Episode 230: Writing in Existing Lore

On May 13, 2023, Kasie and Rex took on the idea of ‘lore’ and writing characters out of existing rules. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

Writing in Existing Lore


  • What is “lore”?
  • Werewolves
  • Vampires
  • How to write an original story in existing lore
Photo by Daisy Anderson on Pexels.com

Segment 1

Last episode we talked about how you keep the character’s origin story (same video). So a lot (a LOT) of the links on “origin story” googles are about superheroes and that’s because they’re unique and we want to know how they got that way. Bit by a radioactive spider? Check. Alien ship crash landed in Kansas? Check. Superheroes not only need to explain their basics:

  • Characteristics
  • Setting
  • Past life/significant events (um. The death of Uncle Ben? Anyone?)

But also the origin of their super powers. And here’s where that multiple versions / expanded universe thing gets tricky. Exactly how did our hero get like this?

This is the real topic I was after all along. What origin lore do we have to keep? What can we get rid of?

  • In every version of Anakin Skywalker does he slaughter the sand people who kidnapped his mother? Why or why not?
  • In every version of Spiderman it’s a radioactive spider bite but why can Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman generate his own webs and Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland have to make theirs?

How do we work within the existing lore of species like Werewolves and Vampires? This, friends, is where Rex and I are working and our takes on the tropes and traditions of taxonomic ranks (species, genus, family, order, class, etc) are part knowing and part inventing.

So what is “lore” and what does it mean to write within it? Lore is a body of traditions and knowledge on a specific subject. So it exists in a dozen or more spaces:

  • Patriotism – Johnny Appleseed anyone? John Paul Jones (Navy), Give me liberty or give me death, Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride
  • Faith – the holy trinity, seven deadly sins, the Apostle’s Creed, etc.
  • Commencement – graduation caps and gowns, the music, the order of the ceremony, moving the tassel from right to left
  • Star Wars – Jedi are trained how? What is the Force?
  • Sports – fight songs, cheerleaders, marching band, cheers, uniforms, mascots

Segment 2

We also see lore in a variety of science fiction:

  • Space travel
  • Aliens
  • Communications (screens, data, etc)

And in a variety of fantasy:

  • Dragons – keepers of treasure
  • Fairies / Fae Folk – cannot lie
  • Djinn / genies – three wishes
  • Leprechauns – rainbows, gold, wishes
  • Witches / warlocks – spell casters, spell books (grimoires)
  • Gargoyles – curses
  • Selkies / mermaids – half human half fish
  • Werewolves – moonlight
  • Vampires – daylight, blood, etc.

Segment 3

From this site (link):

Werewolves are: shape-shifting creatures with unusual speed, strength, reflexes, and senses

Werewolf basics (this link):

  • Lycan – According to the legend, Lycaon, the son of Pelasgus, angered the god Zeus when he served him a meal made from the remains of a sacrificed boy. As punishment, the enraged Zeus turned Lycaon and his sons into wolves.
  • Full moon – there’s evidence to suggest the full moon makes all humans a little bit crazier than other phases of the lunar cycle
  • Alternative causes – hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth), rabies, hallucination; porphyria – sensitivity to light, seizures, anxiety, 
  • Earliest stories – Gilgamesh – the hero jilts a lover because she had turned a previous mate into a wolf; Saga of the Volsungs – father and son discover a pelt that turns humans into wolves for ten days
  • Historically – serial killers, specifically French, also devil worshippers
  • Becoming – eating the meat of a wolf combined with human meat (so cannibalism), being cursed, consuming specific herbs, being conceived under a full moon, sleeping under a full moon on a Friday, drinking water touched by a wolf, inheritance; incredibly painful transitions, a dissociation from the human form (werewolves forget their human self)

Vampire basics (this link):

  • Undead – human casks or walking carcass
  • Transformation – into bats, or not
  • Mirrors – cast a reflection, or don’t
  • Death by – holy water, sunlight, stake through the heart
  • Drinks blood (pretty consistent)
  • Sleep in caskets or not at all
  • Some birth defects (cleft palate) were seen as evidence of returning from the dead
  • Some decomposition activities (bloating that caused blood into the mouth) were mistaken for undead activities such as rising from the dead an feeding on blood
  • Avoidance – making sure the dead are dead and stay dead seems to be the preeminent way of dealing with potential vampires; if being chased, spread salt and the vampire will be obliged to stop and count the granules before continuing pursuit
  • Other rules: cannot enter without being invited in, garlic repels them, crucifixes repel them

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