Friday, November 11, 2011

5 Reasons to Never Ever Write Vampires

Genus vs. Species:

Agents and editors often say they are looking for something different, but not too different. I think creating vampires is like inventing a new species of squirrel. Any tree squirrel (genus Sciurus) will share common traits. You can look and say, “Yes, that’s a squirrel,” but still know the difference between a red squirrel and a gray squirrel. (Hint: one is red; one is gray.)

So you think about it. My vampires can go out in sunlight as long as they wear a special charm or something - maybe a witch makes it. Yeah, that’s good. But then you finally check out Vampire Diaries and realize that would be almost as unoriginal as making them sparkle in sunlight. Now you’re getting nervous. If their blood heals people, is that a rip-off of True Blood? But wait, it’s in Vampire Diaries, too. So is it fair game? There’s no official guide to genus-level traits (the vampire creative commons) vs species traits (the vampire rip-offs). You bang your head against your desk and pull out your well-worn Dracula. At least he’s in the public domain.

Fang Fail

Story is flowing, shadows are lurking, danger is imminent. You’re in the flow. And then, you type these two words: Glistening fangs.

Look, I get it.Vampires have fangs (usually). They’re pearly white because your sexy breed of vampire takes care of his teeth. Saliva naturally leads to glistening. It’s a logical word choice.
But…. you bang your head against your desk and open the thesaurus. Gleaming fangs? Not much better. Scintillating fangs?

This next head-bang hits the keyboard. Great, now a key is loose.

You wonder if you can tell the story without ever mentioning fangs.

The Social Factor

You still don’t know if those unmentionable fangs should retract, but otherwise, things are zipping. You attend a seminar with a well-known author to hone some skills and get to know other writers. Small talk erupts around the danishes, and you’re on the spot.

An elderly woman smiles at you. “What do you write, dear?”

“Fantasy,” you say.

A guy chimes in with a mouthful of pastry. “What kind of fantasy?” You’re with writers now. They know “fantasy” doesn’t tell you squat.

“Ah, urban fantasy."

“Oh, fun,” says another woman. Then she leans in closer and smirks. “Just, please, tell me you’re not writing vampires.” Several snickers of agreement accompany her dramatic eye-roll.

You mumble something about how they aren’t vampires, per se, just blood-drinking revenants with sharp canines. But it’s really totally different.

You go back to your conference table, bang your head against it, spill hot coffee on your notebook.

A Special Note for Bright-Eyed YA Writers:

Ah, the teenage vampire. So sexy, so charming, so at ease in his own skin. A morally complex and madly in love vampire is a wonderful antidote to the concerns of acne, parents, and college applications.

If you are a teenage girl, skip this one. Go ahead, my dear. Write what you love.

If you are not a teenager (except at heart - aren’t we all?) then at some point you will run across this little fact: The human brain doesn’t reach full maturity until between 20 and 30 years old. If you are over 30, you don’t need a source to know it’s true. (But here’s one anyway.) You can’t trap your character in an immature brain for all eternity! A teenage body, sure. But the brain? It’s too cruel. I know we’re supposed to torture our characters, but some things just cross a line.

The Nose Knows

Trials aside, you’re still gung-ho. You still love these my-vampires-are-different vampires, and secretly you believe they’ll become so popular they spark new “teams” in a national love triangle debate.

Your vampire meets his human heroine, and you meet your moment of truth.

If you can resist making your heroine’s blood smell extraordinarily good, then maybe, just maybe, you don’t need my advice. (In fact, maybe you have the restraint to become an ethical vampire yourself.) For most of us, however, resistance is futile. Futile. Face it, she’s delicious! You swore you wouldn’t do it, but then he got close to her neck, and he inhaled without breathing, and before you knew it, he was evaluating the base notes of her pulse and practically swooning at the euphoria of her delicate perfume.

Once again, head meets desk with violent force.

In conclusion, vampires are a terrible idea. QED.

But... If you’re still determined, at least write with a helmet on. And then let me know when your novel is published, because I’m always looking for a good vampire book.

~ Sarah


  1. I'm with you Sarah, but I have to admit, I adore Lyndsay Sands's humorous approach, to the lost race of Atlantis, in her Argeneau vampire series. :)

  2. True fact - my very, very first completed story was about vampires. What can I say? I was fifteen.

    Also, should you ever invent a special writer helmet ("allows for venting of frustration without damaging the keyboard!"), please let me know.

  3. I never understood the vampire hate. Vampires are just characters. Who they are is more important to me than what they are.

    Great post, Sarah. Very funny.

  4. Hi, Gene Pool Diva - I will check out Lindsey Sands; I haven't read her stuff yet. Thanks for following!

    I love writing vampires and I love making fun of vampires. They're kind of like family that way.

  5. You left out my favorite reason: With all the unexplored nooks and crannies of humanity left to expose, who has time to write about vampires?


  6. Very funny :) Hmm, I wonder how long it will be before the next Vampire Squirrel Hollywood blockbuster...

  7. Great post! I would agree...except for my 2 vampire books and counting. :)

    Don't worry, they're comedies and I spend a good deal of the time mocking a lot of the above myself.

    Fortunately I've weened myself off and my next book is on Bigfoot ...figure there's still a few months before he'd passé. ;)

  8. My doctor recently told me that I should write the next Twilight series. Because my writer intuition aligns with yours (and I cannot stand those "scintillating arms"), you can imagine the head-desking that ensued (really, it was head-dashboarding, since I waited until I was in the car). Vampires are so "in" right now, and I get that, I suppose, but it is so difficult to develop a new interpretation at this point.

    But then I wonder - isn't it hard to be original period? We are so influenced by what we read and watch and hear that it's hard to sift all that out and reveal a "truly" original story, if such a thing exists.

    Fantastic post. ^_^

  9. Excellent post, very funny! I agree with Alexandra. I don't know why everyone is so chewed up (er... ) about vampires when there are scads and scads of novels about (insert genre/plot device) and nobody squawks about those. Just tell a good story, make us love the characters.

  10. My vampires are different.

    No, really...



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