Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stupid Things to Think About *for shifter authors*

Pic from ~ ~

Shapeshifter lovers, Pat Cunningham returns during the dark of the moon with a *what do you do with your natural fur coat?* in today’s cell-phone camera society? When anyone could catch your shift and upload it to mainstream media or put it up on YouTube for all the world to see.


By Pat Cunningham

In writing paranormals – or SF, or fantasy, or any combination thereof – world-building is essential. What are the rules of your universe, and how do they affect everyday life? There are the usual questions to be answered, like how does the population cope in a world where vampires and werewolves and demons walk the streets, and what to do when you find yourself in love with one, as so often happens in our genre.

Then there’s the really silly stuff, the hey-wait-a-minute questions that tend to hit when you’re bored or it’s late at night or you’re right in the middle of a tense action scene. Yes, I do lie awake at night thinking of these things. Such as:

The police have captured a vampire. The vampire’s not carrying weapons, but he still has his fangs. Would he be considered “armed and dangerous”? Do long, pointy teeth count as a concealed weapon? If he’s caught attacking someone, is that simple assault or assault with a deadly weapon? Plus he’s got that rare but specific medical condition (acute and fatal allergy to sunlight). Is he covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act? If you insist on a daytime trial, or lock him in a cell with a window, are you violating his civil rights? Does he even have rights? Technically he’s dead. The person he used to be is legally deceased. Does he still have to pay taxes? (I wish I could remember the author and the title, but I know someone wrote a sequel to Stephen King’s “’Salem’s Lot,” in which the IRS investigated why an entire town stopped filing their tax returns. Even being undead isn’t enough to get you off the government’s hook.)

Now imagine you’re the poor court-appointed defense attorney assigned to Mr. Fangs, trying to get charges reduced. Let me know how the story turns out.

Do werewolves wear wedding rings? Or watches, or any kind of jewelry? If so, what happens to it when they change form? If a female werewolf wears makeup and shifts, does the makeup stay in her fur? If these are traditional werewolves and only change with the moon, then you’re okay because they can plan ahead. However, I’m seeing a lot more of the shift-at-will variety (I write that kind myself) and these questions aren’t always addressed. Either the wolves need some magic so their clothing appears and disappears depending on their form, or they’ll end up looking pretty silly no matter what shape they’re in.

How do you insult a werewolf? “Bitch” and “son of a bitch” won’t cut it. Those are descriptions, not insults. “Dog” works better because of the servile connotations. Call a were a dog and you’re questioning his wolfhood. Humans are apes, or primates, simians, or anything in the monkey family. A Jane (as in “Tarzan and”) is a female werewolf who runs with human males. It’s the werewolf equivalent of “slut.”
How do vampires, ahem, get it up? Doesn’t that require a heartbeat and a functioning circulatory system? Or maybe they (ahem again) engorge by drinking others’ blood. So there’s your vampire with a massive hard-on and a victim in no shape to help him out. Surely some enterprising madam would catch on and provide facilities for freshly-fed vampires. After all, there’s no chance of the girls getting pregnant or diseased (undead, remember) or even bitten because the john just ate. Just a brief but intense bout of incredible sex, no strings attached. You folks who write erotica, feel free.

While we’re on the subject of the world’s oldest profession, I was watching the History Channel the other night. They had a show about sex in ancient Pompeii, which was rife with brothels, sex shops and prostitution. The top brothel was called the Lupanare, or “House (Den) of the She-Wolves.” I know what I instantly thought of. Anyone else?

There ought to be enough story fodder in there to keep me busy for months. How about you folks? What little everyday bits of trivia exist in your created worlds that could lead to a unique plot? All it takes a little imagination, carefully-applied logic, a bit of boredom and a really twisted mind. And they wonder where writers get their ideas.

Coyote Moon

Blurb ~

It's that time of the month -- the full moon -- when Willy Alvarez's moods go wonky and her dreams fill up with wolves. A time for hungers she doesn't dare fulfill because they lead to violence. She's resigned herself to a manless life, then Cody Gray arrives.

Cody is cute, funny, charming, and a werecoyote. His nose knows what Willy doesn't: she's half werewolf. He's convinced this repressed half-human she-wolf is his perfect mate. Now he just has to convince her. And quick, because her long-lost pack has learned about her existence, and they've come to town to claim her...

COYOTE MOON by Pat Cunningham at ~ ~ NOW full-moon rising on Siren-BookStrand’s bestseller list.


Paris said...

I think world building always starts with 'what if' questions and you start in some pretty interesting places! I love all your suggestions and BTW, I love the history channel and something usually triggers a 'what if' scenario with me too;-) Great blog, and nice to see you back!

Serena Shay said...

Hey Pat,
LOL, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who has those weird things to think about issues! In fact, many of those odd thoughts have led me to some cool ideas. :) And yes, I too love the history least back when I was getting it. :) Great post! Thanks for joining us again.

Anonymous said...

National Geographic Channel's got some great shows too, and not just the Dog Whisperer. They had one about scientists theorizing how to re-create dinosaurs by genetically manipulating birds. I feel a Michael Crightonish technothriller coming on...


Crystal Kauffman said...

Pat, I love the comic. Actually that's one of my stupid things I think about: do my vampires pee...

My vamps have a heartbeat, and they eat food. I've glossed over the rest, though :)

Anonymous said...

Thank Savanna for the cartoon.

So ... do they?


Laurann Dohner said...

Great post! I always wonder how expensive it gets for shape shifters who have to shift suddenly in public places and ditch their clothes. In reality (say they changed in an alley) some bum would find their nice clothes, those expensive boots, and their wallet. LOL. They'd spend all their time at the DMV getting their license replaced and have credit card companies on speed dial. (And don't get me started on where a shifter could carry a cell phone while shifted...ouch!) Vampires must spend a ton on clothes or have stain removal down pat!

Anonymous said...

I've got a WIP where a shifter's attacked and shapeshifts automatically and gets all bent out of shape because he was wearing an expensive outfit and these idiots made him wreck it. This, on top of the airline losing his luggage. He spends the rest of the novel wearing his cousin's castoffs.

His cousin also wants to know why he didn't call. The shifter opens the robe he's wearing to demonstrate his lack of pockets. Maybe they should wear little carry sacks around their necks for wallets and cells phones and emergency change or something. Like Saint Bernards.


Savanna Kougar said...

Pat, sorry for the late arrival. I crashed for some much needed sleep.
I love where your imagination takes you and your latest castoff shifter sounds hilarious.
And that's a damn good idea about having a St. Bernard bag... say, it could be designer for those who are of the ilk.

I think Mr. Werewolf is going to hold it just because he's in love.