Sunday, 22 April 2012

TW: 100Things #5 How I create a vampire chatacter

So a more personal vampire post today. I was lying in bed last night thinking about vampires, as you do ;), and I decide to analyse how I create a vampire character. Firstly I would like to make the disclaimer, I don't think this is a magic formula, I just have fun taking a look at my creative process. Secondly, truth be told, sometimes the creative process has no form, it just happens :).

The first question I usually ask myself is what is my character:
  • day walker
  • night walker
This might seem like an odd place to start, but actually it underlines many needs of the character. It helps to give the character a place. Night dwelling vampires are much more traditional, but if you're dealing with a story setting that isn't nocturnal it's a royal pain. It can be done, but it depends what you want from the character.

Anyone who reads a lot of my work will have noticed that I often go for day walkers. This is for a couple of reasons:
  • it's so much easy for character interaction
  • it's a hell of a lot of fun to have the character able to walk around in the day, but still be affected by it (not that I enjoy putting my characters in awkward situations or anything ;)). If they combust at the first sign of daylight it's nowhere near as much fun to torture them with it.
As I mentioned in post #3 fangs and blood drinking are a must for me, so those are a given. I do have a type of vampire in the works that isn't a blood drinker and doesn't have fangs, but then I don't really look on her as a vampire. It's more of just a useful term, rather than describing her specifically.

As for the mythology that goes with my vampires, I have been asked in the past what universe I based them on, especially in fanfic. The answer is very simple, unless they are a specific kind of vampire that fits directly in a universe, like Blood Ties or Anita Blake, I don't base my vampires on any particular vampire. I have read many, many books on vampire law and vampire fiction and seen many, many documentaries and movies, and unlike anything useful the information sticks. I take some bits from all over the place and then, half the time I just make stuff up :).

I'll give you an example, in Out With the Old, In With the New (Tokio Hotel RPS) I took the name Strigoi from Eastern European vampire law. There are various uses of the word, but I went with the vampire one. The rest of the vampire lore in the story I just made up. For example, Bill's hair going blonder if he needed to feed. That was a simple matter of wanting him not to be recognised when he was first picked up and explaining away the blond highlights in his hair. Nothing more complicated than that.

Another example in my original novel Advent the vampires have alpha's and spawn. Not a new idea, I could have called them master vampires or lead vampires or anything along those lines. What I wanted was a structure where not all vampires were as dangerous, but I didn't want it all to be about age. It didn't make sense to me that vampires could only be alpha vampires with age, I wanted something more, so it's the link between maker and made, alpha and spawn that suppresses the personality of the spawn. 

I wanted a kind of honey bee like idea where the queen is in charge, but if the queen dies one of the worker bees steps up to take her place. It also made it much more interesting for my infected characters because there was the chance an alpha could get into their heads.

There is no such thing as a completely original vampire. Ever since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, if your vampire drinks blood, it's not completely original, but the wonderful thing about vampires is there are infinite combinations of lore and traits. For that matter, your vampire might be a direct Dracula clone and that doesn't matter either, it's what you do with them that counts. As with all other writing, it's how you do it, not exactly what you do that matters.

With the increase in the vampire genre in recent years you might think they're getting old, but I just say, go forward and create. Vampires are brilliant and if you use them well there is no hiding how brilliant.

Just please, simply because I write about vampires, do not accuse me of copying Twilight. Vampire fiction existed way before Twilight and it will still exist after the hysteria has died down. Just as I'm not trying to rewrite Dracula, I'm not trying to rewrite Twilight either. I have problems with Twilight that have nothing to do with the vampire lore in it, but if you love it, yay! I'm all for people loving vampire fiction even if I do fall off my chair laughing at the whole sparkling thing.

Writers, how do you go about conceiving a vampire character?

Readers, what draws you about vampire characters. How do you judge if a writer has succeeded?

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