Sunday, June 29, 2014

CREATURE FEATURES by Juliet Waldron




Several years ago I decided to begin to write a story centered around a creature. By doing that, I knew I was entering a crowded, expert field that had been successfully creating vampires and werewolves, witches, and all the rest of the occult cousinage for many, many years.



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Still, why not? I had had a notion to write a sequel to Red Magic. Unlike the other novels I’ve written which are full-on historical fiction, Red Magic  was cross-genre in at least four ways, because there are elements of fantasy, history and adventure as well as the old-fashioned romance at the core. Moreover, if you end a story with the birth of fraternal twins-- in this case, a girl and a boy--there is an obligation to write a follow-up around them. It’s an ancient story-teller's convention, probably well-established by the time the Greeks dreamed up Apollo and Diana.   


 
Okay, so all well and good, but almost immediately I was stuck again. The tall, dark hero and his red-headed sister I already knew something about—their loves, loyalties and a few of their day-to-day human problems. The question remained: into exactly what sort of creature would my hero morph?

Personally, vampires alarm me. It seems to me there are enough scary people in the real world who fit into this category without making up fictional ones who are going to (somehow) become the love interest. On the other hand, I’ve always had a soft spot for werewolves, but there sure are a lot of them howling at the moon already.

I decided to step back a pace. Why not try something less limiting? Going after the all-encompassing “shape-shifter” idea seemed a way to make an unusual hero who wasn’t boxed into a particular set of conventions, such as drinking blood or only being active after dark. If the hero/creature could become different animals, his metamorphosis could be different every time, which would definitely give my imagination a work-out. Like the boy Wart in The Sword in the Stone, my hero could sometimes be a carnivore and sometimes a herbivore, sometimes four-legged, sometimes winged, as the need and/or inclination arose.



I'm nearing the completion of Black Magic now. If I can just keep my "fanny in the chair," it should be done within the next month and ready for a stern edit. For me, it's been quite an experience, a crazy road trip out of my usual historical writer's comfort zone. 




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