Once upon a time, I had the idea to write a vampire story at a time when vampires were the hot supernatural creature to talk about (“hot” even though their skin is cold, ba-dum-ching!) At the same time, I knew that the world was beginning to experience vampire fatigue – or at least Twilight fatigue that translated into being tired of vampires in general.
Aware of that fatigue, I took a different approach when I wrote the first chapter of Fanged. I wanted to make it clear from the beginning that this book was not like the “other” vampire novels out there. I wanted the reader to understand that my protagonist was different from other vampire protagonists, that he was really just a regular teenage boy who just happened to be a vampire.
I thought, “What does my character’s bedroom look like?”
And that’s when the ideas started to flow. I had already decided that my protagonist was going to live in a crypt in the middle of a cemetery. I wrote pages of description comparing his old teenage bedroom with his current living situation, hoping to use the setting and props as a way to give clues about his personality.
The end result was this, the very first page of my book:
Chapter 1 – How I Met My New Best Friend by Almost Killing a Mall Employee
My bedroom is different from other people’s bedrooms.
First of all, you won’t find any posters on my walls. I had to leave them all behind. The posters of my favorite bands, favorite CD covers, modern art prints, and women in bathing suits still adorn the walls and ceiling of my old apartment. When I left New York, I did it in a hurry, taking only the most essential items with me. (I’m not going to lie – I miss the bathing suit pictures most of all. They kept me company on some very lonely nights.)
Besides, posters would look odd in my new place anyway. The art prints might fit in, but the Beck poster would be out of place on the grey stone walls that had just begun to deteriorate. The small room was finally showing its age. From the cold, stone floor, to the arch over the heavy door, to the ceiling stretching eight feet high, the grey stone was just beginning to develop a tint of copper-colored decay.
This didn’t worry me. I only planned to stay there for a year, two years tops, and I knew it wouldn’t collapse for decades yet. Besides, the older my room looks, the more frightening and eerie it looks, meaning people will be even less likely to come knocking. I have a “Trespassers Keep Out: This Means You!” sign hanging on the door of my old room, but the mausoleum I live in now renders such a sign unnecessary. People are plenty wary of approaching this place even without a sign to threaten them.
That’s another odd thing about my bedroom. The bedroom makes up the entire house. And it isn’t a house so much as a crypt, a crypt at the south side of the Holy Rood Cemetery in Whippany, New Jersey.
Even the boldest and most dangerous of runaways would balk at hiding out in a cemetery. Then again, I’m not a typical runaway. I have a limited amount of clothes, I travel by night and sleep by day…okay, that part is pretty typical. But I’m no victim of the morally-challenged who prey on confused young people. If they try anything with me, they become my prey. I bare my fangs and drink deep – not enough to kill, but just enough to show who’s in charge.
That’s just one of the advantages of being a vampire.
Living in a cemetery seems like the ultimate vampire cliché, I know. I have a multitude of issues with the popular misconceptions about vampires, especially the ones that make us look like brooding emo whiners with no sense of humor who lament over being misunderstood and losing our poor, fragile souls. Please. I have no patience for that stereotype. But camping out in a crypt is practical for me and more comfortable than it might seem.
I was proud of this chapter when I completed it. The character’s personality seemed to come through and there was some decent humor in there.
I was less satisfied when I returned to the chapter after receiving some feedback from one of my beta readers (who is one of the people listed in the acknowledgments section of the book). She thought that the description of the setting was used as a placeholder for character insight, rather than enhancing character insight.
I also wasn’t happy with the character’s sarcasm about other vampire stereotypes. He suddenly came across as smug and a little obnoxious. Also, my reader made a very good point – that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to alienate a target audience who might have read and enjoyed other stories with the “brooding emo” vampires.
But the main thing that bothered me was that nothing was happening in this chapter. This description goes on for several more pages before we see any kind of action.
Then why, after all of these doubts, did I make this the first chapter of my book?
Well, I didn’t. I rewrote the whole thing.
[To be continued…]