28 April 2011

Vampires v Normal Character

If you are one of those people who despise vampires, you may be perplexed as to why vampire stories are still so popular. I think there is more going on with these stories than first meets the eye, and I think is has something to do with the nature of good stories.

While vampires occupied the classic good versus evil horror slot they were monsters, an expression of the animal within all of us, something other than human, a supernatural threat.

Move the vampire into the romance role and suddenly you have something else. Not only have you mashed together the horror and romance genres, but you automatically have characters full of internal as well as external conflict, and as we know already, conflict is the essence of a good story telling story.

These characters are constantly trying to reconcile their animal and human natures, protect the ones they love not just from others, but also from themselves. Often, their nature is secret from other characters which creates all sorts of conflicting emotions and conflict situations with their human loves – not to mention reader and character reveals. Also, of course, you have the classic romance scenario of forbidden love between a human and a non-human.

In short then, vampire characters come ready made with a whole suit of complex conflicts and contradictions, saving the author a lot of time, effort and thought because everyone knows what to expect.

The same effect can be tracked with the superhero phenomenon. Superhero’s came back into vogue once film makers started exploring their essential character contradictions. Now it is almost expected that any superhero will have a darker side, and as a person will be totally screwed up.

So, if you hate vampire stories, you now know what you have to do: create unique and compelling characters with loads of internal and external conflicts. Not a very easy thing to do, but worth the investment of time and energy, because these sort of characters generally occupy unique and compelling stories.