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Vampire Mythos and World-building in Modern Urban Fantasy

Woman with the world in her mind

 Vampire Mythos and World-building in Modern Urban Fantasy

(Listen with AI Audio)

Dear Reader,

I'm still writing in the Mystic Dark miniseries. It's a story which is essentially about vampires, but as with all my urban fantasy, the dream population includes a variety of immortals, gifted humans, ordinary people, and a lot of other strangeness. As the main character learns he is the last Vampire King and his secret kingdom emerges to carry out part of the Unlikely Kings prophecy, I wanted to take a break from writing the tale of a Solar Magus and her obsessed Woodsman to chat with y'all about the behind-the-scenes. I hoped you might enjoy some of the research that went into the world-building and the character creation.

Vampire mythos has been a popular subject in the entertainment industry for as long as I can remember. From movies to TV shows, books to online content, vampires have always been a fascination for both the writer and the audience. In recent times, the popularity of vampires has grown immensely, especially within the genres of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Romance and fantasy stories help authors and screenwriters portray vampires in a contemporary context, creating an enthralling concoction of both the old myth and fresh interpretation.

For an explanation of why Vampires have continued to keep their popularity, please see Vampire Popularity in Paranormal Romance and get a bit of an explanation for how I began writing a vampire miniseries.

Today, I wanted to zero in on explaining some things concerning the vampire mythos and its use in world-building for modern paranormal romance and urban fantasy with a nod to my upcoming miniseries, Mystic Dark.

World Building

A castle in the clouds

In the world of literature, world-building refers to creating a detailed and complex fictional world. For me, that world is the dream. It's a world eerily like our own, but one in which magic exists side-by-side with human technology. Professor Raddick Bain (he's a dragon) attempts to explain it, but that's in a different miniseries.

So most people don't recognize magic or have contact with it in modern urban fantasy. Humans are unaware of other realms or the beings (immortals, gifted humans, gods, or other magical creatures such as dragons or fairies) inhabiting the world with them. This is definitely true of the people in the dream.

The setting is almost as important as the characters, and this is especially true of paranormal romance tales. In these stories, the characters and events occur in a world where immortals (including vampires) with magical abilities often share space with ordinary humans, yet most immortals remain hidden from society. The Domhain, populated by humans, exists within the Leaindeail, which is populated with immortals.

For example: Vampires only come out at night, so they are rarely visible. Demons take the form of people, as do shape shifters, so people mistake them for humans. Witches and wizards perform in the circus or act as entertainment, so their abilities seem mundane rather than extraordinary.

The world-building in these stories is critical, as it establishes the law of the supernatural universe, the complexities of social dynamics, and the history of the magical being(s).

In the dream, humans once welcomed immortals in their society, working with them, enslaving them, and even creating them. They worshipped some of the more powerful first-order immortals as gods. Over time, science and technology became more important in people's lives, supplanting the magic they once saw as critical. The belief in magic and the acceptance of those with magic became merely superstition as modern humans view immortals as nothing more than legends, myths, or fairytales.

Authors often seek to create a distinct world that immerses readers in the supernatural setting. That world must be unique, yet relatable. The process of world-building grounds the environment and all its aspects in a reality readers easily identify with as familiar. If the author fails in this challenge, the suspension of disbelief never occurs for the reader and that feeling of immersion, which is the great escape inherent in any good work of fiction, never occurs.

(In case you wanted to know, coming out of that immersion when the last page turns creates the book hangover, which is one reason I never read a series until it's finished. I love an excellent series because the immersion lasts longer, but one book hangover is enough. Kicking that can forward for several more books always sounds good to me.)

In urban fantasy, the world often appears as the same one most of my readers live in. It will include large cities, suburban, and rural areas. Forests, deserts, farmlands, institutions, buildings, and businesses will commonly be in or near a neighborhood you would recognize. In the dream, I use actual places which either still exist or once existed to aid the suspension of disbelief required to become immersed in the world.

As an author, I find it difficult to build a completely new realm, like the ones often found in high fantasy or science fiction. My hat is off to those authors who successfully pull that off. I have often thought it was one reason Tolkien's tales are so beloved by myself and millions of fans around the world.

Low fantasy, which includes urban fantasy, is easier to use as a base as many of the rules of society and the understanding of what the world looks like and how it works are the same as what you encounter every day. The difficulty in writing urban fantasy or any low fantasy tale lies in how the magic exists, yet is 'hidden', often in plain sight, from those unable to accept its existence. It's why shifters look like humans, and why characters who don't have a human appearance, use a shroud of mist or darkness, wear concealing garments, or only appear to a select few outside of their safety zone.

Vampire Mythos in Modern Stories

alchemy desk vampire lore

The vampire mythos has undergone a complete transformation over the years. In its original form found in medieval fairy tales, vampires were monsters used to frighten children into obeying their parents, or to convince ignorant adults to follow the tenets of the Church to maintain order in an otherwise lawless society.

In modern paranormal romance and fantasy tales, vampires are often no longer portrayed as unfeeling and bloodthirsty nocturnal creatures. Instead, romanticized and portrayed as individuals, vampires have deep emotional connections. They often have their own sets of problems, burdens, and obstacles.

These modern vampires have more human qualities, even if they are often darker, ensuring that readers can empathize and connect with the characters. Allowing readers to identify with a character is one hallmark of well-written, character driven fiction. The character becomes real in the reader's imagination. This only happens in quality world-building.

I often write detailed character descriptions and enjoy giving them away to entice readers to know more of that character's story, but I need the world my character inhabits to be well-known or well-described. It's hard for me to describe the city of Chicago well. I've never lived there. 

I have however lived in large cities, so instead of recreating Chicago, I note a few landmarks, iconic buildings, and add in a bit of history so the reader enjoys the feel of a large city that might be like Chicago, yet not. I create a dream version of Chicago, which is where Leland Shade owns his Solar Enterprises business.

This world-building is not only non-negotiable for understanding the rules the characters live by and the society they must exist within, but it's also important for the suspension of disbelief the tale must create so the character can carry out the events of the story.

For example: Salvatore LeClerq is a soul dark vampire who finds himself in Chicago protecting a woman who told him she never wants to see him again. He must finish his mission because it was the dying wish of his oldest friend. He needs advice about how he should behave in a world foreign to his way of life.

Enter a demonic vampire queen with her own agenda: Ientysse Asmodai offers him the information he needs, but Salvatore must follow the rules, project gallantry, and sip tea, all while sitting in a drawing room behind a secret wall in an underground crypt.

Because where else would a scene involving two wary vampires with possibly opposing agendas occur?

Modern urban fantasy stories explore the legends of vampires with a fresh perspective while still relying on the popular and often mysterious and subconscious collective mythos surrounding the characters. Authors seek to create a unique history for their vampires, exploring origin stories, and the reasons behind the characters' situation or existence. Using world-building with existing mythos creates a nuanced and complex character the audience will either love or hate, all while including elements which the reader would identify as part of vampire lore.

It's this detailed analysis of vampiric lore, myths, and legends which builds the world in which the vampire lives and crafts characters which fit that realm. It adds a level of value to the tale, which keeps readers and authors coming back to read and write more.

Creating a Unique Vampire Character

Salvatore LeClerq Soul Dark Vampire

Characters are arguably the most essential building blocks of any story, and this also holds true for the modern paranormal romance stories, especially for the foreground stories set in the dream. The challenge? Authors must create unique vampire characters which are both distinct from their contemporaries as complex characters, yet believable in the world. They do this by exploring their character's backstory, detailing their physical attributes, and developing their personalities. All of which must happen within the world using elements of the existing lore. If done well, these dynamic characters become popular.

In modern paranormal romance novels and urban fantasy tales, vampires are no longer simply bloodthirsty fairy monsters from antiquity. They are complex characters with both good and bad sides. They experience conflicts between their human and vampire nature, giving readers a chance to empathize with them. The author must create multi-dimensional characters with flaws and vulnerabilities who maintain sensitivity in certain situations.

World-building and vampire mythos are significant aspects of modern urban fantasy and paranormal romance books. The authors work hard to create a unique world grounded in reality, yet still having a fantastical element to it. They explore the myths and legends of vampires with a fresh perspective, creating unique vampire characters distinct from others portrayed in popular culture. It's these aspects which help to create enthralling and engaging stories until the final The End.

Shameless Self Promotion

Druid Fox Book Cover

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He harbors a few secrets that could pose a significant risk to the pack, and Luke must decide whether the offered deal is worth jeopardizing his group's safety. Above all, the fate of Fox's cherished mate is at stake. It remains to be seen whether a lone fox will ultimately join forces with the pack.

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The Great Take Down

A determined man's face

I hope it wasn't a great surprise to see that I finished the great take down this week. As those who've been following me know, I'm reworking, seriously editing, creating interesting book descriptions, and purchasing professional covers for my stories. I've left only those which meet the new standard available on the major retailers.

If you were hooked and still want to keep reading, don't stress. Payhip is home to the dream, and all the stories are still living there. I'm also still publishing on Radish. As I turn my stories into the beautiful entertainment packages, you get books that look, feel, and read the way I always wanted them.

The improved versions will go live at Ophelia Kee first. I'd like to produce high quality AI audiobooks to go with the stories before I publish them on other platforms. Expect the Great Slowdown, which began because of the day job, to continue through the summer and into next year as I get all this content wrangled into order.

The Great Divide is nearly complete, with only maybe three or four old combined tales still in need of splitting into the different stories within. That means I need more covers. As y'all know, I'm working with Markee Books for the covers for Kingdom Rising, but it takes time and money to craft those, and I have to complete the edits before I can get all that beautiful art.

I'm still writing. The Gods of the Dream miniseries books, which will be FREE for newsletter subscribers, are coming together as well. By the end of this year, I hope to get that sequence automated. I’ll send coupon codes for all current subscribers to access their free ebooks once I have the last two books in that trilogy complete.

It's a lot of work, especially when there's a vampire crew clamoring for their story to be finished as well. I'm getting there and the dream is only getting better. Thanks to all my readers for putting up with the construction. When the dust settles, it's going to be amazing.

Kind Reviews are a gift poster

I gotta get cracking on the Mystic Dark miniseries and all the other work if I'm ever going to get it finished. Besides, this post got hella long and I’m grateful if you made to the end.

Please leave a comment. I love to hear your thoughts. As always, I leave you with this request: when you read, please leave your kind reviews and make an author's day!

Until next time, when we explore vampires as antiheroes,

Be Careful!

Happy reading,

Ophelia Kee

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