Oh no, it’s not another vampire story, is it? They just won’t die, and it’s impossible to kill them. We know that even bad writing about cutesy vampires can sell, and you know exactly what series I’m talking about. Because of their immense popularity, I wonder: what makes them so interesting and impossible to live without?
I started a book series at age sixteen that had vampires in it, just before they popped up everywhere, and then I was compelled to take a step back or change them in an effort to be original and prove I wasn’t following their slate that had already been written. Now, I am on hiatus from that series which is a challenge to write for me, because it is for a younger teen audience that I am not used to writing for. The point is that sometimes writers feel they have to change what they write in order to set themselves apart.
There are some Supernatural series that forgo vampires all together, but it’s difficult to leave them out of everything when they go back so far. Today, they are still alright, but readers need more than JUST vampires to help a story along.
The first thing that makes vampires so frequently written about is how timeless they are. It’s not just the immortally, and humans being one of the only animals who are cognizant of their mortality, but it is that they’ve been around forever in writing and legend. Does it also have something to do with Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Antonio Banderas all being vampires together in Anne Rice’s screen adaptation of “Interview with the Vampire”? I‘m sure Kirsten Dunst would think so.
So what do I do as a writer in the middle of a series for Young Adults? Do I shove immortality and the concept of the human soul off of the table and onto the writer’s floor? No, not with a degree in psychology I don’t. So what do I do about them living in London? I make them adapt to today. I make the reader see how they’re the bottom feeders of the supernatural world that don’t have much to live for since they stopped living. I show the reader how they are expendable to humans and what happened when they made themselves too visible. I show you what some of them will do to get a little prestige back after being nearly eradicated.
As for making my main character a supernatural creature, I draw inspirations from anecdotes about organ donors and the ever-adapting human, but more on that later. Science and fantasy have to be shaken together to create something plausible and nearly realistic. A good, timeless legend has already been cemented in our minds, and we are all too familiar and comfortable with the vampire.
It’s impossible to start completely from scratch when drawing on urban legends and old folk tales when we are so removed from certain types of superstition today. We cross cultures to find names of supernatural creatures to be accurate yet original, when we should really be involved with trapping them in time and setting.
The place, culture, and social interactions make a subset of characters what they are. I can get an English degree; I can pick a big word out of Webster and insert it every so often to make you think I have a big vocabulary; I can distract you a little while with the childhood friend as a love interest; I can have thirty-year olds playing high school students for seven years; but if my characters don’t change at all, if they are not a projection of a society that is already interesting or diverse on its own, you’re not really going to care.
Yes, there will be vampires, forever in fact, but it’s what society presses them down with, the prophecies they live by, the morality they can turn on and off, and how they evolve over their years of “living”, that make them interesting and worth reading about, even though you get sick of them sometimes.
What makes you think it works?
What makes you think it doesn’t?