It’s true that you can’t turn around without seeing something on vampires these days, ranging from corny to well done. No matter what I always have and always will be a fan of vampires. They will always be my favorite paranormal creature, but I don’t have to always agree with how they’re treated. Case in point: the sparkling vampires of Twilight. Give me a break!
First a little historical background on the Vampire!
According to the Myths, Legends & Folklore course I took in college, the legend of vampires goes as far back as Syria, where the legends were written on cuneiform tablets. They were also known to Babylon, Greece and Rome and their stories continued through the middle ages and modern history.
You can find a lot of information on vampires by doing a little digging. If you have to include a vampire in your story, I encourage you to check out some of the original legends, don’t just trust the Hollywood versions. At least know where the stereotypes come from.
To get some ideas see:
- Nigel Suckling, Vampires (Facts Figures & Fun)
- Constatine Gregory, The Vampire Watcher’s Handbook: A Guide for Slayers
Is it predictable?
I think that vampires are no more predictable than any other character, if done well. The entire plot of Twilight, yes that was cliche and predictable. Boy meets girl, girl becomes obsessed with boy, boy saves girl, they fall in love and get married and have a kid. (Okay so the kid was unexpected, but never well explained). It was all to cut and dry for me, the most anguishing moment for Bella was when Edward left, and maybe when she had to choose between him and Jacob, but when do we have gut wrenching, page turning, OMG how will they ever survive moments? So maybe that’s all more about the lack of a good plot than the lack of good vampires, (but they did sparkle so its probably about both). The problem is people think that if they throw in vampires that’s enough to make it interesting, but a good plot has to exist first.
Back to the original question do vampires have to be predictable? No. Let’s take for instance the television show Being Human we have the original British version and the American version, both about a vampire, a ghost, and a werewolf who share an apartment. In the British version the vampire has no reflection and cannot be captured on video or in pictures, not so for the American version. The American version also has the power of persuasion, and superhuman speed not apparent in the British version. If vampires had to be predictable, we’d see the same traits across the board. At the same time, you can’t just give you vampire a different trait and call them unpredictable (e.g. sparkling skin, do you see a pattern here).
What has the power to make or break a vampire character is his or her personality. How the character reacts to situations, people, his or her own condition. Here is where many authors fall into the predictable cliche.
- The vampire who relishes in his existence
- The brooding vampire who loathes his existence
As a literary vampire, I’m quite fond of Matthew from Deborah Harkness’s Discovery of Witches. Matthew is over a thousand years old, and his age shows clearly in the complexity of his character. At points he doesn’t necessarily relish in or loath his existence as a vampire and when he does, he has a reason. Any good character, human or paranormal, is a mixture of positive and negative traits (not even the “bad guy” should be all bad). They need motivations for their feelings, actions, responses to situations. Even if you don’t spell them out in the story, you should know a good bit of their history. If your vampire hates being a vampire, it better be for far better reason than ‘vampires are evil.’