I remember a time where the only Vampyres on TV were those being slayed by a kick-ass female named Buffy Summers. And the most wicked Vampyre films available were the original Dracula, The Interview With the Vampire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Lost Boys. And the Vampyre-type books? Other than Anne Rice’s Vampyre novels, which I had to sneak and hide from my mom in order to read, I couldn’t name any others I ventured into twenty years ago (books didn’t happen bit time for me until high school).
If you grew up with my generation (X, to be exact), then you most definitely came into maturity around Buffy, Angel & Spike, Lestat & Louis, the ladies of Charmed and The Craft, etc., etc., etc.. This means you may have a unique interest in these supernatural beings. You ate it up, piece by exciting piece, wrote stories/fan fiction, bought and devoured as many books within the genre as possible, and discussed last night’s episode of Buffy first thing the following morning at school/work.
Flash forward about 15-20 years later and we’ve arrived at a time where the markets – publishing, television, cinema – are so bombarded with Vampyres you begin to wonder if you can even sell a story about the very creatures you’re so passionate about. The ones you grew up with. The ones you can’t imagine not having in any of your WIP’s.
I’m here to say… YOU CAN!
I’ve listed a few guidelines that’ll help ensure you’re offering something fresh and unique to not only the world of publishing, but the readership of the Urban Fantasy & Paranormal genres.
First and foremost you want to research these creatures – and go as far as you can without your eyeballs falling out.
- Let’s begin with the obvious:
- Google Vampyre/Vampire and begin there.
- Check out Wikipedia – they have a list of every known fictional Vampyre from literature, cinema/television, and comic books/manga.
- Research mythology – Greek, Roman, etc. – you never know when that knowledge might come in handy.
- Speak with other readers and/or authors of your genre.
- Ask what Vampyric attributes/qualities they’ve come across through their reading.
- Ex: Recently I spoke on the phone with someone I haven’t talked to or seen in almost 15 years. She’s a writer as well, but she’s a voracious reader first and foremost. We began comparing the different types of Vampyric origin stories we’ve come across. Also their limitations.
- Inquire with them about your idea for a Vampyre.
- Most times what we think is a unique idea isn’t as unique as we thought. Let’s face it, there’s never enough time to read every single book with Vampyres in it, so reaching out to fellow readers/authors is extremely important.
Make it Fresh
Take all that wholesome paranormal knowledge you’ve gained and twist it so bad it screams for mercy.
Now I don’t mean to make it as crazy as you can possibly get it. Know your limitations and keep future readers in mind.
- Keep the basics
- Every fictional Vampyre known to man possesses one common trait: BLOOD. If you take this away then I’m sorry to tell you I don’t think anyone will really bite into your story and stay there. And if you do take this away…the plot better shine. True Vampyre fans enjoy the blood-drinking aspect. It brings a sense of danger to our otherwise normal lives.
- Freshen up their origins
- Keeping the blood drinking in mind, think of where your version of this creature comes from:
- Is there an ‘Original’ Vampyre who started it all?
- Are they essentially a creation by an almighty being: A religious-type creature, maybe?
- Can you add in a bit of mythology to their origin story? Hmmm…..
- Freshen up their characteristics, weaknesses, strengths, and twist the old clichés
- Are your Vampyres more human than monster? Or more monster than human?
- Are they ‘mainstreamed’ or still living amongst us in the shadows?
- True Blood vs. Interview With the Vampire
- Can they drink blood from just anyone, or does it have to be from one of their own kind?
- J.R. Ward’s Vamps can only drink the blood from their kind – and not just anyone. It has to be from the opposite sex for them to be at their strongest
- Are their weaknesses the same as the traditional Vampyre?
- Holy water, crosses, garlic, sunlight?
- Deborah Harkness’s Vamps can walk in the sunlight. They’re so pale it’s obvious they’re not human. But in the right environment and/or time of year, nobody does (unless they’re surrounded by other creatures, then the weather, time of year, and location don't really matter, someone's gonna notice).
- How can your Vampyre be killed?
- Dismemberment, decapitation, silver, stakes?
- Do your Vampyres have powers/abilities?
- Extra strength, super speed, shape-shifting, mesmerism, teleportation, etc., etc.?
Push the boundaries here. Create a creature unique to your story, and build your world around them. Every choice you make has a tremendous affect on how their world works, thinks and acts.
What if I Prefer Traditional Vampyres?
If you prefer traditional, that’s okay. Twisting a tale-as-old-a-time such as Vampyres may not be for you. If you’re going to go this route there a few things to keep in mind:
- The plot, characters and world-building have got to be pitch-perfect!
- When agents say if you’re going to do Vampyres it’d better be something different, I tend to believe they don’t necessarily mean the Vampyres themselves. I tend to think they mean the story surrounding these creatures had better be stellar.
- Even with an original and/or unique telling of a Vampyre story, it may take a while before you nab that agent/publishing contract.
- The industry is still getting over the latest Vampyre boom. Yes, there are still a ton of readers out there who only read Vampyre novels, but with that said it does not mean openings for more are everywhere; they’re still few and far between right now.
- Work hard, persevere, find your voice, make your writing shine, and learn how to be patient. Because the industry isn’t wide open to Vampyres at the moment doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It simply means you have to work that much harder to find an agent willing to take a chance on a Vampyre again – and not just any Vampyre…your Vampyre.
- Continue to do your research. The traditional Vampyre has changed throughout the past century. During my research I read there are a few traditional characteristics of a Vampyre that have fallen by the wayside in the past few decades: apparently it now takes one bite to turn a human vs. the drainage and replacement of human blood with a Vampyre’s (ahem – Twilight would be one). These are great points to make in your story (similar to how Damon in The Vampire Diaries mentioned the Twilight vamps on the TV series) when you’re presenting your traditional Vampyre.
What are some other twists on the old Vampyre tale you’ve read recently? Did you enjoy that version of these creatures or do you prefer traditional? If you write Vampyres or other supernatural creatures into your stories, what are some of your tips to assist writers with create the unique? Are there any stellar examples of unique/original Vampyres you’d like to share?