Monsters–the Non-Human Kind

Just a few years ago, vampire novels were all the rage. The “Twilight” series was selling like crazy, and blurbs popped up on book jackets everywhere, using keywords to attach themselves to the vampire’s popularity. Then the excitement petered off. Zombies and witches are the “it” monsters now. That doesn’t mean vampire novels aren’t being written now. And it certainly doesn’t mean they’re not being bought.

Anne Rice, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Lynsay Sands have all gained notoriety for their vampires series. Both Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot” and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” have also stood the test of time. These writers didn’t write to hop on the bandwagon. They wrote because they love the monsters.

The challenge of writing a frightening, believable, and even sympathetic vampire comes from the fact that they’re damaged, evil characters. At least that’s the perception.

Vampires can be just as multidimensional as any other characters. The most memorable ones have depth. They do things a reader–and the writer–doesn’t always expect. They justify their actions so that they can live with themselves year after year. While they typically don’t play the golden hero, they make great anti-heroes and villains.

So, how do you craft a memorable vampire that sticks in the reader’s mind two weeks after they finished the last page? Here are four simple tips to doing that.

1. Avoid relying on cliches
Depressed, brooding, “woe is me” vampires get really annoying after a few dozen pages. Also be careful of relying on the stereotype of vampires sleeping in coffins, insatiable blood lust, and death by wooden stake. If you’d like to pay homage to the vampire lore, give it a twist. Make it interesting and justify it.

2. How do they feel about blood and their victims?
This adds depth to what might otherwise be a mindless character. Give your vampire emotions that center around hunting. Do they feel guilty? Do they enjoy the hunt? Would they rather be dining in a five-star restaurant on the waterfront? And why do they feel that way? No need for a lot of back story here. Little hints work just as well.

3. How do they cope with eternal life?
Like the previous tip, this one also adds depth to your vampire. They have a heck of a lot of time on their hands, anywhere from decades to centuries or even more. Think about what you would do with that kind of time. Also imagine what someone who was born a few hundred years ago would do with it. Would they knit? Take up archery? Write epic poetry? Let your mind run wild.

4. Never pull their fangs
While vampires don’t need to be the villain, never forget that they have the potential to be dangerous. The key here is to shock your readers without turning them off of your character completely. Avoid mindless slaughter and blood at all cost. Instead, try a measured dose of danger backed up against an act of good or charity.

Vampires are still characters. Give them the same effort and time that you would your human protagonist.

What do you think of these tips? Have you read any novels with vampires that have stuck with you after closing the book? Let me know in the comments section

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