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I'm writing a novel with many POVs, and this is a very flexible story. It started out with a few POVs who had one plot, and now there is a lot more, having been integrated in between those previously existing POVs. But now I'm thinking about adding a new POV that brings a ton of implications. A vampire POV.

The reader will be acquainted with mystical and magical beings from chapter one, where a demon is present. So the problem is not that suddenly a magical element is added far into the story. The problem is that an entire, previously not mentioned species is added to the story. Now, the world is described as being home to many different types of beasts. But vampires aren't any type of beast, they are established within literature. So, will suddenly adding this species to the mix over twenty chapters in throw the reader off (in a bad way)?

Of course, I have no problem adding a mention of vampires in an earlier chapter. But I'd like to know if it'd be alright if I didn't. I want to know if all of a sudden adding a species far into the story is a good idea.

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    Don't be afraid to take something and make it your own. Just because vampires exist with their own mythos and general canon does not mean your vampires have to fit into that. If you're not specifically writing in that mythos, take creative liberties with it. Massage the idea until it fits into your story. There should be some semblance of a canonical vampire when all is said and done (you probably don't want to take a werewolf... werebat?... and rebrand it as a vampire), but you don't necessarily have to check all the boxes. Figure out what elements make sense for your story and what don't and – mkb0517 Jul 2 at 22:36
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    There aren't any rules of thumb here, do as you wish as long as it makes an enjoyable or interesting semi-coherent story. – Mark Rogers Jul 3 at 2:05
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    Not really, as long as it's not contradicting already established fact. The worst thing you can do is spend the majority of your work describing every detail of the world, putting aside plot, character development etc... It's better to slowly spoon-feed relevant details while still telling a story. – AJFaraday Jul 3 at 10:44
  • One important thing to note is that especially since you are dealing with vampires there will be people that won't read your novel but would have if you had mentioned vampires early and people that do read your novel and lose interest once you introduce them and get annoyed they were tricked into reading yet another vampire story. Both would be very grateful to you if you had mentioned them a bit earlier ;) – Mark Jul 3 at 14:06
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    Not an answer but if you foreshadow with vampires et al being a reason for something it can come off as much less heavy handed than other types of foreshadowing. "We only take the children on field trips when days are long and never in the mountains due to the obvious risks from trolls, vampires, and the followers of the All Seeing Eye" gives the reader a hint at the breadth of creatures in this world without screaming "THAR BE VAMPYRES!!!". – Myles Jul 3 at 20:53
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Some of the best worldbuilding is done gradually.

If you introduce all the elements of your fantasy world very near the beginning, you risk boring your readers with a massive infodump. It's often better to introduce it piece by piece, as long as you do so in a way that seems 'natural'. This is why a lot of fantasy follows the standard Tolkien motif of the young provincial protagonist with little knowledge of the wider world - then the readers can learn about the world together with the character, and learning piece by piece is consistent with the story.

Example: in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, there are a vast number of characters and cultures which we learn about throughout the series. No way could all of those be explained in the early chapters, or even in the first book. We don't even understand fully what Aes Sedai are until around book 2; Aiel culture is introduced around book 4; Seanchan culture even later than that.

How to make a new introduction to the lore 'fit' with the story?

I mentioned above that you should introduce new elements of your world in a way that seems 'natural'. What does that mean exactly?

As a minimum requirement, it should at least make sense that this wasn't seen before. Going back to the Young Provincial Protagonist trope, it makes perfect sense that the readers only learn about Xidajopian culture halfway through the book if the viewpoint characters were unaware or ignorant of Xidajopia until then. But if you introduce a new magical ability which some characters had and knew about all along, you'd better make sure it's something they had no cause to use before.

For extra bonus points, make the new introduction fit with something previously unexplained. Sometimes it feels to readers as if the author is making it up as they go along and hadn't even thought of some new piece of lore until the time it's introduced. The best way of proving that your new addition isn't ad hoc is to make sure it connects with something earlier in the story, but not in such a way that everyone could predict it from that earlier something.

Example (bad): another answer here mentioned J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, in which many creatures and types of magic appear only far into the story, so that the worldbuilding gets deeper as the series goes on. But sometimes a thing introduced in a later book makes a nonsense of previous books because "why wasn't it used back then?" (the out-of-universe reason being "the author hadn't invented it yet back then").

Example (good): in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, there's a very logical and well-defined magic system, but not all of it is revealed at once. The first book introduces us and the main character to Allomancy and Feruchemy, but Hemalurgy is only understood in the third book. When that happens, we realise that many minor things throughout the story are in fact connected with it. It's clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that the author did have this in mind from the beginning, but at the same time it would've been impossible for even the shrewdest reader to predict the details of this new magic system.

  • Upvoted for the "how to make it fit" part. One of my biggest complaints with the HP series is that it often feels like things were invented on the spot to solve a problem, versus feeling like things that had existed all along (but just hadn't been mentioned yet) were naturally part of the plot at an appropriate time. – dwizum Jul 3 at 15:22
  • @dwizum For some definition of "on the spot". As I recall, they usually weren't completely deus ex machina and had at least been introduced earlier in the same book, although in many cases it seems the author hadn't thought of them yet when writing earlier books. – Rand al'Thor Jul 3 at 15:35
  • Had to join the community rather than lurking as normal because of this answer. Robert Jordan is a perfect example of a world that was built ahead of time but drip-fed to the reader as the characters were allowed to explore. – Red Mage Jul 3 at 17:23
  • @RedMage Then welcome to us both! This is my first post here after a long time lurking. – Rand al'Thor Jul 3 at 17:47
  • @Randal'Thor I assume you have the Time Turners in mind? Because she has specifically admitted to that being a mistake. She didn't realize the ramifications of introducing a form of time travel into the story when she wrote it. By the way +1 for the Robert Jordan and Mistborn examples. All you have to do is mention that George RR Martin didn't introduce live dragons until the very end of A Game of Thrones to cover my three favorite fantasy authors with this post :) – kuhl Jul 3 at 19:03
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I think you can look to Harry Potter for inspiration to answer your question.

Every book introduced new species. Some at the beginning of the book, and others in the middle. But they were always introduced before they became important to the story.

In the first book, the dragon egg showed up with no real fanfare and became something that fleshed out Hagrid's character and added some comic moments, but later that dragon became very important to the story. Similarly, the hippogriff was introduced in book 3 and demonstrated differences between Malfoy Draco and Harry Potter, but later became very important to how the story unfolded.

So, if you think your story needs vampires to be even better, then add them. But, like HP, make sure it's clear they exist before they are important to the plot - or those moments in the direction of the story where the arc changes.

If you blurt out "oh there are vampires", then you may telegraph something about your story before you want it revealed. But if the vampires are introduced in a way that develops your characters more fully, or presents a challenge to the character that is already well established, so we are learning more about someone we are interested, then the vampires will be as accepted as HP's Grindylows and Nargles.

You can contrast this with Out of the Dark by David Weber. In the very last chapters, he introduces the story element that saves the day. It was in plain sight all along and it was foreshadowed as well, but it was done in a manner that caused me to dismiss it. So when I got to the point of the reveal, I felt cheated. I still read it twice because I like his work. But I was disappointed in the ending both times.

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    Sometimes a sudden reveal is appropriate, if the information revealed is also unknown to the POV character(s). It can also work in settings where the information is not surprising. If you're telling an urban fantasy story featuring wizards, faeries, and werewolves, its not very surprising for a vampire to make an appearance at some point. On the other hand, vampires aren't exactly de rigueur in, say, sci-fi. – asgallant Jul 2 at 21:50
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    I feel sanderson's laws of magic apply here - to magical creatures. "Your ability to use magic to resolve the plot, is directly proportional to how well the reader understands it". Introducing a new creature that's irrelevant to the plot is almost always 'safe'. Introducing one that can uniquely save the day though, needs to have a good introduction, and familiarity with the reader - such that their 'schtick' successfully builds the tension, rather than feel like a deus ex machina. – Sobrique Jul 3 at 10:01
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    Heh heh. Is the Fore Shadow a creature in HP? If not, it should be. – puppetsock Jul 3 at 13:57
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    @puppetsock, that's funny. I'd think it belongs more in a Robert Asprin story – EDL Jul 3 at 19:11
  • @Sobrique, I completely agree. Understandability is the driving element enabling believability. Like in the book Field of Dreams, didn't it say 'If they understand it, they will believe it.' Something like that, I think. – EDL Jul 3 at 19:14
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If you've established your world as one with fantasy species, it's okay if you don't mention every one early on. Lots of novels and screenplays throw new species into the mix later on and that's fine, so long as you've established that your world is one where similar species already exist.

Novels such as A Discovery of Witches establish a couple species not long into the story but add others later, sometimes in other books in the trilogy. Well known species too. TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Being Human do the same.

If you want to briefly mention or hint at it, that works too. But it's not necessary.

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There's nothing inherently wrong with this at all - the important thing is that the introduction seem organic. Is there a reason why the existence of vampiric creatures wouldn't have come up (or even been known) to the existing POV characters before this point? If so, and it's in keeping with your world (you wouldn't just introduce actual magical wizards into Season 3 of ST:TNG for example!) then go for it!

Many stories with fantasy elements do similar, some by use of an audience surrogate (Harry in Harry Potter, Diana in the All Souls trilogy, etc) others because a complex supernatural world is big - and it can take time for even seasoned initiates to encounter everything (e.g. Harry in The Dresden Files).

Without wanting to cross much into world building here vampires are a an easy soft ball for this sort of thing - common tropes revolve around them living somewhat secretly from the rest of society (World of Darkness, Buffy, etc) and being relatively well equipped to do so.

4

This raises an alarm bell for me. The reason is that magical creatures aren't just scenery. They have a psychological and archetypal dimension --they carry certain thematic resonance along with them. If your book isn't built around vampire themes, and if they aren't foreshadowed, then introducing them late in the book might be a symptom of thematic incoherence.

As hinted at above, there are ways around this. If the story already has themes that are resonant with vampires --parasitism, creepy sexuality, blood --then the late introduction of an actual vampire may feel entirely right and appropriate. Or, if the existence of vampires is foreshadowed early, that could also work. But dumping a vampire in late with neither of these things in place smacks of either desperation or self-indulgence.

This last point is just personal prejudice, but for me as a reader, late introduction of a new first-person POV (vampire or not!) is something that would almost always cause me to abandon a book entirely. I dislike multiple first-person POV anyway, and when it is introduced late, it completely ruins my immersion. (You didn't specify first-person, so this may not apply).

  • Not first person, but still valuable information. Good question as a whole too! You raised a question I didn't consider before too, "are vampires really in-theme with my story"? I would say they are, but it requires more reflection I believe. – A. Kvåle Jul 2 at 19:01
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OP: So, will suddenly adding this species to the mix over twenty chapters in throw the reader off (in a bad way)?

It certainly can do that, but you might get away with it. One way is to spotlight the fact that you haven't previously mentioned them, if you can think of a reason nobody has mentioned them in the first twenty chapters. Perhaps some magical concealment, or vampires are just covert. Perhaps they have learned to conceal the fact that they are operating in an area, disguising their kills as something else: rape and murder or lethal mugging. No characteristic teeth marks on the victim's neck. Or perhaps they have acquired magical amulets that transform the punctures of their teeth marks into the appearance of run-of-the-mill strangulation, looking like a rape. Or after feeding, they can make the remains of their victims vanish.

You can even begin the chapter with the vampire telling somebody (say her date) all the reasons she never believed in vampires, all the ways vampires don't make sense.

Yet another solution: In the final scene of the previous chapter, the previous POV character by some magical means learns, conclusively, that vampires are real, maybe along with the reason nobody talks about them or knows they exist. Then boom the next chapter stars a vampire.

You cannot make the new species look like a deus ex machina just to get your main characters out of a jam or solve some other problem. If they struggle against a bad guy, and your solution is "There are vampires, the vampire kills the bad guy, problem solved", that is not satisfying.

In other words, the vampire should not simplify anything for your main characters, it should complicate things for them. And unless you are writing a farce, don't make the vampire just another cardboard villain for them to put a stake in.

If you introduce a vampire character out of the blue, it is best if the vampire has a new problem, and the vampire's attempts to solve their new problem causes more new problems for the Main Character (or Main Crew).

So three parts: First throw a spotlight on why nobody in the world ever talks about vampires, Second give the vampire a new problem (an inciting incident that puts them on a new path to intersect the MC), and third, make sure you have complicated the story, do not let this introduction solve any problems for the MC.

Later (as EDL noted in Harry Potter) the vampire may indeed be instrumental. Later, in solving some problem for the MC, perhaps they cooperate, or perhaps the help to the MC is a side effect of the vampire solving its own problem (i.e. that is how the vampire's arc is concluded).

But not immediately; in its first chapter the Vampire must contribute to the troubles of other POV characters, and should have a real and new problem of its own to overcome, some motivation for changing its routine. It would be great if you can tie the vampire's new problem back to something caused by the POV characters; then the Vamp coming out will look like an unintended consequence of the Main Crew's actions.

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    Or, as an alternative reason why no one mentioned it: "Yeah, he's a vampire. So what, you racist or something?" Make it clear that so far as the main characters are concerned, it wasn't worth mentioning or particularly noticeable (like someone having a lactose-intolerance - how often do you describe your characters diets in detail?) – Chronocidal Jul 2 at 15:53
  • That is an angle I haven't thought of, and it's quite genius actually. A very comedic subversion of the whole vampire trope. Doesn't work for my story though, as vampires are despised and hunted down, even incorporated into slavery. – A. Kvåle Jul 2 at 19:08
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If there is a problem in your story, the problem is earlier in your story.

You don't need to explain the element earlier, but you need something--anything--to get the reader prepared.

The way to know if your current execution is problematic is to ask a reader. If the answer is yes, find a way to tip off the reader some time earlier.

It's a skill that is not hard to pick up and it works.

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As other Answers mentioned, this can be done is a valid way for world building, however you can also make it a complete shock and turn it into a plot twist.

There are many bad ways to do this, but there are also many good ways to do it.

If you make it a shock to everyone all the time, then it's a bad plot twist. You will lose the readers ability to be surprised and will assume that you only wrote the book to try to insert as many "shock value" jumps as possible. While this might work for some horror genres, it doesn't necessarily work anywhere else. Also, too many plot twists can make the book hard to follow.

Making the shock a sustained but short surprise can work when introducing something. The initial shock being that something exists, then the sustaining medium being the explanation why it's "normal" to the people who know the secret.

There are plenty of stories like "Alice in Wonderland" and "Peter Pan" that start as a normal version of this universe, but end up in a fairy land of wonderment and fantasy. It wouldn't be too hard to take those stories and extend the beginning of them so the fantasy aspects are later in the novel.

For instance, Alice could have a long story of how she has imaginary friends, takes her real friends on imaginary adventures, and then halfway through the book finds out there actually is a magical realm where she has real adventures. The current story only hints at those early adventures, because it wants to get to the fantasy aspect.

The story could even extend afterward to Alice bringing her friends to Wonderland to prove that it's real, they have more adventures, and even continue through her adulthood. "Through the Looking Glass" was an example of how this could happen.

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If (as you say here) the vampires despide and hunted down, then it may be possible (if it does not conflict with other parts) introduce them out of blue in something like this (yeah everyone knows about vampires, there just was not reason to show it, until now):

... and so I stopped the running boy and asked him "what it is all about?"

"Don't you know? They catched a vampire today! They say that he will be put in chains on the main square for all day long and then burned at evening!" he enthusiasticly waved his hands as if he catched the vampire itself.

"Finally some good news" I replied "I did not heard about such catch for so many months!"

"Yes, our Prince is realy a hero" agreed the boy "nobody is such good vampire hunter as he is. Heralds say, its his tenth vampire and that the show will be really big today!"

"I must be there for sure, cannot miss such great event" I told, but the boy was already running toward main square again ...

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