but they can feed without killing, have pulses, are immune to sunlight, and possess powers beyond that of the Old Worlds. In fact, the civil war is started because the Old World vampires are terrified that the stronger Dawn Fangs are going to wipe them out if they don’t strike first. Because they have these advantages, the Dawn Fangs can exist within mortal society too, but I didn’t want to pursue the “romantic” subplots. Instead, I play with the idea that these powerful monsters have actually become more human (or elf or dwarf or whatever they were before turning) instead of less. They’ve retained their viciousness and show signs that they are fighting to control a bloodlust that dwarfs that of their predecessors. Yet, a part of this is because they might be more at the mercy of their emotions than both mortals and Old Worlds. Even so, I can’t say they fall into the desired category that King describes, but I can say they don’t really fit into the previous ones either.

One thing I’ve learned with vampires is that the type you use depends entirely on the genre and specific story. I think a big issue for vampires recently is that culture has tried to pigeonhole them into one category and it’s caused a big clash between personal preferences. This is something that an author should consider, but not to the point where they make the social conflict the deciding factor of how they portray these monsters. You can, and should, tailor them to your own needs because they should be more than simply “a vampire,” at least if they’re more than the terrifying monster that has to be overcome, which is more plot device than character.

Book Blurb
In the wake of the Great Cataclysm, a new predator will emerge within Windemere’s shadow.

For fifty years, Clyde has remained buried while the rest of the vampires have been battling against their enemies. Only Mab believes that her former partner survived his execution and is determined to bring him back to the city of Nyte. Retrieving the vampiric thief is only the beginning as he comes out of the ground stronger, faster, and demonstrating powers that their kind have never witnessed throughout their ancient history. Thrown into the war, Clyde must be careful to hide his true nature while fighting alongside his old friends. Too bad he is having so much fun that keeping his secret might be furthest from his mind.

Will anyone be ready for the rise of the Dawn Fangs?
Grab your copy of War of Nytefall: Loyalty on Amazon!

Author Info
Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.
Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

Author photo courtesy of the author. Book cover designed by Alison Hunt. Stephen King photo found at dreadcentral. Vampire trope image from vampires.com. Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen image from fanpop.com.

Sound and Silence: Shaping the Mood

Someone shrieks. A parent scoops up a child and flees. Gazes swivel skyward as a sudden crashing sound shatters the brittle quiet. The thumps and thuds of hurrying feet sound a timpani beat on the stairs.

What is this? The aftermath of a horrible crime? Fear engendered by a natural disaster?

No. This is a three-year-old’s birthday party that I recently attended. Taken out of context, the sights and sounds above have a veneer of tension and horror. (Perhaps the notion of a three-year-old’s birthday party fills you with horror now.)

2-party-birthday-hat-for-kids-11

When a bunch of small children congregate in one space, you might imagine you’re in a war zone when you catalogue the amount of spillage, breakage, and yell-age (not a real word, but appropriate) taking place. Somehow seven small children can seem like 30, especially when they’re sugared up.

Actually, the most eerie sound at the party was the sudden onslaught of quiet. All of the children were upstairs in one child’s bedroom being very quiet. The silence sent every parent rushing up the stairs to see what was going on.

Since I was in charge of games at this party, I was privy to the most sounds: shrieks, protests (“I didn’t get a turrrrrrrrrrrrrrrn”), and questions. (“Where’s my baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllll?”) I wondered what the neighbors thought of all of the sounds coming from this place.

Expectations factor into how sounds are received. Because we expect a bunch of kids ranging in age from 2 to 7 to be loud when they congregate, screams aren’t as ominous as they would seem coming from a crowd of adults at a non-sporting event. Therefore, our heart rates remain even when we hear them, unless we recognize the switch in a child’s tone (from excited to upset).

violin1The birthday party reminds me of something to which I need to pay more attention in my writing: sounds and their effect on a listener. Consider the way sounds shape our reaction to scenes in films and shows. We’ve all seen horror movies where high- or low-pitched instruments are the signal that something awful is going to happen. At the Moving Image Education website, I found a quote that encapsulates this experience:

Pitch can greatly affect audience response: a low rumbling sound might imply menace, while a high, sustained note might create tension.

If you’ve got time and don’t scare easily, you can watch one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history—the shower scene from Psycho (1960), one of director Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous films. (Seems a lot tamer than movies today.) Listen to the music and how it affects the mood of the scene.

If you watched the scene or remember it from the past, did you notice the quiet at the beginning? That aspect makes the murder all the more jarring.

In a book, an author has to work hard to help a reader correctly interpret the mood. For descriptions of sounds, we have to rely on figurative language and other well-chosen words to create a frame of reference for the reader, since he or she can only “hear” through his/her imagination. (For example: “I said, no!” Jessica’s “no” sliced the air like a knife.)

I usually look at the behind-the-scenes documentaries of shows like Clone Wars or movies like The Lord of the Rings to learn what sound engineers do to create sounds that add to our experience of the media. A great online resource for the use of sounds to convey mood is the article, “Change The Sound, Change The Mood,” at NHPR (New Hampshire Public Radio). Click here for that article. If you have time, check out the videos that show how the mood of well-known movie trailers drastically changed as the music used in them changed. (The revised Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory trailer made me laugh out loud. The boat ride is key.)

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The boat ride from Willy Wonka

How has a sound affected your mood lately? How do you use sound in your writing to heighten the mood? What book or poem have you read recently where the descriptions of sounds made the text even more vivid?

Birthday hats from trendymods.com. Violin from bibleconversation.wordpress.com. Willy Wonka boat ride gif from pandawhale.com.