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How To Kill A Vampire

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Over the weekend a friend brought up a fun anecdote.  He told about an author asking his daughter, “How can you kill a vampire?” The daughter responded with what we all know. Stake to the heart, beheading, stick ’em in the stun, holy water, etc. etc. Which any good, self-respecting geek would say. The author responded to his daughter:

“You kill them however the *%&# you want to. It’s your story.”

I think that is something we forget as writers. The best example goes to Twilight. Nearly everyone you meet that hates the series will say the same thing. “Vampire don’t sparkle.” And as my friend said. Yes. Yes they do. In Stephanie Meyer’s story they sparkle.

Now of course we don’t have to like it. But what we can’t say is that a made up fantasy creature doesn’t act a certain way. Who says? Vampires are very well known. But how many of us can agree on what a Troll is? Or Hobgoblin, Orc(k), and Hippogriff?

This is where one of my favorite authors succeeds so well. Everyone should check out Jim Butcher’s work. He has been able to take familiar tropes concerning all your favorite lore, and turn it on its head. Weaving and spinning new ideas into creatures like Werewolves, Vampires, Zombies, and Fairies.

Stephanie Meyer attempted the same thing. We can argue that Butcher has done it better, but they essentially did the same thing. Of course we can argue that Butcher did this much better than Meyer, but that is not the point of this post.

The point is that we often, as SciFi/Fantasy authors, get caught up in the proper way to “kill a vampire.” When there isn’t a proper answer. Because anything you can think of will be the right way. It is your story. Don’t worry about how others will react to your solution to the problems that have already been solved. Who is to say you can’t come up with a more unique way to kill a vampire than from what has already been established?

That would be an interesting writing exercise. Reinterpret fantasy elements that have been done to death. How else can you do a vampire or werewolf. Stretch your mind and see what you come up with. It is something I’ve been doing with my YA book. Taking a look at standard magic tropes and tweaking them.

And who knows. Maybe my vampires will sparkle…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pfftt, who am I kidding? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

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12 Comments

  1. James says:

    Yeah I get your point. As the author of the story you have ultimate creative control over your story, but there is a such thing as maintaining the literary tradition of a fantasy concept. If you want to make a large departure from the traditional view of something why even call it that. Give it a new name and move on.

    • Then you’re asking for stagnation, in my opinion. Using Twilight again. All she did was tweak how vampires reacted to sunlight. But they still were fundamentally vampires. Though if you look at people’s reactions, you’d think she wrote about Unicorns and labeled them vampires.

  2. “The Strain” and its sequels by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro came up with a very interesting interpretation of the vampire mythos and how to kill them (based on their explanation of vampire biology).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Strain#Vampire_biology

    Behold!

  3. Greg Baker says:

    Whenever you make significant changes to accepted lore regarding fantasy creatures, it’s important that your alterations are consistent and logical within the context of your story.

    For instance, if I write a traditional sword and sorcery story involving dwarves, but in my world dwarves live in the sky on billowing clouds of condensed fairy dreams, I better have a damn good reason for that.

    In other words, you can’t just twist things for the sake of being ‘different’. Your twist has to make sense in the context of the story. It shouldn’t feel like the author tried to change the recipe by adding a dash of salt and called it a day.

    • “Accepted lore regarding fantasy creatures.” Maybe I’m cynical or something. Because that sentence makes me laugh. The fact that we nerds/geeks have codified “fantasy” is pretty silly if you step out and think about it.

      It’s not real. So how can we have one blanket belief on it? I’m starting to think it has harmed us as creative people. We’re saying that “Well, Tolkien said dwarves are this way. Guess I can’t stray too far.” Why not!? He did.

      • Greg Baker says:

        If you deviate too far from the norm, you’re writing about something completely different.

        Don’t draw a circle, slap some lipstick on it, then call it a square and expect people to be okay with that.

        Language, religion, rituals, customs are all codified means of communication. They’re not there to restrict freedom or creativity, they’ve evolved to allow us to communicate with each other based on commonly understood conventions.

        Try telling a joke in a foreign language. Hard as hell, because you don’t fully understand the social and cultural conventions that make something humorous to a native speaker.

        When you completely alter the language, you’re talking to your audience in a new language only you understand and expecting us to instantly understand you.

        It doesn’t work that way.

        Small changes allow us to follow you without being completely lost.

        Continue introducing small changes over the course of a series, and you’ll eventually reach a point where you can introduce new and unconventional ideas and we’ll stick with you.

        But you’ve got to give us bread crumbs first.

      • OK. Fair enough. So do you consider the Twilight vampires to deviate too far from the norm? Because I don’t.

        And it wasn’t my intent to say, “Let’s take a vampire and they don’t suck blood and aren’t undead.” But instead play with the the limiting factors placed upon them.

        So, for instance, let’s say my vampires are immune to silver and holy objects. They are evil fae creatures so cold iron really screws them over. And they use the ingested blood of humans to power their spells.

        Have I necessarily created something different?

      • Greg Baker says:

        No, they don’t deviate too far. I think people have a problem with sparkling vampires because you’re mixing incompatible visual imagery.

        Sparkles are weightless, carefree, unfettered light associated with 4th of July, summer vacation, and fun.

        Blood-sucking creatures of infinite darkness sparkle? Really? It’s just a weird visual.

        Then again, people love to hate, especially when something’s successful.

        And lets be honest, it’s easy to hate on Twilight.

        In your example of vampires being evil fae creatures, you’re combining commonly accepted and understood conventions of Faeries and Vampires to create something different.

        Maybe it just comes down to combining equally “cool” things.

        Zombie Pirates – cool.
        Cherokee Werewolves – cool
        Vampire Roman Legion – cool
        Undead Street Mimes – not cool (unless you’re Tim Burton)
        Sparkles the Vampire – not cool (unless you’re writing a comedy about a vampire clown who lives off the broken dreams of disappointed children)

      • Ah, but Twilight vampires are not necessarily creatures of ultimate evil. In fact, the visual supports the “desire” a young girl would have for an object.

        Girl’s love shiny stuff. They also love guys who will pledge their undying (hur) love for them. Sparkles + Undying Love = Twilight Vampires!

  4. I’m agreeing with the naysayers here. You can change things to suit your needs up to a point, but the result should be similar in some fashion to what has gone before. I could describe a unicorn and call it a vampire, but that just wouldn’t work. Balance is the key. Twilight vampires are legitimate vampires, but they are so much fun to make fun of. Sparkling? Seriously? Sparkling!?

    • I definitely can see everyone’s point. You can only pull the concept so far before it begins to break down and be something different. I guess then we have to–in this case here–decide what must stay consistent across all stories in order for them to remain vampires.

  5. The “Twilight” vampires do suck blood–it’s just the sympathetic ones have renounced preying on humans to feed on animals.

    But the sparkles…yeah.

    I do like your Fae idea. Maybe they can call themselves “Blood Fae” or something like that and “vampire” to them is a racial slur.

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