I feel like I could be a real estate agent. Here’s where I turn with a sweeping gesture to say, “And here, we have the beautiful focal point of this blog,” with a winning smile. You’re stunned, of course. Who could have imagined what you’d see when you finally got to it? Alas, I have neither an arm of sweeping length or a winning smile.
Welcome to the first post of the first project of this probably way too massive of an undertaking.
In these introductory posts I’m going to discuss the background to each idea; discuss the cast, setting, and goal for each project; and preview the media I’ll be analyzing. It’s a chance to sort of preview what will going on in the coming weeks, and provide a point of comparison when the final post goes up. I’ll be updating each post links to each analysis as they go up, and you’ll be able to see all posts related to the project by checking project’s tag; in this case, it’ll be “Accidental Hellhound.”
I want to remind everyone that I’m not a professional and none of these projects are being made to be published. I create for myself first and foremost, and I share the stories because I love them. Developing a collection of worlds and characters allows me to hop around concepts freely while having an infinite resource of ideas for writing and art in my pocket.
The idea for this project came in such small batches that it has, quite literally, taken years to even get to this point.
Some years ago, I had the idea for a witch who worked at a pet shop or shelter. Something that saw a large number of animals; she wanted to be a vet. But what if she wasn’t just any sort of witch – what if her power was necromancy? And one that was never trained properly. So instead of having her powers under control, sometimes they’d surge and she would… accidentally revive things. That would cause some problems at her job. She’d wind up having to sneak resurrected animals out and rehome them. It was a cute concept, but it ultimately didn’t move further.
I’ve also owned two designs for hellhound-like creatures for a while (one given, one purchased). Thing is they just sat there for a long while. I never had anything solid for them, not even names. It was a random thought while daydreaming that had me going, “Hey, what if you combined those two old designs,” as part of a bid to cut back on the stash in my unused folder. It could be as easy as making one some sort of demonic form. I love giving my characters alternate appearances after all. At least it was a starting point.
Around the same time I was listening to Cassandra Clare’s The Bane Chronicles. Just a dramatic warlock and all of his misadventures with magic in the mundane world, which made me think of my old necromancer idea. Magic in the world, having real consequences, and accidentally getting humans who just want to live normal lives caught up in the chaos. What if someone thought they could get away unscathed, because it was just one time? And what if fate had other things in store?
Or maybe not fate. Maybe… just someone looking to make a quick buck?
When developing a story, world, or set of characters, it’s key to know what the goal for the product is. Different projects of mine have different goals – not in a sense of what the characters’ goals are, but what mine is in creating these elements.
From the start, I knew I wanted this to be fun. It’s a slice-of-life comedy in the end. Something I could doodle fun comics for, play around with, and imagine interacting with my own world. That’s not to say there isn’t drama or that there aren’t serious aspects to it, but I wanted something that’s tone was a break from heavier projects. Something where the canon was just dumb kids, like myself, trying to be adults and hoping things pan out. Just… with a hellhound and magic thrown into the mix.
The confirmed details (so far):
- Main character is not a magic user, but sought out magic to summon a demon.
- The warlock who sold him the spell to summon a demon is a really poor excuse for a conman.
- The summoned hellhound is true neutral, very intelligent, but does not speak.
GENRES Magical realism Slice-of-life Contemporary
Robin Lewis had a perfectly normal life. He went off to college, visited home for the holidays, made plans for the future. But when his father left his mother for a younger woman, he had to come back home to help raise his twin sisters. More than being irritated by the change in plans though, he’s upset with his dad. His mom is embracing the change as best she can, but Robin would like to see his dad suffer for what he did.
Nothing violent, nothing dangerous. But if he could just find a way to make the man’s life a little miserable.
Drunk, late night internet searches maybe aren’t the way to do that, but some guy swore this twenty dollar spell would summon a lesser demon that would be a thorn in anyone’s side. Something impish and annoying. And what’s twenty bucks anyways? If nothing else it might be a placebo thing, and that’d work well enough. So Robin bought the spell, gathered up the ingredients, and drew himself a summoning circle with chalk on his bathroom floor. And for a minute it seemed like it worked.
But when the smoke cleared and the smell of sulfur stopped burning his eyes and nose – Robin didn’t find a low-level demon he could send after his dad. He found a high-level, huge hellhound. And as luck would have it, without knowing the exact name of which one he summoned he can’t banish it. So now he has a pet hellhound.
ROBIN “PUCK” LEWIS
Just your everyday sort of college student. Except he’s accidentally bound a hellhound to himself.
The hellhound that Robin summoned. Without his real name, he can’t be banished.
Robin’s best friend since middle school.
VIOLA & TIANA
Robin’s younger sisters, twins.
The warlock who sold Robin the spell.
Since I am an incredibly self-indulgent creator, the Lewis kids are named entirely after characters from Shakespeare comedies (Tiana comes from Sebastian). It’s a running joke in the family because their mother is a literature professor, and the first date their father took her on was to see Shakespeare in the Park. Crab, which comes from the dog in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, is named by the twins when Robin refuses to name him.
A lot of the beginning details for this project came together when I realized I wanted a cast of characters that lived in my own environment. I’ve lived on the southern coast of California for over half my life; which means witnessing a lot of people put the big beaches on the screen and… really only the beaches. But the southern coast has an aesthetic that isn’t often seen. The bungalows, crowded alleyways, and buildings that always look a little dingier than they are – especially in May and June. The foggy mornings and how you can have no rain in the forecast, but there’s a short drizzle during your commute. How the marine layer moves in every evening, and the clouds bounce the city lights back. I’m hardly an unbiased opinion, but there’s something endearing and almost romantic about how close Los Angeles is while still seeming a whole world away.
The idea to have the Lewis family based on the southern California coast came when I was driving along the Pacific Coast Highway. I thought about how weird it is now to think that only a few years before I wanted nothing to do with the state. The growth in me as a person during that time of my life contributed to pinpointing Robin as a kid who grew up in this ideal sort of beach community, wanted none of it, but found himself forced back and falling in love with it again.
The exact location of where they live is still up for debate. I’ve narrowed it down to somewhere in the area between Long Beach and Newport Beach – a result of opting to make Robin’s mother a professor. With California State University Long Beach, and the University of California Irvine both in the vicinity, there are choices. But they each have pros and cons to be weighed.
Heartfelt slice-of-life stories are a dime a dozen, especially in manga and anime. But generally speaking they’re rooted in the real world and don’t explore anything too fantastical. You have some well-known exceptions, such as Clannad and The Devil is a Part-Timer!, but in the end the magical elements of these stories are usually glossed over or used in such a way that makes you wonder the exact genre of the piece. That’s not to say there are no such stories out there, but that they just haven’t crossed my path yet.
With that in mind, I knew setting out that I would instead have to focus my materials in works that utilize modern settings as backdrops for more fantastical elements. There are a lot of well-known, modern examples of this: Supernatural, Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters series, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan and many of the new releases coming from his imprint. The struggle would be to find ones that didn’t veer too far into fantasy, but also made it clear some things were just beyond. And that for some people, that’s their normal. And for others, usually the main character, it definitely is not.
With the release of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, the series really expanded on the underworld that the second film introduced. We begin to see structure within the organization, the rules that govern them, and how these powers continue to exist in the world and at an international level. Chapter 3 also introduces the possibility of these organizations not only existing with structure – but in a version of our world that knows and accepts these individuals on a common knowledge basis.
INTO THE DROWNING DEEP
Mira Grant’s mermaid thriller does an outstanding job at making the mythical and inhuman into a reality backed by science. These mermaids aren’t the maidens of myth; they’re the apex predators of the world that drove humans from the water. Grant expertly turns the mermaid legend on its head, all while establishing how it came to be.
LIVES OF THE MONSTER DOGS
Originally published in 1998, Lives of the Monster Dogs borders on outright disturbing. It’s a bit horror, a bit science-fiction, and entirely nonsensical. Here the absurd isn’t just acknowledged, it’s admired. It’s not so much the history, but the wonder. Imagine if dogs with prosthetic limbs and voiceboxes appeared in New York City with mountains of cash – how would you react?
UNDEAD GIRL GANG
Amateur witchcraft, an ancient grimoire, and undead teens looking to solve their murder. But the focus of Anderson’s Undead Girl Gang isn’t the magic or even the mystery, so much as the heart of the characters. They just have the whole magic murder mystery thing to contend with too.
If you’re going to examine media for worldbuilding and character development, it’s probably a crime somewhere to not include the works of Neil Gaiman. Both American Gods and Anasi Boys suck seemingly normal people into the world of the gods, and give plenty of characters varying levels of involvement with the magic such a world entails.