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?

Post a Comment

  1. For a different take on vampires you could try Stefan in Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series. He doesn't quite hit all the tropes. The vamps in Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy too are marvellously dark for children's fiction.

    As to 'unique or established', I haven't really written anything with vampires. I think I would likely take it the same way as I do anything though: write what feels natural. If that means established tropes that's fine, if it's original that's fine, if it's a mix that's grand too.

    1. Thanks for the great recs, Tad. I'll definitely check them.

      I think this sometimes turns into writers overthinking. When it comes to something like vampires, we are very (VERY) aware that all of the ground has been covered two or three times already. So we sometimes push for a unique angle when what we should really be doing is your approach. Staying true (and trusting) your style and the voices of your characters is really the key.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


    2. I note from below that you prefer shapeshifters to vampires. I do too. In that case, the Patricia Briggs recommendation may serve you well. The series is about Mercy Thompson, a 'walker' (Native American shapeshifter, in this case a Coyote) who lives in a trailer behind the house of the local Alpha Werewolf. I should say though that the first book, 'Moon Called' was good, but in my opinion the worst of the ones I've read so far. The second book, 'Blood Bound', is where the vampires get more of a feature role.
      As a second vampire recommendation, Cherie Priest's 'Bloodshot' and 'Hellbent' I thought were good fun.

      I tend to mess up my own technique sometimes too. Take my current project 'Wick' (think a cross between collectible card gaming, pro wrestling, light politics and questioning when an AI becomes a living creature). I remember going though this thought process after reading through the second draft:

      "Well this isn't too bad. I mean, it's not the most original thing in the world, I've possibly ripped off Masamune Shirow here or there...maybe I should change some stuff? Nah, I like the characters and it's not like there's anything doing the AI thing and getting mainstream attention that people would assume I'm ripping off. Ooh, this looks interesting...[watches Ex Machina trailer on TV]...ah. Where's my editing stick..."

      Doubting myself when I'm not being massively original is something I struggle against sometimes. It's worth doing though.

    3. My Moonsongs series is about a young woman descended from Apache monster hunters and takes up the fight. I've got a 'skinwalker' who shifts into a bear in the series, so the Mercy Walker stories sound right up my alley!

      And I agree, it's a dangerous game to get into when you start thinking about parallels in your writing--especially to things you enjoy or are influenced by. There's probably a little Stephen King 'something' in every story I write because he was such an influence early on in my reading life. So I'd probably feel like I was copying him if I thought too hard on it, but I know I don't do it consciously.

  2. I'm not a huge vampire fan—that is, to the point that I seek them out—but I love all kinds of spec fic. :) Great post!

    1. Because vampires suck! (You know you wanted to go there! :P)

      I'm definitely more into shifters and zombies, but I do like a story with bite. (I totally did go there ... hoping we can turn the comments into one giant, terrible vampire pun or joke. LOL)

  3. I've really never enjoyed vamps... even back to the Anne Rice stuff. But I do like that there's always a way to twist an old idea.

    1. I really enjoyed Rice's stories and take on them. I also love the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) books by Charlaine Harris. Honestly, those books reignited my interest in vampires. (Hated the TV show after the first two seasons... so please don't judge the books based on those.)

      It was a rare romance-centric vamp story that I could get behind. I haven't read the Anita Blake books by Laurel K. Hamilton, but they're on my list to check out.

      I feel like science fiction authors are uniquely gifted at putting new spins on old ideas.

  4. I love vampires and there aren't many stories I didn't enjoy. They're also one of the creatures I write about the most. Each story always tries to twist the myth a new way.

    1. A big part of the appeal of vampires (both in reading and writing) for me is how eternal they can be. And that's a great excuse to explore all kinds of things with them. When you think about how much human society, technology, etc. has changed in the last 100 years, then consider what someone still alive over 200 years ago would think or know--it's staggering. As you say, there really are a lot of ways to take on the myth.

  5. I'm another one that's never liked vampires, except for ONE book about Dracula called "The Historian." But your post made me chuckle several times so it's a winner in my book :)

    1. I loved the Historian! It's the most un-vampire, vampire book ever. :-D There was just the right touch of dark suspense and fantasy. But I mostly enjoyed it because I felt like I was exploring the Balkans and ancient Europe as I read.

  6. Vamps are my second favorite of the paranormal beings! <3

    1. You're such a fanggirl! (See what I did there? :D)

  7. I super love vampires, but do find myself rolling my eyes when only the tropes are used. It makes the character and the "being" fall flat, like a cardboard cutout rather than an original and interesting new person or monster. My Shadow Demons world has witches and demons, but in my NA serial, Sacrifice Me, I introduced vampires for the first time. Instead of humans who were turned into vampires, my vamps are demons who have found a new way to use witch's blood as fuel for their powers here in the human world. It's a little bit of a twist, but my main vampire is still rich and brooding and sexy with a giant castle of a house. :p.

    1. Love the demon spin on your vampires, Sarra! I've always imagined them as more wraith like, so it makes sense to me.


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