A Writer’s Notebook: NaNoWriMo update #4

So, as promised, I’ve been tinkering a bit with the book since I returned from vacation, even adding some new scenes, but I haven’t updated the word count because most of the new text is still in my voice recorder and most of the changes have been internal, meaning that part of the word count hasn’t changed much.  When I submit the final text for confirmation, probably on November 30, I’ll post a recap and a final word count here.  Look for that next week.

In the meantime, another excerpt:

We vampire are energy feeders, and this is the primary means by which to identify each other.  Blood drinking is a pleasure, but not all vampire desire the blood nor do any vampire need the blood, and it is not a reliable marker of your Kindred.  We have certain secret signs and symbols we use to identify the initiated, but these, too, have become imitated or stolen by the mortal world and adopted in their fantasies of an immortal lifestyle, so only the initiated can recognize the true signs from the false.  The most reliable indication that you have met a fellow vampire is the exchange of energy on the psychic, empathic, or pranic levels.

Most vampire grow up in isolation and so know only what it feels like to feed and to perceive the loss of energy in others.  When you met a Kindred, you yourself will feel the pull of energy.  You may experience a sudden plummet in physical energy, you may become suddenly and inexplicably depressed and despondent, you may feel dizzy or even drunk or drugged.  The air will feel cold against your skin, or you will feel numb to temperature and touch entirely.  You may feel aged.

Your first task is to shield yourself from further draining.  The simplest method is concentration.  Find a focal point on which to fix your gaze—a soft light or a soothing color work particularly well—and focus all your attention on that spot.  Block out the rest of the world, all other sensory experience; doing so, you will also block the conduit of your energy to the vampire.

This is easily circumnavigated, however, especially by an experienced vampire, who need only distract your concentration and/or return your attention to themselves.  The most effective technique, for beginners, is to form a protective circle:  Holding your hands in front of your navel, touch your index fingers to your thumbs in two circles, and then interlink the circles perpendicular to each other, like links in a chain.  Visualize yourself within a sphere of white light.  Chant, either mentally or aloud, “I am protected from harm, my energy is contained within.”  Repeat this chant until you feel your energy returning.

This is a more visible defense and is therefore a signal to an experienced vampire that their attack has failed, and it can result in physical confrontation is the energy attack was aggressive.  But with practice, this defense is quickly accomplished and difficult to break through purely vampiric needs.

Once you have defended yourself against further draining, you should respond to the vampire you have found.  If the attack was intentional or aggressive, you should attack in return, either through your vampiric talents or physically if necessary.  Do not run.  You are vampire, and though our destiny is the immortal ultralife, mere survival is not our goal, and those too weak to pursue their vampiric gift should be weeded out.  If you are the weaker of the two in such a confrontation, and you lose, you do not deserve your vampiric birthright.  If you are the stronger and best your attacker, it is up to you whether or not to show mercy.

If, however, the energy attack was intentional or even unconscious, as they often are, you should greet your Kindred by way of an energy exchange.  Drain a little energy, gently, from your newfound Kindred, just enough to let them know that you, too, are vampire—and just enough to replenish the energy taken from you—and then offer energy by intentionally sending out your good will.

If your Kindred is new and uninitiated, do not approach them immediately.  Watch them, observe whether or not they are worthy of pursuing their destiny.  If you have been formally initiated and serve a master, seek permission to approach this new Kindred.  Only when you are sure this vampire is worthy of deeper knowledge may you approach this virgin and explain what we are.

Toward the end of this marathon of writing, I started experimenting with alternate ways to tell this story.  At first I was just trying to work in background information by doing character interviews and sketches and such, but as I fed this into the text I began to wonder if I might try a kind of multimedia approach to the novel, including not only the straight, third-person narrative I’d been writing but also news clippings, interview transcripts, and excerpts from the “vampire bible” that the cult leader Lucius wrote, the book Portia Lynn gives Julian to read.  This excerpt is an example of that.

It’s not a new idea, of course:  Stoker himself made brilliant use of news clippings, transcribed phonograph journals, medical reports, and so on.  (I’ve recently been reading a nonfiction book about the fidelity of the various film adaptations of the novel Dracula, so I’ve had Stoker’s work and his style on the brain lately.)

Part of me wonders if this is a lame digression from the initial style of the novel, which I really liked at first.  But another part of me thinks that style was running out of steam, and toying with elements like this excerpt kept the writing going, so I half-wonder if this might be a way to approach a rewrite of the book, perhaps even taking it further to include such miscellany as sketches (literal, pencil-drawing sketches), notes and to-do lists, even a vampire’s shopping list.  We’ll see.  Unlike last year’s novel, this book is still very embryonic, so it still has a lot of room for experiment.

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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