Why did the vampire's lunch give him heartburn?
Because it was a stake sandwich!
I'm here for the rest of this post, folks ... tip your waitstaff!
I totally do the Fozzie Bear, "Waka! Waka!" every time I hear that one. Okay, I promise no more bad vampire jokes, but I do think it illustrates an interesting point about vampires--especially in fiction:
Ever get the impression we've heard it all before? To the point the word feels like a silly pun?
How often do you pick up a new series or book with vamps and start the checklist--
- Brooding & handsome *check*
- Derives no joy from human things but has ALL the human things *check*
- Clinically unemotional & self-serving *check*
- Considers all people food--except for THAT one! *check*
- Super strong, fast, and intelligent *check*
- Saving himself for marriage...
So maybe not-so-much on that last one, but you get the idea.
Now, this isn't to decry vampire stories with these tropes. Some of them just make sense. If you un-live long enough I'm sure you'd amass some impressive belongings and wealth if you were so inclined.
I've lived in my current house less than two years and I can't believe the amount of crap that piles up. So I'm sure to the three hundred year-old vampire mogul, a third Ferrari is his version of that cute yard sale dining table I've got sitting in my garage.
(What? It was a bargain and I didn't have a place for it in the house. Don't judge. I'll refinish it someday and have a home big enough for a third dining table... holy hell, what was I thinking?!)
Furthermore, vampire fiction has a ravenous readership for a reason. If you write about vampires and ignore all of the traditional things that make them so fangtastic you risk losing your fangbase. (I was contractually obligated to do that...) They are in love with the tropes.
Vampires are cool because they are sexy, brooding creatures of the night cursed with an insatiable desire for human blood. Not because they sparkle in sunlight like your favorite glittery little ponies and can live on deer blood.
(They just prefer people--so it's totally like that time you were craving sushi and had McNuggets instead. I mean, you'd definitely have eaten sushi if it were there and practical. But you would have had to slaughter the neighbor's koi fish and probably have gone to jail, so you went with the McNuggets. Same deal...)
So what if an author wants to put a new spin on it? What if a reader is looking for something new?
I fell into the former category writing my Moonsongs series. The leading lady hunts monsters, and I definitely needed vamps in the mix.
But I didn't want them to be hyper-sexual or seductive. I wanted something more alien, almost snakelike. They appear mostly human until they go into attack mode--sort of like how a venus flytrap looks like a harmless, pretty plant to a fly.
Here are a few paragraphs describing them:
"One by one, the partygoers removed their masks, revealing sets of liquid black eyes too numerous to count. A few of them opened their mouths to hiss at us, flashing growing sets of curved fangs--
She opened her mouth wide, exposing canine teeth that were now at least a couple of inches long. Her narrow face contorted in a terrifying version Munch’s Scream paintings as she brought me in for the bite--
Dozens of shadowy figures descended the walls on all fours, like slowly moving spiders. Several more vampires stepped from the dark corners of the room to surround us."
While not completely original, it was just enough different from some of the recently popular depictions I didn't feel like a reader could gloss over them.
But I also stuck to some tropes--like wealth and power. The main vampire in this story lives in a mansion and has a lot of influence in the supernatural community.
That's my solution to tackling most things in my fiction that I feel have been explored-to-death: Make it familiar--with a twist.
I tease about Twilight's take on vampires a lot, but I feel like the author did a great job of twisting things just enough to keep me thinking. (And occasionally laughing.)
Are you still a fan of vampires or have they been exhausted?
Read any stories that you felt truly presented them in a new or unique way?
What's the one thing that makes a vampire a vampire in your mind?
If you're a writer, do you worry more about being unique or sticking to what has been established?