More than a place--it's a writer's muse.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Vamps and Weres and Ulfhednar! (Oh my!)

Welcome to our newest honorary (and soon to be permanent!) textnovel diva, Deborah Blake. Today, Deborah encourages us to color outside the (paranormal) box. Deborah, take it away! :)


Beyond Fangs—The Tale of an Online Workshop

As writers, we strive to constantly hone our craft and improve our skills. Preferably without spending too much money or taking a lot of time away from our current manuscript. Online writing classes are the perfect solution. Most of them are fairly inexpensive, and you can devote as much or as little time as you chose.

I’ve taken a number of great workshops, many of them from the Low Country RWA chapter. Recently they asked me to come up with one myself. At the time they asked me, I’d spent months working on the world and character building for my current urban fantasy, PENTACLES AND PENTIMENTOS. I started out by asking myself a simple question: What kind of paranormal characters can I use to people this world, without resorting to those that are currently somewhat overused. In short, NOT VAMPIRES.

Don’t get me wrong; I love vamps. And werewolves, and such. But I wanted to create a world that was completely different from anything already out there. And that meant coming up with unusual paranormals. Hence, the workshop—
Beyond Fangs: Creating New & Interesting Paranormal Characters

The class will cover what’s already out there and a few ways to make the more common your own. It will also explore some alternatives, as well as suggest a few helpful resources for creating something new and different. And it will give an example or three from PENTACLES AND PENTIMENTOS. The Divas asked me to give their readers a sneak peek, so here are the notes for one of my paranormal races:

Ulfhednar: Traditionally known as werewolves, although not.

The legends of ulfhednar mentioned in Vatnsdœla saga, Haraldskvæði and the Völsunga saga may be a source of the werewolf legends. The ulfhednar were vicious fighters similar to the better known berserkers, who were dressed in bear hides and reputed to channel the spirits of these animals to enhance effectiveness in battle; these warriors were resistant to pain and killed viciously in battle, much like wild animals. Ulfhednar and berserkers are closely associated with the Norse god Odin. [This is the quote from the source I used to springboard the original idea for this species. Below are the notes from the creation of my own twist.]

As a species, most of the Ulfhednar are simply stronger, more aggressive, more pack oriented than humans. One out of about every 100 Ulfhednar has the potential to become a true Ulf by undergoing strenuous training and rituals. Once done, this person (usually but not always male) can channel the spirit of his/her totem animal and become nearly unstoppable in battle. Becoming Ulf is a great feat and brings honor to the entire family. Ulfhednar traditionally reproduced in great numbers, in the hopes of producing a child who can become Ulf, and few who can achieve it turn away from the opportunity to do so, although many of those who try die in the attempt. Ulfhednar live in extended families ruled by an Alpha female. Family lines include bear (original), wolf, boar, wildcat, elk and badger. Ulf animal is dependent on family totem. Once they become Ulf, they must wear totem talisman around their neck to help them channel the animal traits through themselves. If the talisman is removed, they cannot change.
*God worshipped is Odin, who started the Ulfhednar lines in pre-history. Also worship totem animal.

Most Ulf serve in "Alpha male" positions, such as Special Forces, Navy SEALS, SWAT members and sometimes firemen and policemen.

This gives you a pretty good idea, I think. There are also lots of other really good online classes out there. The LowCountry RWA offers classes by many authors, and the wonderful Candace Havens runs her WriteChat loop, on which she often has guest authors who offer classes for free.

Happy writing!
Deborah Blake


Deborah Blake said...

This looks kind of funny on my computer...some of the writing is all scrunched up. Does it look okay to everyone else?

Thanks for letting me stop in and guest blog!

Robin said...

If you are concerned about the lettering in some of the Scandenavian terms, it's ok. That's what it should look when written the traditional way. Great blog, and stop being a paranoid writer :)

Deborah Blake said...

*snort* No, that wasn't it at all. The issue I had was some of the sentences being mashed together so they couldn't be read. But when I refreshed, it looked okay.

Liane Gentry Skye said...

Deborah, on my mini, which has google chrome, it looks odd unless i minimize my tool bar. On my pc's, which have explorer, it looks fine. Looks good in Safari, too.

Teresa said...

Deborah, I'm looking at it from Explorer and everything looks great.

What an interesting idea and a different take on the werewolf theme! I like the way you showed us how to transfer a legend to a paranormal world.

World-building of any kind is a real effort, but you make it look easy.

Deborah Blake said...

Thanks Teresa,
Actually, it took months of work and some super brainstorming sessions with my critique partners to come up with my world. I'm glad it looks easy, though :-)

And if you don't want to pay for a writing class, there are some good online ones for free! Check out Candace Havens WriteChat loop, for instance. She often has guest teachers who give writing classes that cost nothing and are full of great info.

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