It’s November 1st, which means NaNoWriMo is officially happening!
Y’ALL READY FOR THIS?
I’m really excited, not gonna lie. I’ve done a bunch of prep work for my project, which you can read all about here, and which I’m going to go in more detail for now. I’m going to be posting every Friday with an update of where things are, so since NaNo’s starting on a Friday, I haven’t actually gotten anything done yet, but, as Maggie Stiefvater once repeated several times over the course of a five-hour seminar, pre-writing is vital.
I pre-write for all of my novels. I write character sketches for anyone who’s going to have a POV, which is usually anyone who will impact the plot in serious ways. I outline at least 2-3 times. The first time is a general, vague thing. There are almost always three acts, and my outline for each act will be about a normal-sized paragraph separated into bullet points. No scene-specific things (unless there’s something that’s been in my head for a while), mostly just general arcs of where I want the story to go. The second outline usually happens somewhere around the mid-end of act two, when I’ve inevitably done something drastic that requires a shift in the plot. This is still general/vague. The third outline, if it happens, is much more specific. This is usually for the last 10 or less chapters of the book. This will map out specifically what I want to happen in each chapter, and this outline only gets written as I’m approaching the Point of No Return. (You know this moment. It’s about 100 pages before the end of a big book, and it’s the point where you have to read all 100 pages in one go.)
So, today we’re going to chat characters, any specific research I’ve done for them, and a general/vague plot. Let’s get to it!
And, to quickly reiterate, before I dive into the characters and what is sure to be questionable aesthetic pictures for them, here is my blurb from my announcement post:
When Andrew Levi wakes up in downtown Boston, he knows three things: one, he has no idea how he got here; two, there are three very large dogs lurking behind him that may or may not be hellhounds; and three, he’s a vampire. Fast forward several years, and Andrew knows a lot more than that now. He’s a well-renowned detective for the Boston PD, his amnesia previous to waking up in the city hasn’t changed, his dogs are definitely hellhounds, and his partner, Sam Baker, is probably going to stake him through the heart if he blacks out during feeding again and accidentally throws them headlong into a triple homicide. That is, if Andrew’s old coven leader doesn’t get to her first.
Vampire detective time, yay!
First up, our MC, Andrew Levi, resident vampire detective. Andrew was the first character I met of our main quartet, and the first line I ever wrote for him was, “There is nothing more that he hates than the smell of blood.” Dating back to December 2015, it was the first, and last, time I ever wrote about vampires until about two years ago when I was confused about what I wanted to write and was trying to look for the right direction. This was right before I discovered Saintsverse, which is my main series, and for a brief moment in time, I considered telling Andrew’s story.
I sat down with my roommate at the time, Jen, who has been vital in the inner workings of a lot of my novels, and we figured out Andrew’s history together. We spent most of our time on that, and so, when I went to start plotting, it was with lackluster motivation. I didn’t know any of the other characters all that well, and I was not yet in a space in my life where I was ready to admit that I wasn’t a YA writer. (Spoiler: I’m definitely not.)
Flash forward to this March, when I decided I wanted to take another crack at Andrew’s story. At this point, I was about on the cusp of admitting that I was an Adult writer, and so it was a little easier to write a short story for him. It would still be some months before I finally came to terms with the fact that the main character of my Saintsverse was probably in his mid-20s, my sister witches were all in their late-20s, and I just didn’t want to write about teenagers anymore. I love reading about them, YA is still one of my favorite genres, I’m just not that writer anymore. (Really, I owe a lot of this realization to The City of Brass.) Which brings us up to speed with October’s Character Spotlight, in which I finally broke apart Andrew’s beginnings in Boston and started to understand his story.
Alright, then. It’s time.
So, who is Andrew Levi? He was turned somewhere around the reign of Alexander the Great, making him somewhere around 2320 years old? I’m bad at math, but I think that’s right. He was born in Egypt, but raised in Greece, and that’s where I’m going to stop myself with his true origins. There’s a lot at work here with Andrew’s story. I’m working on creating a wider universe, which encompasses several other novels/worlds, and Andrew’s origin story is the basis of it all, so I don’t really want to spoil that for my distant author future.
But! When we meet Andrew in #vampiredetective, he’s just woken up in Boston, he’s super confused because he has no memories, and the only thing he’s 100% certain of is that he’s a vampire. He slowly discovers that he also has three hellhounds, which look like Doberman’s, named Ares, Nyx, and Hermes, and that he lives in a two-story house across from the Old South Church. We’re given this meager information in the first chapter, and then there’s a quick 17 year time jump where we’re introduced to Andrew’s partner in crime.
Ah, Sam. She’s the sunshine to Andrew’s cloud parade. Our resident vampire spends most of his days grouchy, exhausted, and generally unimpressed, but that does nothing to dampen Sam’s mood. She’s a spitfire of a thing, defiant in the face of injustice, and always willing to offer a smile if you’re nice to her. If not, well. She’s just as likely to elbow you in the ribs. She stands at 5’4″, and Andrew, at 6’2″, once dropped an arm on her head to act as an armrest. Most of the force is nervous around him, but Sam drove a sharp elbow into his ribs and snatched his coffee when he nearly dropped it in response. They’ve been good friends ever since.
After being deposited at a fire station as an infant, Sam spent most of her childhood in and out of foster homes. After graduating high school early, she interned with Boston PD, and by the time she’d aged out of the system, she was applying for the police academy, and the BPD helped her with lodging & finances. They wouldn’t take her on until she was a legal adult, though, and so it wasn’t until 22 that Sam finally got her badge and a degree in social work. Three years later, she was promoted to detective, the youngest in a long ass time, and her first, and only, partner was Andrew. For, despite Andrew rifling through partners with a six-twelve month turnover time, their sergeant thought Sam would finally stick, and like glue, she did.
If you ask Andrew why he didn’t push her away in that first year until she asked to transfer, like all before her, he probably wouldn’t have a good answer for you. He likes Sam, plain and simple, and when, two years into their work together, she pulled a gun on him and demanded he explain why he’d just purchased a box of blood, Andrew told her the truth.
Sam wavered for a few breaths. As much as Andrew liked Sam, she liked him, and she didn’t want to lose him. “Do you kill people?” she asked. And when he said no, the rest was history.
Penelope Louis Marchand
Okay, here’s something you have to know about me before we proceed. I love the French. I also love it when my characters bake, which I do not understand because I hate baking. Thus far, I haven’t discovered which of our main four bake, but don’t worry, it’s going to be one of them, and my bet is on Penelope because HI SHE’S FRENCH! (I know it’s not Andrew because he’s our cook, of which I also always have at least one, and he likes to kill it with traditional Greek food.)
Penelope met Sam in undergrad when they were both taking an intro to anatomy course. When Penelope was a child, after a series of very positive interactions with doctors, she decided to pursue a career in medicine, and she studied biology & sociology for undergrad, anatomy & physiology for her masters, interned at Boston Children’s, and eventually wound up doing her residency at New England Baptist Health, where she was hired on as a doctor. Did you know it takes, at minimum, 11 years to become a doctor, but only 6 months to become a cop? Yikes. Anyway, we’re not about to devolve into a rant about gun control in the US, instead, we’re just going to applaud Penelope for being stupendous and sticking to her passion.
I’ve usually got one comedic character somewhere, and Penelope is probably it. I forgot to mention that Sam has a Boston terrier named Pistol (I’m great, I know), but it feels appropriate to slide it in here while I’m also letting you know that Penelope has a hedgehog named Gomez and a turtle named Morticia (you’re welcome). She’s a walking beacon of happiness, and she is over the moon excited when Sam finally allows her to meet (and help) Andrew.
The real question is, how did we make it to our fourth character before talking about the fact that all of them are gay? I, uh, forget to do this a lot because all of my characters are gay, and so it’s gotten to the point where my IRL readers are just prepared for it, so I’ve stopped mentioning it. Hi, welcome to the Mary show, where groups of four are usually The Sad One, The Dad/Mom, The Wild Card, and The Angry One, and 3/4 usually fall somewhere under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. In order, that means Andrew, Sam, Penelope, Rafael OH OH OH, I did not mean to do them in order, I swear.
Rafael’s not really The Angry One, but he’s definitely more sullen than the rest of them. He’s going to be Andrew’s love interest at some point in the distant future (yes, that means Sam/Penelope is a thing eventually, too) because I don’t believe in huge age gaps in different species, so my vamps are just gonna fall in love with my other vamps, and if they weren’t male vamps, they’d be female vamps. I like me a good gay story, folks.
Rafael just underwent some major research, which was a ton of fun. Take a looksy!
OH MY GOD IS THAT HOW YOU DO THE AESTHETIC MOOD BOARDS
my whole life just changed
Alright, if you didn’t feel like reading my fun history lesson, what it breaks down to is that Rafael was turned during Portugal’s second dynasty during its monarchy era, which makes him about 630 years old or something. This math was easier since it’s all AD. He stayed in Portugal until the monarchy dissolved during the Republican revolution, and then he was like yeah fuck all y’all and wandered around for a while, traveling and studying as he went, before we meet him now, studying journalism at Emerson in Boston. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Seriously, another vampire who goes back to school? College is different, guys. High school sucks, but college is fun, and if I was a vampire who didn’t really have to worry about money because hello, immortality, I would 100% go to college over and over again. It’s hella fun learning in an environment that actually wants you to learn and encourages growth, so Raf’s got, like, 85 degrees or something.
His degree in journalism is also a major pain in Andrew’s ass, but that’s not how he ties into this! He’s Penelope’s roommate, and you know how everyone else has pets? Well, so does Raf. His just happens to be a human. He doesn’t feed from her, don’t worry, he just loves her ray of sunshine attitude and did what I do with people. He gave her a little squint, sized her up, and said, “Yup, we’re friends now.”
Oh, and that whole money is easier when you’re immortal thing? Yeah, Raf’s loaded, but he keeps it quiet until that moment when everything is falling apart, they can’t go home because they’re being hunted, and someone’s probably on the verge of tears, and he gives that all-suffering sigh we all know so well and is like, “Fine, we can take my Mustang back to the manor.” I love me an angry rich
gay boy at all times.
We’ve got one Arabic vampire raised in Greece, one Irish spitfire, one French doctor, and one Portuguese vampire. What comes next should make sense: Russian vampire villain. Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about Dmitri Kuznetsov outside of that archetype, and we do really need to get to know each other a little better, but for now, here’s what we do know.
He hates Andrew’s guts. Or, rather, he hates Andrew’s ability to walk in the sun. (It’s part of the stuff I can’t spoil, guys, I promise this is not just me being like ooh he’s fine in the sun and sparkles, there’s cool science behind it!) In those fun memories Andrew doesn’t have access to, he was the head of a prestigious vampire clan in Eastern Europe. Dmitri was his second, and he was feed from me levels of obsessed. It wasn’t just that Andrew could walk in the sun, which was mostly a secret back then, it was Andrew as a whole. Or, as he was known then, Andreas Leui, the first, the king, the heir of all.
Because this I don’t mind spoiling. Yes, Andrew is the first ever turned vampire. Guys, he’s 2000+ years old, of course he’s the first. This shouldn’t totally be a spoiler.
And so, why does Dmitri hate him if he once followed him? Andrew disappeared, without a word, and was lost to history and time for centuries before he woke up in Boston. When he did wake, he stayed in Boston, which made sense to him since he didn’t have any memories, but Dmitri was there in Russia, holed up in the home he’d once abandoned to follow the king of vampires, waiting for Andrew to come home. And he never did. For though Andrew’s memories were gone, Dmitri’s were not. He tracked Andrew through those lost centuries, watching him pop up in different countries, watching him live, watching him “die”, watching it all cycle through again and again and again. And, from afar, it looked like running. It looked like abandonment. It turned into years upon years of resentment until, when Andrew woke in Boston, Dmitri was done. It was time to exact his revenge on the king he’d lost.
Okay, look, sometimes I start writing these kind of posts, or I just start typing out ideas, and the only true thing I know is that “Dmitri is a Russian vampire villain,” and then I just let myself type, see where it takes me, and it turns into a sad lost gay soldier who just wants his king to come home, AND I DIDN’T MEAN TO DO THAT, but here we are, apparently this is Dmitri’s story. I don’t yet know his beginnings, but I’m sure if I just kept rambling for a while longer, we’d get there. Literally. This is how writing works. Everything after “Russian vampire villain” was created right now. (Well, aside from the walking in the sun thing, I’ve known that since December 2015.)
Okay, basics. Vampires, detectives, Boston. Take all of that, and put it in a Criminal Minds/Supernatural setting. There you go! Vampire detective, much like my other story, sister witches (yes, it’s one of the ones that ties in), is a serial style story. There will be some kind of overarching plot that carries through the series (hint: Dmitri), but each individual novel will focus on something minor that’s happening. For sister witches, that’s the MC’s sister returning to raise hell. For vampire detective, that’s some case that they can’t figure out. Really, like, watch a Criminal Minds episode, it’s going to be very similar, but, like, with vampires.
Because of that, I haven’t totally plotted this out like I normally do? Sure, I’ve got my outline, my acts are in place, but this is going to involve some very slight pantsing. Which, truthfully, is not even a good term to throw out since my “pantsing” is just that I haven’t decided what case is going to occupy them. That doesn’t really feel like pantsing to me because it’s such a small detail in the grand scheme of things. The general/vague story arc is there, and I’m feeling pretty ready.
Well, as of right now, I have three chapters written. The first is a prologue that I didn’t write recently, but that I have edited recently. It was another version of the short story that I posted in March, and it works really well as a prologue to introduce Andrew’s origin story, so it’s staying. The second is when Andrew first wakes up in Boston, 20 years prior to our current timeline, and has literally no idea where/who he is. We’ll meet his dogs, see his house, find out what he is. The third is three years prior to the current timeline, and it’s about Sam finding out Andrew is a vampire. (She handles it so well, I’m so proud of her.) It amounts to a little over 7k words, which means I’ve got my work cut out for me. I’d like to crack the 50k goal, so we’re looking at a final word count of 57k by the end of November, which is probably about halfway for this story.
This weekend, I’m heading up to Maine to see my friend, and fellow writing partner, Erin, so I won’t be getting much writing done, but honestly, I don’t really write on the weekends. Most of my work is going to happen during the weekdays, and occasionally at night when I can’t get it out of my head, so that means I’m looking at 12,500 words/week, which means somewhere around 2500/day. I don’t have a strict must-write-2500 each day because I tend to do 5-7k marathons later in the week. That’s just how my writing works, so instead of looking at a daily goal, I’ll be looking for a weekly goal. As I’ve said somewhere above, I’ll be posting each Friday, so we’ll check in with my weekly goal to see if it was accomplished, as well as check out how the week went. I’ll be keeping a kind of diary type thing each week that I’ll post, so you can really see the unique inside brain of a writer. (Warning: it’s scary.)
Until then, though, I think I’ve taken up enough of your time. This was pretty productive for me, so I hope it was fun for you to read. Let me know in the comments below what you think of vampire detective!
And before you go! I’m going to be taking a page from my own book and listing some favorite posts each week that are NaNo-related. Project announcements, updates, helpful tips, anything I come across that resonates deep in my writerly bones.
To kick things off, Margaret @ Weird Zeal also did the NaNo tag and announced her project of a Persuasion revival, and I am here for it! I absolutely cannot wait to see how she does this month!
Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricanes discussed some very, very important tips for accomplishing NaNo. My favorite is that while yes, this month is a challenge to get to 50k, it’s also a challenge to just write! To get excited about words and see how many you can churn out, so don’t stress if you don’t hit your goal.
CG @ Paper Fury gifted us with a list of 10 helpful NaNo tips that may or may not require some dark magic, but that are definitely going to help you survive.