I’ve been thinking a lot about blood, lately. Thinking about WHY it’s in so many of my stories.
In the first draft of my current WIP there was magic. In the next, much improved draft, there was blood magic.
Almost single-handedly, the blood makes all the difference.
The inclusion of blood raised the stakes. Before, although the magic-related plot had consequences and Bad Things happened, the magic itself was pretty non-invasive. Do some magic, get a headache? BORING. By making blood necessary, I introduce an automatic consequence every single time I need the magic (or my characters need the magic). They either have to use their own blood, or acquire it someplace else. They have to deal with pain, fatigue, or flat-out animal sacrifice.
Blood itself represents so many things: sacrifice, life, death, anger, pain… all dramatic stuff. So magic, in this world, is directly related to all those things. You have to sacrifice in order to gain – that’s a new theme. Magic is deadly. Magic is hard. Magic has consequences. It brings life and death. Life with death, death from life.
I’ve always been suspicious of fantasy without blood. Werewolves that transform without skin-shredding or pain, happy thoughts that make you fly, power that doesn’t corrupt. Those sorts of things. If you turn into a vampire, there should be consequences. If you make a choice, any choice at all, there should be consequences. Good and bad. If there’s no pain, there’s no growth. For me, blood is the thing that makes it real. And it’s something I think a lot of people overlook. Enough so that when I write about blood that logically should be there, it surprises people because they’re so used to that kind of detail being glossed over.
I write about blood a lot – not just because it’s pretty and red. I write about blood because everybody has it. Everyone knows a little bit about how it smells, maybe how it tastes, what it’s like to see your own blood, or that of someone you love. I write about blood because, despite it being everywhere, it continues to be shocking. It’s gruesome but also related to our hearts – that organ of love and spirit. It’s life-giving and a symbol of death. Of resurrection. It keeps us alive. It has iron and copper and water and oxygen.
I write about blood because it’s magic.