Sunday, November 21, 2010

Finding the Historical Dracula

Last night I opened up the book In Search of Dracula, and read about the historical accounts that the authors, Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu--serious scholars of Eastern European history, who spent ten years investigating and researched Dracula, aka, Vlad the Impaler. Dracula--this historical, real Dracula--drove back the Turks in numerous battles, sat on the throne 3 times , and eventually, in one last battle stand, was beheaded--no one knows exactly by who--and his head was taken to Constantinople to be viewed there, and then his body buried in a mysterious grave at a monastery in Snagov.

I remember reading this book back when I bought it in 1973. On the fly page it claims that "Americans--at least for the present--are in love with Dracula." I was a serious fan, to say the least. I still am. But up until then, no one had bothered to find out who Dracula really was. Bram Stoker had researched about Dracula in his day and from a 15th-century Slavic manuscript, he found what he needed for his book Dracula enough to intrigue him.

For me, researching vampires, vampirism, Dracula, etc. has been a past time, but one that I enjoy. This book has always been with me. I can't part with it. No where else could I find so much on vampires, the historical Dracula, and anything relating to him.

Needing to find a villain for my present novel, and leaning toward using Dracula--but wanting to use the historical man, not the manufactured one, I decided I would read the book again. Although the prince's notoriety for impaling those who would defy him, he was considered a hero in his land for the Danube Campaign, gaining the reputation as a Christian crusader and warrior. Bells tolled from Genoa to Rhodes for his offensive against the Turks who called him Kaziklu Bey. He struck terror wherever he went. Let's face it, would you want to have the Impaler come to your village and rip it apart and then impale thousands of people along the way?

Well, things were done differently back in his day--1440's through 1460's.

I learned that Dracula was 45 when he was beheaded. That I would need for what I'm writing. I had to get a feel of this terror, and what made him tick. Being held captive along with his brother by the Turks when a child would probably do quite a bit to your psyche. His animosity toward them was clearly understandable. To give this character his voice, I have to know him inside and out. Any character you write about, you'd better know how he talks, looks, acts, reacts, and so forth. Especially your villains. Villains are important to the story. They can no longer be a typical bad guy; the cardboard cut-out no longer works.

As feared as he was, when his people stood side-by-side with him in battle, he repaid them with anything they wanted.

Once, it is said, that in escaping over a perilous mountain range, his bastard son was lost to them. They figured he had died. Actually a herder had found him, raised him--the boy was in his teens, so he knew who he was. Because of the terrain of this area, it wasn't until the youth had become twenty, when he returned with this herder, and Dracula bestowed him generously in gratitude.

When I began this novel I'm now writing, my aim was to keep the plot simple, not muddle it up, like I usually do with some second minor plot. Hopefully I can cling to that plan. So far I think I can. Taking my main character, Sabrina, to a new world is something I enjoy, because I can invent a whole world. That's always fun. The other parts that get sticky are explanations. With fantasy, you need only to explain so far, and then allow the readers to accept it. If your explanations are good, they will. This isn't going to be rocket science. It's not science fiction. Explaining how Dracula's head was reunited with his body so far removed wasn't that difficult, really. And even explaining how Dracula came to be in this different world--or anyone, for that matter--won't tax me either, after having already put in place that there are portals and ley lines.

So, when I woke up this morning, I had a scene in my head--like usual--and I wrote a little of it down early, then came back to it and entered it into my notes on the computer. It seemed to flow, so I spent about two hours just writing what came to me. I don't worry about working from where I left off so much, when I'm writing a first draft. The in between spots can be filled in. I remember being so worried about filling those spots in, I wouldn't be able to write. I later learned that allowing myself to just write is the freeing part of being a writer. You are the only one who sees it--so what if it's crap, or has holes in it?

There's a good reason I would never be able to sit and just write so many words on a daily bases. And the NaNoWri-thing . . . it's too much like homework--which I always hated. I don't like to be pressured into doing something. I'm a free-minded spirit and have to be able to write whatever it is that's there. Even if it's merely notes, or my musings. There has to be some fun involved, plus, if needed, some research done--which also consumes your time. I think I may have read for 2 hours last night and 2 today from the book.

Learning something over again is fun too. I've forgotten a lot of this about Dracula. I really owe Raymond McNally and Radu Florecsu a big Dracula thank you.


  1. Dracula will always be a staple in the horror & dark fantasy world. I always enjoy learning more about him! I may have to check this book out.

  2. It's a very good book. I'm sure if you google it you might find it. Or there might be one at your library. It's very useful!


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