In this post, Writers Write explores the history of, and techniques for, the vampire tale. We also tell you how to write one.
Writing The Vampire Tale
Vampires are a fiction staple.
Interview With A Vampire sold approximately 8 million copies. Twilight sold more than 70 million.
Vampire stories are still popular. From Dracula to Akasha, the vampire idea is almost eternal.
Here are techniques for writing the vampire tale.
What’s A Vampire?
According to Oxford Online Dictionaries, a vampire is:
‘(in European folklore) a corpse supposed to leave its grave at night to drink the blood of the living by biting their necks with long pointed canine teeth.’
Vampires are dead, but come alive. A vampire seeks life, and is cursed to sustain their own with destruction.
Almost all vampire stories, then and now, share this definition.
There are three origins for the classic fictional vampire:
- The Vampire (1748) by Heinrich August Ossenfelder
- Thalaba the Destroyer (1801) by Robert Southey
- The Vampyre (1819) by John William Polidori
Vampire myths come from superstition, illness, or belief about burial.
Classic vampire behaviour mimics rabies in humans. A vampire’s look, almost alive, can resemble a fresh corpse.
In the 17th and 18th century, blood-sucking vampires were considered a very real problem.
Stories about blood and war, including Vlad the Impaler, would only fuel the vampire myth even further.
Writing The Vampire Tale
The Vampire Genre
Thousands of vampire stories, poems, and books exist. The genre is vast.
Modern writers can expect to cross genres: there is no standard vampire story these days.
Vampires can be ancient, modern, young, or old.
Romance, horror, thriller, cyberpunk, historic, or science-fiction vampire stories all exist.
Be original, or you’ll get lost in the dark.
Vampires can be anything, but still share things that heap them into the same coffin. Readers still know a vampire story when they see one.
All through vampire stories, you will see common themes like:
- Anxiety & Fear
- Blood & Life
- Change & Evolution
- Death & Rebirth
Gothic traits abound.
Good vampire stories use emotion, characters, and setting to great effect. Blend suggested elements, but don’t throw all of them into a blender: that’s often overkill.
Subtle, original use of common tropes gives a good story.
Anne Rice’s Lestat and Stephanie Meyer’s Edward Cullen are vampires, but worlds apart in every other aspect.
How To Write A Vampire Story
Vampire story plots share characteristics, or common threads that include:
- Origins: What ‘turned’ your vampire and why?
- Return: Why is your vampire back, and what for?
- Triggers: What events set the story in motion?
- Desire: What does your vampire want?
- Conflicts: What personal or external conflict does your vampire have?
- Morality: What does the vampire (and their victims) experience?
- Hierarchy: Who rules the vampires, if anything?
- Obstacles: What does your vampire fear, or need to overcome?
A good vampire story brings together common elements with original flair.
A Vampire’s Traits
Let’s talk character creation.
Vampires are vampires. Readers can spot the difference between vampires and ghouls, ghosts, or zombies. How?
The vampire character has common traits that can define them:
- Vampires don’t reflect.
- Vampires need blood, or life.
- Vampires died, but came back.
- Vampires can only be killed by wooden stakes.
- Vampires are light-sensitive.
A character doesn’t need all these traits at once. Again, overkill. Decide which traits to include, and which to let go.
As an exercise, think of three favourite vampire characters.
- What makes them vampires?
- What makes them different?
Famous Vampire Tales
Study vampire stories before attempts to write one. Read the good ones, bad ones, long ones, and short ones.
A writer should read, then write.
- Dracula (1897) presents the famous Count. ‘Salem’s Lot (1976) by Stephen King brought vampires to small town United States.
- Varney The Vampire (1845 to 1847) was a gruesome, Victorian serial vampire story.
- Carmilla (in 1871) by Sheridan Le Fanu created a seductive, female vampire.
- Vampire Academy (2007) brought vampires back to YA fiction.
Love or hate the Twilight Saga, it sure sold.
The best way to know the vampire story is to devour every single one.
The Vampire Subculture
Vampires aren’t just fiction, but a modern subculture too.
Internationally, the vampire subculture comes alive at night.
The aesthetic style of classic vampires has spawned an entire genre of books, music, clubs, and enthusiasts.
When night falls, these ‘vampires’ dress up and meet to discuss their favourite, well, wine and stuff.
It’s true, and National Geographic did an entire segment about vampire nightlife.
According to Discover Magazine, the vampire culture is under serious expert study.
Truth can be weirder than anything.
The Last Word
In this post, Writers Write explored the vampire story.
We hope that it encourages you to write your own.
By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.
If you enjoyed this, read other posts by Alex:
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- 9 Tips For The Artful Interview
- 8 Elements Of Great Gothic Fiction
- 7 Bits Of Editing Advice From Famous Writers
- 8 Bits Of Writing Advice From Eudora Welty
- 6 Bits Of Writing Advice From Louis L’Amour
- 7 Bits Of Writing Advice From John Irving
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- How To Write Like A Leader
- 7 Journalism Mistakes (That Got To Print)