Saturday, January 18, 2014

Origin Stories

For me, the origin story is half the fun of a vampire novel. Becoming a vampire is a pretty life altering thing. How in the world did it happen? The origin story also sets up the universe the writer is creating complete with rules for vampirism. Some vampires shun the light, some are fine in it (and of course some sparkle). Some are crazed killers, some romantic heroes. 

While doing research on the film "Nosferatu: Symphony of Horror" for my book Vampires' Most Wanted, I came across a tidbit about one of the producers. Albin Grau, one of the co-founders of Prana Films, the company behind "Nosferatu," served in Serbia during the first world war. He'd heard tales of vampire lore from the farmers in the area and it inspired him to make a vampire film once he'd left the service.

In my mind I combined the two ideas, soldiers and local vampire legends, and started to think that those legends being told could have been legends of vampires attacking soldiers during times of war. I decided to set Narain's conversion to vampirism on the field of No Man's Land in WWI. I wanted Narain to be old, but not ancient and I discovered that some Indian Soldiers did serve in the British trenches in Europe which makes sense seeing as how India was a part of the British empire at the time.

One haunting reality of WWI worked perfectly with that idea. When soldiers were shot down while trying to cross No Man's Land (the acreage between the trenches of the Allied and Central Powers) often they were left out there to die, or if dead, their bodies left to rot. Collecting them was often too risky since anyone trying to do so was liable to suffer the same fate as the soldiers they went to get.

Considering the local farmers relating their tales (most of which they probably believed) to Grau I began to imagine vampires haunting the area. The notion of such vampires scavenging the dead and dying seemed perfect. Narain is shot down in No Man's Land and suffers the same fate as many of the other soldiers did as they tried to make the crossing. As night falls he's attacked by feral vampires but unlike the other soldiers, rather than dying, he is reborn as a vampire.

Of course I needed a reason for him to have joined the army in the first place. Narain was an unassuming man. Twenty-five when he left for Europe. Prior to that he was a well respected cook in a Bengal restaurant. 

And there was his motivation! Possessing a passion for cooking, Narain wanted to further his culinary skills. He wanted to attend culinary schools in Europe. But he couldn't ask for money from his father, a teacher with three other children to raise (Aziz age 13, Zaheer age 10 and Ujaali age 5).

So, Narain enlists in the army with an eye toward fighting in Europe. Once the war is over (and many thought it wouldn't last the first year), should he survive, he could stay on, hoping to find work that would help put him through a European cooking school.

I enjoyed writing the scene between Narain and his father who is horrified by his son's decision. It gives the reader a taste of the loving family he was a part of before his time in Europe changed his life forever. It revealed just how much he had lost.

I also enjoyed writing the scene between Alphonse, the man who finds him during his conversion, who, once Narain comes to his sense, must find a way to break the news that his life will never be the same.

Suddenly things started falling into place. I had a history. Motivation. Even "discovered" a nemesis for Narain (Reginald Jameson, the sadistic army captain from the trenches) who would prove useful to the plot of the book. It also helped give me a reason why a vampire who had been dealing with his condition relatively well over the decades was confused and troubled at the opening of the novel.

No comments:

Post a Comment