Adopted Monsters

Last time I blogged about Sunder City, I said that I’d discuss fantasy next. That’s probably why this has taken so long.

When I was writing about the noir and mystery elements of Sunder City, I knew that Chandler was my main man. He was the spark that ignited Fetch Phillips in my mind, and the touchstone I’d go back to when I got lost in the woods.

When it comes to magic and monsters, things aren’t as easy to explain.

I have no single inspiration for my fantasy universe. Imagined worlds are everywhere now. I’ve been sucking them into my eyeballs and ears through video games, books, tv, film and anime from before I could talk. Apparently, I tried shouting “He-Man” before I could say “Mum” or “Dad”.

With all these references and influences out in the world, it might seem lazy to fill the  Sunder City with creatures we’ve seen so many times before; species that sprang out of Middle-Earth or mythology and refuse to retire, kicking around in cartoons, comics, and D&D.

But I have an explanation.

This world is made for Fetch. We are here for his story, told in his voice. In The Last Smile, you’re only going to get the details he cares to mention. In a lot of ways, Fetch is pretty self-obsessed, so I needed to create a world that would naturally roll off his tongue.

Elves, Dwarves, and Vampires are part of our shared culture. If I’d made up all-new monsters and called them something else, I’d have to ask Fetch to describe each one in detail. Why would he do that? He lives in his world and he assumes that the reader does too. So, if there are Clubbergubbles living downtown, why would he waste time telling you what a Clubbergibble is? It would be like explaining a spoon.

I guess I imagine that every sci-fi or fantasy story set in a different world must get put through some interdimensional translator. You can’t explain every little thing, so it all gets rounded up to the closest name we recognize. Thimthams become trees, Zibbyzoos are horses, and the Hairy-Squatmen of Sunder City look kind of like Dwarves, so let’s call them Dwarves and get on with it.

Another reason to steal a few pop-culture creatures is that this world has gone to shit. Six years ago, the magic disappeared. Every magical species is now suffering from a painful, post-magic hangover. Since you never saw Sunder City before it was broken, I want to start you off with a few familiar signposts. A dead flower doesn’t carry much significance if you don’t know what it looked like in bloom.

Some people like their fantasy dense, other-worldly, and wholly original. I get that. Maybe one day I’ll write a book with a ten-thousand-year war and little notes at the bottom with important dates and the names of long-dead imaginary people.

It just won’t be this one.

Fetch doesn’t care for all that. He just cares about his case. And it’s good for him to have a case. It keeps his mind from this wounded world and the stupid part he played in it all. It stops him from thinking about the things he would change or the man he betrayed or her.

Wait till you meet her.




19 thoughts on “Adopted Monsters”

  1. I don’t think it’s lazy to use creatures general readers are familiar with at all. Not every story lends itself to building completely new worlds from scratch, and plenty of authors use tried and true monsters or even commonly accepted rules for magic to round out their character’s journey. It’s a great technique to bring in readers who may not be familiar with your genre combination. I look forward to how you use those creatures in ~your~ story with ~your~ characters. Thanks for sharing more about your intriguing novel!


    1. Yeah, it probably wasn’t something that anyone else was going to criticize me for, but it did play on my mind when I created the world. And yes, none of these creatures are just dropped in out of nowhere. They have a history and a reason for existing in this city. As you say, it’s been fun working out what ‘my’ version of a Vampire is, and where they came from. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My dude, I wrote a Vampire novel time ago. it still closed in my desk drawer. Each of us has their own version of Vampires in their minds as i had mine. It was fun to see where they took me at the end.I want to tell you I started to write the novel, but at the end they were been themselves to take me at the end of my novel I wrote where they cames from, but at the end they decides themselves where they want to go. This was my own experience.



  2. I think it’s easy to elevate immersive world-building in the current pop culture climate. People are obsessed with fantasy worlds like Harry Potter and Game of Thrones – pouring over their map of Westeros and debating the merits of each Hogwarts house (though, sitting here in my Slytherin hoodie, I can’t throw stones). Don’t get me wrong, I love to get lost in the those worlds too, but as a young reader, I always gravitated to things that put the magical next to the mundane. Sure, The Mother of Dragons is awesome, but I sort of want to imagine what it would be like to look out my own window and see the guy who walks his dog everyday… walking his pet dragon instead. (Would he still smoke a cigarette on that walk? Probably. But he might not need a lighter. 🙂
    The thing is, I think that when you’re blending genres and placing uncommon things into a common world, it’s pretty smart to use language that the audience already understands. Why waste words trying to explain WHAT a character is when you could use them to explain WHO they are… and why I should care?

    (I’m excited to read a little bit about your female character/s. I mean, you can’t just go and tease “her” like that and not revisit the lady in question. Well, you could.. but I’m hoping you aren’t that cruel. 😉
    If you need any food for thought, you should check out Anna Biller. She’s a film maker who sits right at the crossroads of feminism and film noir and she asks some pretty interesting questions. Check out this thread:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Britt! I completely agree. It’s been an interesting process choosing when to borrow and when to bring in something completely new.
      Thanks for the recommendation too! I’ve already followed her on twitter. I’m still deciding whether it feels right to discuss ‘her’ before the book is out. I feel like Fetch will want to make the introduction. And yes, film noir has both brilliant and problematic tropes when it comes to women (so does fantasy), so I have to be careful what inspirations I take.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Luke,
    I left a tweet for you but perhaps this is a better place to address your concern my daughter who is a top 10 fantasy fiction author with USA Today suggested that you may want to make the first novel in graphic form this allows depicting the characters without any explanation along with the story line. She struggled for years with the same problem and then after changing the format of her first book she had gained a following that allowed her to continue her novels without any need for identifying the characters and story thus after almost 10 years of writing she has finally reached a level of success and following to put her at the top of her field. You already have a great following so it makes sense to design the new book in graphic novel format to avoid any confusion about the characters or the worlds they inhabit and gives your readers a way to actually see through illustrations who and where they are, which then gives you the freedom of telling the story through your own writing of the story. I truly hope that you receive this message and hopefully it will help you be able to find your way to get your work out to your fans. I only wish the best for you and look forward to seeing this project come to life soon.
    Good luck and best wishes,
    Carolyn Parker ( just a fan with some helpful wisdom from a 28 year old daughter who never gave up on her dreams ).


    1. Thanks very much Carolyn! I appreciate you passing on your daughter’s wisdom.
      The good thing is, book one is pretty much done! I’m just working on the final edits with the publisher.
      This post was more about me trying to give some insight into the fantasy elements of my story, without giving it all away. When I see the synopsis for my book and it includes “Elves, Dwarves, Vampires” it doesn’t always seem to paint the right picture. So, I thought I’d talk a little bit about why I made the choice to use existing mythological creatures instead of completely new ones.
      Lots of writers do it, I just wondered if it might be interesting to explain my thought process.
      I really appreciate your thoughts and I’ll have to check out your daughter’s work. Congratulations on her success! I hope to follow in her footsteps.


  4. Hi
    Okay so I just wanted to say that I’m looking forward to reading you book. And to say, everyone borrows from everyone, we get inspired by so many people and writers and if we find a genre that we love the we will build upon it in our way, and I think it sounds amazing the world you have built. If the world you build is a closed world like “lord of the rings” the inhabitants of that world have always been a part of it, so having the main character explain everything about them is like you going down the street explaining what tree is, but if it’s open world like Narina then yes you do go into details because your character has never seen these creatures before.

    I really hope you keep on writing and continue building amazing worlds for us to get emersed in.
    Best wishes Tara


  5. I can’t wait to read! I don’t think it’s bad to use creatures and concepts people are already familiar with. I recently read a fantasy novel by a writer who tried so hard to do something new and unique, and I felt the book didn’t do much else and it just ended up being annoying as hell. It’s a bit cliché maybe, but you’re the only one who can write them like you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m so hooked with this and I can’t wait for it.

    And yes, I totally agree with you on building fantasy world. They are very tricky to write on every thing in fantasy. Trying to explain these (Why, What, Who, When, Where and How) in narrative text to the readers isn’t easy task. How are you going explain them without making it sounds boring and repetitive? As amateur writer, sometimes I like to leave behind few hint and let the reader to use their imagination.

    Sometimes, i would ask myself, “WHY would I waste my time to explain this to everyone, and bam, something just popped out from nowhere.. wait, WHO they are and HOW they come into my world?” And then here I am, trying to catch these new, mysterious creatures/person before they disappeared. How exciting is it?

    Anyway, can’t wait to see HER

    p/s: Hopefully I can’t wait get your books to hit in any bookstores in Malaysia 😉


  7. I really appreciate your analogy of the flower…to understand what the dead flower represents, you have to understand what the living flower was like. But in the real world, if you say “the dead sunflower”, everyone can picture it as a living thing.

    It’s going to be great fun exploring your version of “known” creatures and new characters!

    Best of luck with the editing!


  8. I escape to a fantasy world everyday to stay sane. I am a chronic dreamer, it’s hard to turn off.

    It’s a real gift though to put your imagination into words, very inspirational.

    Keep it up, you’re doing great!



  9. Vampires in one’s subconscious? I consider that a fortunate thing, now that I’ve managed to locate the effect that H. R. Giger’s Xenomorphs left in my dreaming mind, and worse yet, to find someone else’s creation in my own work after years of unwitting absorption. The trick to unweaving his monster and using the template left behind to create my own with it was to identify the most horrifying aspects and find a more possible twist on those elements in order to create a nasty beast that we didn’t have to go to space to find. Did your thinking undergo any similar process, or was it just plain simple absorption of concept over time that spilled over into your work later in life?


  10. If every author was to come up with their unique creatures for their imaginary worlds, it would be quite tiresome. For every new story both the writer and the reader would have to try to figure out what the beings of this universe look like, and then, as you said, one would have to use a lot of space and time for descriptions and explanations and odd names. When you want to engage a reader in a story, too many unknown elements will most likely distract and ruin the flow (at least at first) – unless it fits with the narrator’s voice. (Then again, if the writing is good, it is amazing how many unimportant sidetracks and details a reader can endure.)

    Another side to the matter is of course that these fantasy creatures have been used in so many stories because it works. We like (or like to dislike) elves, dwarves and vampires.

    In the end, I think the most important thing is what the author makes of the individual characters. Whether it is a dwarf, a fairy or a human, what matters is what they day and do and think. Ultimately, I think we want to read about persons we care about. Even though someone might be sick and tired of books with vampires in them, they will still be able to enjoy the story if the vampire is an interesting character and works with the plot and setting.

    I must say I look forward to seeing how you build magic and fantasy into the world of your story!


  11. Hi Luke,
    I was a big writer when I was young. I even won a contest! I love reading where your inspiration comes from! Growing up, I lived in a home full of violence and alcohol prevention programs, as both my parents were addicts. I was thrown into a world of adults all telling me because I was indigenous I needed to watch out. I was raised by Irish grandparents who I loved but were lost in connecting the effects of transgenerational trauma, and indigenous culture to my brother and I. I was raised going to a catholic church with my gramps who stood in sorrow with tears streaming down his face every Sunday and I never knew why. Of course, now I do. I grew up with my alcoholic, fetal alcohol syndrome stricken brother pouring milk on my grandma’s head and tossing kitchen tables on her. All my inspiration came from leaving that world and pretending I was in a different one. I wrote everything down. I lived so many places in that world, in the woods, traveling in a bus, a midwestern town. The main character was always me though. Now that I am adult, I want to write about that very same life I tried so hard to escape with makes me very vulnerable. I am a First Nation woman and is important that I write what has happened to me as we need more indigenous representation out there. Many of us were taken off the reservations, many have suffered from transgenerational trauma, addiction( I did not), violence, loss of culture, so many suicides. I am not a “taught” writer. I didn’t take any college courses on how to write a book. I just love to write. I am sure an editor would have a field day with my writing. How important do you think it is that I look into classes? Natives never took colonized courses on how to tell a story. We just tell our stories.


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