Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Writing Caliban: New ideas come from creative research

(I've decided to do a regular bit here in which I'll give you a look at my writing process. We start with a chapter in the second Caliban Cycle novel, which I'm currently working on. Don't panic: You didn't miss the first Caliban Cycle novel. It hasn't been published yet.)

I had in mind a scene that would take place in a vampire bar in London, as one of my characters seeks a "ground level" informant that might have a lead for him. I thought I might call the bar The London Underground.

So before I started writing the scene, I hit up Google for some info on the actual London "Tube" system, learning about its age and some of the travails of its construction — and it struck me that it would have been almost infinitely easier in the 1860s to build an elevated railway over existing roads and between low-rise buildings than to tunnel underneath those roads and buildings. Workers had to remove tons of earth (without causing sinkholes, cave-ins and the collapse of structures above), shore up walls of clay, pump out ground water, pump in fresh air, electricity and heat, build platforms and so forth — most of which would not be necessary if building an El train.

Conclusion: Subways were invented by vampires for the express purpose of allowing them to travel anywhere in the city without exposing themselves to the sun. Who but a vampire would think underground travel is preferable to open air travel? That led me to the next idea...

If subways are actually for the benefit of vampires living in the cities, then their bars and hangouts would be accessible through these same tunnels. That meant I could place my vampire bar along the Underground route; but now I didn't want to call the bar by the same name.

Ramses 2 and Tekhit
What emblem or name would be appropriate for a vamp nightclub? I wanted to avoid ones I'd seen or heard in movies or books or comics. I didn't want something obvious or cliche. It occurred to me that beer was at least as old as one of the characters in this story — the Egyptians fed it to their slaves to keep them mollified — so I looked for a heiroglyph that represented beer or partying. I found Tekhit.

Tekhit, according to this source, is the Egyptian goddess of beer. Her name translates as both "drunkeness" and "slaughter" — and what creature would equate slaughter with drunkeness more than a blood-drinker?

So bar would be called Tekhit, and her heiroglyph would be its emblem. More so, I decided there's a Tekhit club in every major city; it's a franchise; it's the Hard Rock Cafe of vampire clubs. Thus, my characters would be meeting at Tekhit London, sampling vintage 1972 harvested from a willing donor.

Also, what good is a bar scene without a fight? They'd do that too.
...And so it goes.

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