Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Love bites... Vampire tropes

Renewed interest in sparkly vamps notwithstanding, it's clear vampires have been and will always be popular subject matter in books and movies. No matter how much some editors and agents say vamps are tired, and "Can we please have something else that goes bump in the night?" the point is, our pals with fangs aren't going to crawl back into their coffins and play undead any time soon. Every few years another author dusts them off, puts them in fresh, trendy rags and trots them out again.

As a published author and editor, I'll also be the first to admit that I love vampires. If I pick up a promising book with vampires in, chances are good I'll read bump it up in my "to read" pile. When reading submissions, if I see vamps, I'll definitely take a deeper look, but really, there are some vampiric tropes I've seen way too often.

1) Romeo and Juliet: He's a vampire. She's a mortal. They fall in love despite their races' differences. Either he becomes mortal again or he turns her into a vampire. End of story. One word: boring. Sound familiar?

2) I can haz sum Louis wangst: Louis de Pointe du Lac. 'nuff said. I'm so tired of listening to vampires bemoan their terrible existence for all eternity, their thirst for blood, oh and the terrible dreariness of having to live forever. That really bites, man. If I could live forever there would be a thousand things I'd plan on achieving. Right now my lifespan is too short to suffer through one more angst-ridden vampire.

3) The beast or the "vegetarian": One of my buddies pointed out that what's just as bad are vampires existing without a middle ground. They're either slavering bloodthirsty demons that kill indiscriminately or they're ├╝ber moral and only subsist off the blood of innocent animals. Close to this one is the vampire who only kills people who "deserve" it.

4) Dracula vs. Van Helsing: Bram Stoker has already done this. It was fun the first time 'round. Whereas I'm not totally against having some sort of vampire hunter as a subplot in a novel, I really, really don't want to see this as the main story arc. It needs to end with Buffy.

5) Vampire vs. Werewoof: Oi! Lycans are just another name for werewolf. The Underworld franchise has spawned enough rehashings of vampire/werewolf conflict. This was also a theme central to the very popular White Wolf roleplaying systems. If you're putting werewoofs in your novel, please, oh, please find them something different to do other than being a convenient age-old enemy. And if I see the word "Lycan" anywhere in a manuscript, I'm automatically going to assume the author has watched Underworld one too many times for her own good. Call a werewolf a werewolf or, for howling at the moon please give your wolfies a new, wonderful name that hasn't been used a hundred times before.

I'm sure this list can be added to.

So, as an aspiring author, what can you do to make me fall in love with your manuscript? Vampires offer a wonderful opportunity to play with a character who has certain sets of strengths and flaws. These can either aid or hinder them in a quest or create lovely conflict within certain situations. As an editor I want to see vampires do exciting stuff, get into trouble, find buried treasure...

We all know how fun and wonderful it is to read about vampires. Now how about finding them adventures that haven't been done to undeath?

Now excuse me while I go drool over some vampirates.


C.J. Ellisson said...

Great post! And gives me hope for my mystery, no fight-scene, sex filled, action adventure romp of a tale filled with Vamps, humans and Weres (oh my!).

Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

Great post and you are so right. Writers need to use their imagination a bit more but I believe it's because they fear they'd be going against the usual grain a reader understands. That's not so. Give them new grain for food.

Rita Vetere said...

One great example of a fresh vampire tale is "Let the Right One In" by John Ajvide Lindqvist (which also translated well to film). Definitely for those who like their vampires cruel and selfish as opposed to romantic, though.

I agree that werewolf stories need to stay away from the Vampire v. Werewolf theme. The Luna-Challenged have so much going for them on their own.

Good post Nerine!