My new book, An 80s Kind of Vampire, is completely written and I am involved in final touch-ups. I finished it early in December. Immediately after, I got sick and have been ever since. It’s just a virus, but it’s taking weeks to “run its course.” So while I dream of health, I’m touching up the manuscript and fixing all those little things.
Now, I’ve written some funny characters in my time, but I tell you, this vampire! From the start, I could not believe the things that were coming out of his mouth! I realized I had to take it up a level. I made a spreadsheet with every 80s term I could think of. Then I watched some movies and added more. After months of adding terms collected from movies, my own mouth, and everyone else I knew, I have over 400 to choose from. This keeps Vincent’s voice fresh, happenin’, and mondo 80s awesome.
I also used what I call “music video style” chapters, which are super-short, intensified chapters with headings that state time, place, activity, and theme song. Vincent experiences things at the speed of the 80s, which means punk rock, MTV, Jane Fonda aerobics, break-neck breakdance fast. The book can feel frenetic as Vincent dances his way through undeath. The feeding scenes tend to slow it down, believe it or not. This is a character who gets antsy and bored if he’s away from 80s music for seconds. Then he proceeds to take things apart, or starts hunting for his next meal. He’s adorable, I love him, but he wore me to a frazzle trying to keep pace with him. It actually reminded me just how active the 80s were. Remember how Talking Heads actually jogs while playing entire songs in their Stop Making Sense movie? It’s hard to imagine today.
In addition to Vincent’s carefully constructed voice and his high-impact chapters, I used a couple of devices. First, I had to come up with ways he can always have music, including an iPhone he gets a hold of. Second, he carries a book (yes, a BOOK, not a Kindle) called An 80s Kind of Guy. It is a self-help book (big in the 80s as I recall) that teaches him how to basically be a suave, modern guy. Nevertheless, the book contains a lot of veiled sexism and all-new stereotypes for the 80s–for example, assuming all women are “Material Girl” types who just want money. (Even Madonna debunked that idea in that very song’s video.)
Third, Vincent talks in song titles. So he might say “Give me my shades, Larry. ‘The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades’.” Or he could say “I could dance, like a ‘Manic Monday’.” Or “I’m mega-ticked-off and Vincent say ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’!”
This allowed me to squeeze in even more 80s songs and 80s flavor without ever quoting a lyric (bad juju in copyright land). Studies have shown–okay, just my own observations have shown–that when people hear a song title from the 80s, they immediately recall the tune and most of the lyrics and start singing it. So I don’t need to put all the words anyway, just briefly describe the song and let the title work its magic.
Here’s just a tiny sample of Vincent’s voice…
I thought I’d spit blood. “There’s no Vampire 80s Night?!” I gnashed my fangs and gave them all the red eye, smoke rising from my popped collar. “This is most bogus heinous mega-major uncool! Like, this was all a fake-out? No dance-off? No vampiresses ready to swoon?”
Activity: Duh! Feeding my face off on unsuspecting Goths!
A heavyset dude stuffed into a leather bondage suit came over and took my arm. I looked at him curiously. “Hey, do you wear like possibly a very small leather thong under that get-up?”
“Just watch the hair. One of my victims did it up so right. I’m a total babe magnet now.”
“Dude, you’re a vampire. Why would you not avail yourself of some of the awesome fashions available to the eternally damned today?”
“Calm down. You have a…Christ, there’s a bullet stuck in your forehead.” He gaped. “Is it messing up my ‘do?” I said.
I got back on the road. Feeling a “New Sensation” because I was full of nice, warm blood. For totally sure, INXS could respect that.
“How can you still be bouncing around?” Susie looked bedraggled. She blew wisps of hair from her face.
I stopped in the doorway and turned to face them. “Feed early and often. Practice a nightly regimen of club dancing. And this is mass crucial: watch MTV like your undeath depends on it.”
I was a little worried about having him sound so, well, girly–even though I totally for sure knew guys who talked like this in the 80s. I thought maybe I should try to get more guy references in there, like He-Man or Transformers. But as it turned out, the more I had him do this, the funnier it got. Let’s face it. Care Bears and Smurfs are funnier than He-Man and Transformers.
I decided, since the 80s were famous as an era when men started to wear pink, that pink would therefore be Vincent’s favorite color. Since he’s a super-powerful undead creature of the night, he no longer cares if people judge him for this. I had a conversation with a guy who laughed so hard at that and told me, “I wouldn’t be afraid of a vampire wearing pink.”
Beautiful. That is precisely what a vampire would hope–that you’d be lulled into a false sense of safety. I added the dialogue, “Anybody who thinks they need not fear me because I wear pink better totally think again.” Then Vincent points out that pink is the color of drying misted blood. “It is a sweet, sweet hue,” he says. When he squeezes the necks of humans, he says he totally loves that color on them. “Turn pink for me,” he says.
So thanks to that random guy who wouldn’t be afraid of a pink-wearing vampire and laughed at the idea. You gave me much to work with. I had to re-define pink as a scary color, and beautiful through the eyes of a vampire. And that was a bitchin’ experience, as the creative always is. It never fails to surprise me how concepts can be redefined in the course of telling a story.
Next up: Book Two. Probably to be subtitled “Sex, Blood, and Rock n Roll”, an idea I got while giving a reading to the Whatcom Writers and Publishers. So excited to see where else this series is going to take me. One thing I know, there will be mass Smurfs…
Larry kept growling and grunting to himself as we walked.
He was so lovably stubborn.
“You’re happy to be undead, though, right? Smurf me a hug!” I said. I reached out my arms.
Larry backed off. “Good Christ! No . . . no Smurfing, please! Those blue things give me the creeping willies.” He shivered.
I busted up into flailing laughter. “You’re afraid of Smurfs?”
So choice! I bet I had like fifty of them back at my pad. I already planned to terrorize him for the rest of time.