How can I find a Vampire story idea that doesn’t sound like Twilight?

Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by beehoney, Dec 9, 2017.

  1. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'd also be inclined to ditch the 'move really fast' trope as seen in twilight and buffy (etc)

    In my Westmen books one of the antagonist clans are the blood drinkers - they aren't vampires, they are humans who follow Crom Dbuh and like to drink the blood of their captives and engage in human sacrifice.

    I'm not suggesting doing exactly that - but you could look at the origins of vampirism myths rather than the rather cliched fast moving imortal and so misunderstood vampires
     
  2. Malisky

    Malisky Sirocco Contributor

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    Trying to explain why vampires need to drink human blood is like inserting midiclorians into star wars to justify jedi powers. Just don't. It's poetic symbolism and there's not a viable scientific reason to justify it without sounding ridiculous, because vampires do not and could not exist. Thus fantasy.

    I think that the vampire genre usually fails because of one main reason. Writers tend to make them so god damn privileged. There is a reason vampires fear direct sunlight. It is a huge setback in their lives. It's their major vulnerability. They are super strong beings. In order to make them interesting you have got to balance their pros and cons. They don't just sparkle! They burn up to a crisp! Not being able to move in the day time is also an indicator that something wicked this way comes. It is challenging from their part to conceal their true nature and mingle up with humans when they can't do anything in the day time. It's a dead give-away. Furthermore, they could be cornered any given time in the day time. If they got attacked while they were resting there's little chance they would make it out alive. Another weakness that vampires have is that they NEED to drink human blood. If they can manage without it then you have got to ask the dear writer: are you sure this is a vampire oh wise one? The only reason "Interview with a Vampire" was so good apart from superb writing skills is because the hero was struggling throughout the book not to drink human blood. It was driving him mad! His maker, Lestat was like the devil, tempting him to enjoy the high life and enjoy the perks of being a vampire while the hero, Louis was like an ascetic struggling not to give in. A great character dynamic between them that would have never worked if none craved blood. Vampires are considered to be "cursed". How "cursed" can you be if you remain forever young, heal super fast, have got super powers, are super sexy, can live as an ordinary person under the sun and can live without having to eat, drink or shit at all? An inexhaustible source of energy! Yay!(Make me a vampire now please).

    I'm not saying that you can't have a being like that in a novel. It can work out wonderfully depending on the story you are writing but it is not a vampire. It is something else. It doesn't need to be a vampire. Maybe it's an elf or a fairy or a new creature which you are going to name.

    Another thing about vampires is that traditionally at least they are not born this way. They become this way. There is a process to it. The have got to be selected for one reason or the other, die the small death and then wake up into their new skin and adapt. There is a certain appeal to this process. It's highly symbolic and makes for a good story. Everyone is born oblivious of good and evil. All babies are innocent. During a persons lifetime one might become a vampire. A being that sucks of the blood of others just to live forever. If you think about it vampires are egocentric bastards. They are the villains. They just do as they please, they do not admit that they are human at all although they are not all that different since they are intelligent beings just to justify their misdoings.

    So far, I haven't written down the cliches of vampires. This is just one of the archetypes of what it means to be a vampire. Of what and whom I expect to see in a story with vampires. Let's move on to the cliches now.

    Cliche no 1) Vampires are exceptionally looking.

    Although it's not forbidden to have a plain looking vampire or a beasty looking one, I can see why having a good looking vampire works in fiction. It's like having a cute cat. The cat turns playfully while purring and shows you her belly. You feel an urge to pet her belly lovingly. The cat makes mince out of your hands. If the cat was instead a tasmanian devil, I doubt you would feel any urge to pet its belly at all.

    It's a beautiful contradiction having an angelic figure concealing a devious soul. It works as a honey trap.

    Cliche no 2) Vampires at school.

    Well... just skip it. Although I'd read it if it were for comedy. :p

    Cliche no 3) Melancholic, dead-serious character.

    Make them cynics, like brit royalty with a sense of humour. Especially dark humour.

    Cliche no 4) They are so artistic.

    Make them scientists or mathematicians. They get to live for so long. They have surely invented something great at some point! They must know so much more than us puny mortals.

    Cliche no 5) They're either in the US or in Britain.

    Why not Estonia? Philippines? Jamaica? Ok, I get why this happens but it would be cool to have a change of setting where no part of the story is situated in these countries at all. Most of the vampire stories I read in different settings renewed my interest in them.

    Cliche no 6) They are usually caucasian.

    Choose whichever other ethnicity. Native american maybe? Hm... I think that I haven't read anything about a Native American vampire so far. Or an Aboriginal! It would make for great backstories!

    Can't think of any other cliches.
     
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  3. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I don't know if making vampires plain looking, Jamaican, Asian or African, people from countries from outside the US and Britain will make the characters less cliche. Realistic maybe, in that diversity is realistic, but not necessarily more interesting.

    I think the money suggestions in the above post are the bit about the vampires being melancholy artists. I don't read much vampire fiction, but even I feel like that's been done a lot. A 1000 year old cynical atheist scientist vampire? That's some weird shit. I'd read that right now.
     
  4. Prudence Jones

    Prudence Jones Member

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    When working with vampires, my favorite sources of inspiration are usually Dracula and Carmilla. Carmilla is my favorite for writing a relatable vampire as opposed to a vampiric villain; it depicts a sort of "vampiric obsession" in which the vampiric character is strongly attracted to their victim and consumes them slowly, wishing to savor the experience.
    Ideas I've had on creating some more unique vampires:
    • Dracula is infamously stopped by crucifixes, but also by other symbols, such as communion wafers; Carmilla detests the sound of (religious Christian) funereal hymns and can be stopped by priests. Does a vampire's aversion to holy symbols depend on what they considered holy in life, what the person wielding the symbol considers holy, or are all holy symbols bad for vampires regardless?
    • It's not just stakes; severing the head of a vampire is also a good way to kill it in Dracula, Carmilla, and the myths they are based on.
    • Carmilla not only had an iron grip; her grasp could leave one numb.
    • Dracula could become mist or a large wolf as well as a bat (he drew on werewolf myths as well as vampires); Carmilla could appear as a black polecat. Is a vampire's animal form linked to their personality?
    • Dracula could walk in the daylight easily, though he couldn't use his powers. Carmilla liked getting up late but had no trouble being in the sun.
    • Carmilla had to use an anagram of her real name, Mircalla, as her alias.
    Hope these ideas help! The most important thing is to remember that vampires are characters too – they need to be just as well developed as the humans. Make them fickle or obsessive, brooding or peppy, confident or shy; let them grow and bloom or explore the effects of living eternally on the psyche. If you find an idea, the rest will follow. Good luck and good writing!
     
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  5. Mom2PruQ

    Mom2PruQ Senior Member

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    Hah! I'm currently writing some quasi-fanfiction based on Twilight, but hopefully better. I shouldn't give my sources away to the competition, (smiley face), but one of my biggest inspirations on vampire reflections is Margot Adler's essay titled "Out for Blood." In it, she admits to falling prey to Twilight's charms, as a 50 something woman, while her husband was dying of cancer. The series sparked a fervor in her that had her questioning every aspect of our fascination with these creatures, and she came up with some answers. In this essay, she references a Nina Auerbach, who wrote, "Our Vampires Ourselves." This author links resurgence in vampire stories with particular fears of a time and place. Dracula was written when immigrants from the East came to western lands, creating cultural and economic unease. Anne Rice's Lestat exploited his physical beauty and charisma in the 80's, during the Reagan Era. Think of that what you want. Twilight was written by a Mormon. It's a reflection on the perils of sexuality, among other things that I won't go into. Auerbach says every era creates the vampire it needs...or something like that. What does your era or generation need in a vampire? Warring clans? Extreme gore? Addiction? Figure that out.
     
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  6. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

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    The problem with Twilight...well, okay, the main problem...is that it took monsters (reanimated corpses that drink blood), stripped them of all their monstrousness and turned them into a bunch of annoying melodramatic American teenagers.

    Melodramatic American teenagers are possibly the single most over-represented and least interesting group of people in the world and no genre can survive being turned into an American highschool drama.
     
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  7. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Senior Member

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    Put simply, this is accurate. The problem with Twilight wasn't that it was based around a vampire who'd 'died' at 17; it was that teenage girls are, by and large, not known for their good sense, and Bella Swan(n?) was no exception. Collectively, they tend to want what's worst for them at any given time.
    Now that I say that, that seems like it might be part of the human condition, rather than a symptom of being 17.

    If I was going to write a vampire novel, this is the thought process I'd begin with.

    Vampires either exist, or they don't exist.
    If they exist, either they drink human blood, or they're not really vampires and therefore this isn't a vampire novel.
    If they drink blood, they either have to kill, or they don't.
    If they have to kill, either they leave a trail of bodies, or they have to be very good at hiding, which means they leave a trail of abductions and missing person reports. If they don't have to kill, either they leave a trail of neck trauma/victims with low blood amounts or they have a cult following who chooses to follow them and be their meals, must-kill or otherwise. (or they eat animals; it's not a terrible way to avoid detection, really.)
    If they leave a trail of bodies or missing persons, don't handwave it away. It's a consequence of vampirism. If they have a cult following, there are probably a million details about the cult that could make or break a story.

    Then I would consider the powers I want my vampires to have. Most vampire stories have a glamour, or a mind-control aspect. Most have a mirror objection. Some can turn into animals. Some always look freaky, and some only look freaky sometimes.
    I'd apply any powers or drawbacks to vampirism to the initial thought process. How does that change things? The ability to turn invisible makes them harder to find; the ability to control people means the cult could be willing, or it could be unwilling. Turning into an animal or smoke makes getting away easier if something goes wrong.

    Anyway, that's how I'd do it. If you're set on putting your story in a high school, you may just have to accept that people who hate Twilight with a passion will probably never like your book--they have a valid reason to hate Twilight, and in their minds, 'teen vampire' can't possibly be any good. Write for the open-minded folks who'll give you a chance, not for the people who wouldn't anyway.
     
  8. NateSean

    NateSean Senior Member

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    You're entitled to your opinion and I'm not knocking on you for that. But I do have to ask, why is it a problem for someone to do something different with the vampire mythology?

    Anne Rice's vampires were blatantly homoerotic, and this was in the 70's when the jury was still out on whether it was a psychiatric disorder that required one to be locked away.

    Twilight stood out by at least doing something no one had done with vampires. And for all their faults as characters, Edward and Bella are believable and realistic because I personally know people who make them look stable. I'll actually be the first to say that James Pattenson and Kristen Stewart portrayed the characters exactly as I envisioned them when I read the books.

    And if you take the focus away from the two main characters for a bit, the side characters are actually pretty fascinating. Jasper and Alice remain my two favorite characters in the series, followed closely by Charlie, Seth and Leah.

    But Twilight isn't the first to make vampires "softer" by a long shot.
     
  9. Privateer

    Privateer Senior Member

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    The characters in Twilight were just dysfunctional American highschool kids. Their vampirism or otherwise was irrelevant. Honestly, if the vampires/werewolves had just been two rival gangs would it have made any real difference to the story?

    It was the same as those American cartoons like 'Monster High' or that My Little Pony spin-off thing- the characters' species or supernatural status is just a gimmick and the stories are just variations on the same old overwrought teenage angst.
     
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  10. NateSean

    NateSean Senior Member

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    Okay so it's not what she did with vampires and werewolves, it's only that vampires and werewolves were used in a story about teenage angst?

    But then... does that really make the story bad just because you weren't the intend audience?
     
  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll I am the reason for safety briefs. :P Supporter Contributor

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    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    The Vamps can be a whole species on their own, while still adhering to the
    original lore.

    Or you can make them something new and interesting.

    Even a gang of Gothic kids running around sucking the blood of
    their peers and have some strange rituals could work.

    Just write Vampires, but don't add in the element of Romance,
    sparkly skin, or being attractive.
    Think more Dave in accounting with a beer gut, and fetish for
    pens, less Big Hunky/Busty Bombshells that no one can resist. :)
    suck_straw.jpg
     
  12. Asher_Elric

    Asher_Elric New Member

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    Ya'll forgot the MOTHER of all Vampire fic. Anne Rice. lol.
     
  13. ThunderAngel

    ThunderAngel Contributor Contributor

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    The vampires in my stories are typically predatory and inviting but that is where the similarities tend to diverge. In fact, there is only one vampire in my works that is mostly traditional, but even she strays from the typical image of her species in surprising ways, most notably being extraordinarily menacing to the protagonist, even though she helps him.

    I put quite a lot of thought incorporating and innovating this particular species because I don't like the clichés, either.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2018
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  14. Sundowner

    Sundowner Active Member

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    Personally, I never saw why vampires magically get to murder whoever they want forever. If they have their traditional god-like dracula powers, that's fine. But what about vampires that are just human blood-addicted people? How do they go even a few years, much less hundreds of years constantly killing people without ever getting slain or captured (and probably starved to death in a jail cell where they can't get blood)? Especially in the late 20th century or the 21st century in general where society has gotten so collected and organized?
    I'm sure you can see how interesting it might be if suddenly you had to go out and murder strangers to survive. And I don't mean that old morality aspect that's been done to death. Just the base logistics of it, how would you even go about doing something like that? Could you even accomplish it the first time without screwing it up and attracting attention? Even if you succeeded in killing someone for their blood, how would you clean it up? How wracked would your nerves be knowing you'd eventually have to do that again, potentially without the success of the last time? How would you handle the stress of doing that over and over until someone finally figures you out? Once law enforcement even got a whiff of you, they'd be looking for you, and they're everywhere. And of course, all that stuff about sunlight and having to be invited in and fearing holy symbols if that's your thing. In fact, why not just give your vampire only weaknesses? Nobody does that because it's an actual challenge to write, which means it's super fun if you're serious about it. People seem to think vampires can only be super-powered killing machines, what if they're just hapless victims of the phenomena, and they actually don't have the ability to do whatever they hell they want?

    Also, if you want a modern "ugly vampire" film, you definitely need to check out Shadow of the Vampire. That's definitely a good, modern vampire story without the cliches. It's basically a spiritual successor to Nosferatu, which is fitting because it's about a fictional retelling of the filming of Nosferatu.

    Also a side note, just generally unrelated to everything but I feel like mentioning it anyway, there's been a semi-recent cliche of vampires trying to be "good" by trying to kill only "bad people". Let me ask you, where do you find all these "bad people"? How does one single person like yourself find all these people that even the full force of law enforcement can't track down and lock up? Even then, how many would there really be? Your setting can't be that much of a crime-filled slum, can it? I just hope people try to avoid this cliche in the future, it's a very convenient device that magically gets rid of any juicy morality drama you could have used and ends my interest in the plot instantly.
     
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  15. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    On the beauty point, it is worth noting that they are not particularly pretty in folklore (ruddy skin, claw-like nails, or in China, they're rotting alive) and in Bram Stoker's Dracula the title character wasn't particularly appealing to behold while Harker was at the castle, and finally there's Vampire the Masquerade's clans all carry some kind of a curse. Nosferatu are all repugnant, Gangrel are more beast than sentient, and the Malkavians are just plain insane.

    I find what makes a lot of YA vampire stories lacking in this is that they struggle to get the balance right and tell us that these people are dangerous at best, beyond maybe some isolated incidents. I barely see House of Night as a vampire story because beyond Zoey touching on a taste for blood in the first book (I read a couple, I was in my late teens and hoping for something better than Twilight) it was just lacking. Honestly, I'd love to read a vampire character who was like Dexter Morgan in approach, and given that they're immortal the setting wouldn't mean that much.

    In his commentary for the Vampire Hunter D animated film Jonathan Clements notes that anaemic people went to abattoirs and drank animal blood as a treatment for their condition. From what I understand Anne Rice popularised the modern, handsome vampire with her series. Interesting to note, it's not clear if this was a culture thing or if this was to do with attempting to bring anime to the west (this film was made in the 80s) but the vampires in this were actually dark skinned, which differs from Demon Deathchase, which has both D and Meier as stark white while the human characters have some level of tan.

    On a side note, vampires and sun, the idea of them dying in the sunlight was popularised by the 1922 silent film Nosferatu, but that was actually misunderstanding the ending (the sun rising was a pathetic fallacy, because Orlok's darkness was coming to an end). Some lore suggests they return to their corpse state during the day, Dracula walks down a London street in broad daylight merely with his vampire powers sealed. Hellsing, which is noted as being inspired in part by Frances Ford-Coppola's film adaptation starring Gary Oldman, sees Alucard state, "Sunlight isn't some great enemy, I just hate it." I've gone with the idea that they are nocturnal by nature so they need dark shades and strong coffee to see them out of bed before 2pm in any fit state, and possibly sleeping tablets to stay in bed at night.

    Similarly, they do not have to go on killing sprees to be portrayed as dangerous. This might be a personal bias, but I find the calculating ones to be more frightening because they're in control of themselves rather than one who isn't. Henry Fitzroy in Blood Ties has a strong territorial instinct but is in control of his actions enough that he doesn't kill to feed, but he is not hesitant to kill threats to the peace in what he sees as his territory, even in front of active cop Mike Salucci. When they are in control, it becomes not about their lack of it, but their difference in attitude both towards and in comparison to human beings.
     
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  16. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I haven't thought about Vampire the Masquerade in a long time. I used to play it with a big live action group back in the day. They'd have 60-70 people playing all kinds of World of Darkness characters.

    A friend of mine that was big on the game got into an in-character argument with her clan leader. I think we were both Tremer and there were a lot of us. We had been playing politics and standing around smoking for like three hours when she got hot about it.

    "What the fuck are we doing out here? Look, every night I wake up in a coffin, find some young hard body, and drain their blood. I'm a monster, and I want to walk in there and act like it."
     
  17. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    While the immortal-types can develop a sense of apathy towards humanity as they feed on it. But in a more modern setting I wouldn't entirely buy the notion with the immortals being able to kill without consequences thanks to forensics and the fact that every death is looked into at some level. Just look at the Volturi in Twilight, they hold guided tours that end with them eating the tourists. Not gonna work with modern humanity.

    As for a vampire with only weaknesses, I'm not 100% convinced because they are, in essence, a predator, and predators in their nature have an edge over their prey in order to survive. Unless of course you consider the kind who leach energy from life force without the victim knowing it, but that kind of defeats the purpose I'm sure.

    ETA: I get what you mean about vampires trying to be 'good'. Mine's ambivalent and generally doesn't care beyond the rules that came about in his early days (the aforementioned points about murder investigation) so he has no qualms doing some at best morally grey things in regards to humans, in part because he's seen he worst so long he thinks that any decent ones are a miracle.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2018
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  18. Sundowner

    Sundowner Active Member

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    That is indeed the classical representation of vampires, it seems I've misguided myself with my own writing and some works I favor. I, myself, see vampires more as leeches than predators. They don't actively hunt down and victimize people so much as they figure out how to sneak their way into their victim's trust and proceed to use them from there. Yes, vampires are amazing predators, but the issue is, society is a bigger beast than them. It's become less of a game of hunting and more like stealing eggs from an unguarded nest.
    This reason is why I only really write my vampires with only one notable ability, being mild hypnosis (really more like suggestibility, and even that takes time to work rather than being instant). I feel it'd simply be too difficult otherwise if we try to make the setting as realistic as possible.
    I don't know, maybe I just like overthinking things, but I really like the idea of a bloodsucker that has to go out of their way and really plan ahead how they can manage to feed themselves, and not just inherently being king of the urban jungle because they got their powers handed to them on a silver platter. Maybe I'm in the wrong genre, but it is a nice way to avoid the stereotypes.
     
  19. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    Well, yes, ugly sells films. While "sexy vampires" are the overwhelming trend right now there's still lots of interest for the classic vampire monsters.

    You can have a Hollywood film with ugly monster vampires, you just need to have someone else be sexy (normally the leading man and woman). Twilight just set a big pace for selling the 'hot, brooding human who happens to be kind of a vampire'.
     
  20. ThunderAngel

    ThunderAngel Contributor Contributor

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    I was having some difficulty with the beautiful cliche when it came to my MC who is a human/monster hybrid with both scars and anomalous physical traits. But I thought about how one of his deeply thoughtful friends would explain his appearance when asked to do so and came up with this, "How shall I describe Gabriel? He's... grotesquely beautiful! Yes, that's the best way to describe him. He has the kind of look that will haunt you and make you believe that beauty is only ever truly seen when someone damages it!"

    One can be both angelic and wicked looking at the same time, which, to people like myself, is the best kind of beautiful.
     
  21. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe it's just me, but I consider venus fly traps and other meat-eating plants to be just as much a predator as a an animal. They don't move, but use something flies find attractive to lure them in. The difference between this case and any other is that humans have more intelligence, and are more networked in the modern age more than any. Information from Europe to the Americas can be as instantaneous as word of mouth now, compared to sailing across the ocean for months. That alone requires a level of subterfuge to stay below the radar, and the psychology in the process is fascinating to explore.

    It's funny that you mention hypnosis, in reality it cannot be used to make someone do whatever you want, if the compulsion breaks their moral compass they will resist and it could be enough to break the trance entirely. I've added this and some pretty heavy restrictions on food (they can handle things that are light on the stomach, but greasy and heavy foods make them sick) on top of the fact that they flat out cannot use their powers during daylight hours.

    I didn't go out of my way to make my vampires pretty or ugly, but rather, there's a self-confessed sense of natural selection. They go after healthy people, and those who are turned are in that pool of people. Excessive fat, for example, makes it hard to get the vein so they're inherently unattractive to vampires, and someone who is all skin and bones won't have the flesh to bite into as well. The main vampire is rather jaded when it comes to humans so he has no qualms doing what he needs to survives, which usually involves stringing people along. But as he puts it, "killing humans in the modern day is more trouble than it's worth."
     
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  22. louisecooksey

    louisecooksey New Member

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    I read a series of books about a fat, vampire accountant and they were way cute. Making them a normal person, dealing with crazy vampire problems usually makes me enjoy a quirky vampire book.
     
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  23. HorrorWriterMersey

    HorrorWriterMersey New Member

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    I absolutely LOATHE all this modern-day, over-slushy vampire crap like Twilight and True Blood. Give me a good old SCARY vampire any day, like Bram Stoker's Dracula or Stephen King's Salem's Lot.
     
  24. HorrorWriterMersey

    HorrorWriterMersey New Member

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    But "pretty" and "sexy" vampires make, sadly, for totally UNSCARY vampires. Give me Christopher Lee's Dracula any day!
     
  25. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    Greater London, England
    I am not 100% convinced on that statement.

    You see, we could spot the likes of Count Orlok a mile away (a running point of the tabletop RPG Vampire: The Masquerade, for a Nosferatu to go out in public would expose vampires to humanity) but someone we find remotely human until it's too late is more psychological because they could be your neighbour for all you know.
     

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