What’s Zmeu with you? Or How Research Helped Me Find My Story Nitch

Okay, I know it’s a silly title but trust me on this one . . . it fits!  🙂

As many of you know (from my agony over the past month) I’ve been stuck in a rut with my story.  I’ve known about the story, actually wrote it a few years back, only to find out it just doesn’t have that certain, whatever it is a good story needs to have.

My idea for the original story came from a research session into the history of my ancestors.  My paternal grandfather came from Romania, the land of Transylvanian Alps (Carpathian Mountains), Vlad the Impaler, Bram Stoker’s- Dracula and various other mysterious stories that have been sensationalized.  But with all the fiction and history the general  populace know of, I wanted to delve deeper.

Two years ago I researched a bit into the early days of Romanian history, back before the Roman conquest, and found out about the Dacian clans who had ruled in the late B.C. to early A.D.  What I could find on them interested me–they were known as a powerful, mysterious people in a land infused with darkness and the unknown beyond the Danube where many other cultures and warriors had failed to conquer.  They worshipped powerful gods and prophets who considered them ‘immortal’ warriors . . . hmmm, see where I’m going with this?  I always wondered if this is where Bram  got his inspiration.

So out came some first draft stories based on this culture.  I’ve done a few other stories since then but this one came back to haunt me.  For the past few months it’s been eating into my soul, itching like a rash that won’t go away.  But no amount of lotion could fight it.  Finally I sat down, researched my craft–plotting (with the help of my fabulous Critter group), GMC, Deep Story  and some author friends who sat down with me and encouraged me to write from my heart and plot with my head.

So what does ‘Zmeu’ have to do with this, you ask patiently?  Getting there!

I went back the past two weeks and plotted an 11 page synopsis–for me.  While I was plotting I researched Romania again–everything from cities to ancient Dacian ruins, to airline schedules.  Along the way (as the Internet is known to do) I stumbled across an interesting creature known in Romanian folklore as the Zmeu.

A zmeu is a mythological creature of humanoid qualities that can shape-shift, has extraordinary powers and was always considered the evil creature. He was sometimes known to have taken the shape of fire-breathing dragons–stealing the fair maiden who was always rescued by the handsome youth once he’d conquered the ‘evil-greedy’ zmeu.

Well, pooh!  Who’s to say I had to have a handsome youth as my hero?  Why not a zmeu?  So with my ‘what if’ attitude and my Muse toying with my brain, I excitedly wrote out my story and started in on a journey of  Fast Drafting for the next two weeks–drafting the first 70,000 words to my new/old story with my dark, brooding ancient zmeu and a woman destined to love him.

So far my zmeu has led me on a journey flying high on his winged back into fantasy scene after fantasy scene and though 5,000+ words a day is tedious to accomplish–he seems to keep my spirits soaring.  Research led me to him and he is inspiring me to write his story.

I’m raising my morning cup of vanilla bean latte in honor of research, inspirations, muses and gut instincts that get us through to our goals.

Do you have a personal ‘Zmeu’ to see you through?  I would love to hear about him.


24 thoughts on “What’s Zmeu with you? Or How Research Helped Me Find My Story Nitch

  1. Loni,
    I loved the line about writing with your heart and plotting with your head. Love that! So often on this writing road, we get caught up with the outlines and the craft advice that we end up losing the heart of our story.
    I think this Fast Draft is a great idea because you don’t have time to get caught up in the hooks and making sure everyone smells, hears, sees, feels the character…that can be very daunting to the heart of the story.
    It sounds like you’ve found a great story to write. The reason this will be “the one” is not because you’ve done so much research (although that will definitely help), but because you’re excited! You WANT this Zmeu to find his HEA, and he will. That sounds amazing! I can’t wait to read it! Good for you, Loni!
    Now, go fly on the wings of your Zmeu!

    1. Kimberly,
      Yeah with all my worries and angst over writing a new story, I had forgotten it has to first come from the heart. I think the harder we try to write we lose sight of what we need to write. The plotting helped a great deal–though some of it has changed, it gave me a general idea to start with.

      I don’t know how I got to the Zmeu . . . but he came along right when I needed him. I figured he couldn’t be a ‘bad guy’–just misunderstood. 🙂

      Now he and I are, getting ready for flight again. Catch ya soon! 😉

  2. Oh Loni-Mermaid, I love your Zmeu for what he is to you and what he is destined to be for that woman destined to love him. That’s that magical, oozy feeling when you “stumble” upon the exact right answer. I know all your hard work will pay off. Just from the little bits you’ve given here, it sounds like a fascinating story. And thank you for throwing that bit in there about “plot with your head, write from your heart”.

    I have a Zmeu too! But he’s so shy. 😉

  3. Carlene,
    I hope the story comes across in the way I hope for. Zmeu and his lady love have taken me on some wild rides the past few days since we started this story . . . some pretty wild rides. But the rides have led me in a direction I never realized I could write. It’s kind of fun . . . and scary, too. 🙂

    LOL about your Zmeu . . . tell him mine understands. Mythical creatures are a mysterious breed.

    Take care you! Happy writing.

  4. Loni,
    No wonder you are such a success at Fast-Drafting so far! What a wonderful burst of inspiration to have discovered. I am so excited for you and energized by your optimism!

    1. P.H.
      The Fast-Drafting is great! I really needed something to get my thoughts pumping again. Between my handsome Zmeu (not at all like the picture above–just the idea) and taking the time to sit and write 5k a day the inspiration is great!

      Good luck to you with the Fast Draft, too!

  5. Loni,
    Love your research uncovered Zemu. Wow, fabulous. So excited for you. Love the history of the Zemu and how you gave it a new twist.
    I’m a believer of ancient teachings that our muse lives outside of us. So, my muse is my fairies which sits on my writing desk. 🙂 When I’m hitting story hurdles, I look at them and am like . . . “Well?” *G*
    Take care and I wish you the very best!

    1. Diana,
      Thanks so much for dropping in today!
      I struggled trying to find my hero’s real potential–who he was. The Zmeu fits him (as my interpretation anyway–great thing about writing fiction). 🙂

      I’ve always found that ‘make-believe character’ to be the best muse. They don’t conform to the norms of society. I tend to argue with them when reality gets to me. I’ve got to learn to let them lead me, especially when reality gets in the way.

      Say hello to those fairies– I love what they come up with! 😉

  6. I normally just lurk here, but I had to comment on this one because your description of your story gave me goosebumps. It sounds so COOL! Happy writing, and I can’t wait for the day I can read it!

    1. Thanks for dipping your toes into our pond, Quillet.
      I appreciate the goosebumps 🙂 I hope it’ll be out there one day for you to enjoy, too.

      All the best!

  7. Reading your post, Loni, I really do wish I had a Zmeu to call my own. How do I make this happen in a contemporary novel with mere elements of magical realism?

    1. I think our Zmeu/Muse comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes our very own heroes.
      Find the one thing you posess that gives you good ju-ju and keep it where you write. (In my last story it was a picture of Hugh Jackman.) 😉
      Contemporaries are magical, too. The magic is in how you tell them–the twist you put on the plot to make them come to life for your reader.

      I’ll see if my Zmeu can send you a friend.

  8. Avery,
    Thank you for the ‘great post’ comment. I really appreciate it.

    Tell me about it! The research I did last week took two yellow legal pads of notes! I went from Romanian history to Traveling Europe by Train. Fascinating at times. 😀

    1. And I just got distracted for the last hour with reading the sample of “The Gift of Fear.” But that is for another story. Needless, lots of material there for us that would love someday to write about really scary people…

        1. I did. Now I’m looking through “Don’t Know Much About Mythology” and getting ideas for that magical realism house and heroine’s life in and with it. Yay!

  9. Diana,
    Hugs back to ya! 🙂
    Sometimes those moments hit when everything makes sense. I’ve toyed with this story line over and over as I’ve researched further, adding a bit here and there. But finding this tid-bit of folk lore was the holy grail of the moment for me. (The one where you squeal a bit, do a little dance and have your family look at you as if you’ve lost your mind. But then maybe that’s just me.) 😉

    Hope to have this out one day soon. Looking for a first draft finish by end of month!

    Have a great day!

  10. Loni, How very cool that you got to combine your family research with a new book. A Zmeu sounds really interesting and what a great twist.

  11. Thanks for stopping in Ella!
    I know. It’s great when something you had no idea would lead you to a story . . . leads you to a story! LOL

    Hugs to you!

  12. Great post Loni and I love this inspiration. What a cool premise for a story! I can’t wait to read it, because I know it is going to be incredible!

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