I was talking to my friend Amanda the other day, and she mentioned that she was almost done with a previous book I'd recommended to her, and she was going to need something else to read. I told her I had an Urban Fantasy novel for a read (background: I'd already asked if she was interested in reading my recently revised Learn to Howl and she declined, which was totally all right. Nobody should ever have to feel guilty about that, and I don't want to be one of those writer friends who you can't talk to without being guilted about whether you've read her stories yet, or at all. Once I'm published, I will take full advantage of my good behavior and guilt everybody into buying the books, see. I'm biding my time.) She said "No vampires!" and I said "I'll have you know, it's werewolves. And for your information, if I wrote vampires, they wouldn't sparkle!"
That planted the seed, of course. If I wrote vampires, what would they do? What would they be like?
They wouldn't fucking sparkle, I can tell you that. I'd go back to the folklore. I'd go back to Dracula, still (in my opinion) the best vampire literature we've got. And yes, I mean literature. There's a lot of vampire fiction out there, and some of it is very fun if nothing else, but it isn't necessarily good (even if fun). Besides the fact that we all want to be our own special goddamn snowflakes and nearly every person who writes a vampire novel has to reinvent them. Or uses Anne Rice, or the World of Darkness, or Underworld as their leaping off point. The Sookie Stackhouse books are not literature, but Charlaine Harris in many ways has better vampires than a lot of the stuff that comes through my hands at the library.
Of course, this brings me to an interesting world building conundrum. In Learn to Howl (which is about werewolves, don'tcha know), my main character has a conversation with her cousin in which it is stated that there are no vampires. The World Building Police are not going to no-knock my door and taze me if I break this somewhere down the road, but it's a matter of personal preference, I guess. Having "rules", that is, not getting tazed by intruders.
I like it when novels are written in the same "world". Each novel doesn't even need to specifically and at length acknowledge the existence of other things that have gone on, even. I just like that nod and the in-joke if a place is referenced. I like consensual reality to be maintained. To use the Stephen King example (there typically is one. He's kind of the Kevin Bacon of writing), if you're reading a Stephen King book, you're gong to hear about Castle Rock, if only in a single sentence. The Shop might get mentioned. Or "that writer that went missing for a spell". That kind of thing. Even in his latest and less than greatest works, he still does this.
Granted, my lovely werewolves do not know everything. But I also didn't want to have a kitchen sink urban fantasy world (*cough*Charlaine Harris*cough*), wherein every imaginary creature ever came out of the woodwork once you peeled that corner back and had a look behind the curtain. Maybe I don't want there to be fairies. Maybe I don't want there to be vampires. Maybe I want to write about angels and demons and werewolves and psychics. Can I fill a writing life with that? Probably. I could probably fill a writing life with serial killers and never scratch the supernatural surface. I'm making my own rules here. Nobody knows who I am (yet. I have to say yet). So what does it matter?
I think having personal rules (in a non crippling OCD way) can matter a lot. I think that kind of integrity can be a good mainstay for a writing career. Sure, I write what I want. I write in whatever genre takes me at the moment. But at the core, there's always something about it that's mine, and there's always a certain course that it will follow. You know how things will end in Dracula (well, by now you do. Maybe it was an edge of the seat thriller back then. Was Dracula serialized?. You typically know how things will end in Stephen King novels. It isn't to say that they're formulaic, but that there is a certain morality that he will follow, tied in with the lesson of the book. You know what happens in Lovecraft. I'm not Stephen King, or Brom Stoker, or Lovecraft, I'm just me. But it's good to have a path, and have goals.