Today’s guest is Angela from Dark Faerie Tales, which was just unveiled little over a week ago. I’ve already been over a couple times this week and have noticed quick a few things that have caught my eye. You should head over to, especially since I know Angela has said she has a lot planned for November and December.
It’s Not Easy Being Bad
When it comes to immortal characters, especially vampires, I have noticed that the tendency is to write them as very human, with very 20th/21st century characteristics (a lot of doubt, indecisiveness, and the guy next door). I confess to having a strong preference for the darker–no I’ll come out and say it– EVIL variety of vampire. In fact, I believe that writing a story about a “good” vampire is, with rare exception, the literary equivalent of putting a square peg in a round hole. I realize that the received wisdom is that characters can’t be completely, irredeemably evil, lest the author be accused of going too dark. Still, it would be a big step forward if more authors could move away from the easy out of making vampires so much like, well. . .us.
Why Vamps make “bad” good guys
First off, vampires, to state the obvious, eat people. O.K. not like, gnawing on a chicken bone, but humans are basically food for the undead. Before blood plasma, or other *ahem* veritable (kinda like true) blood substitutes, your typical urban fantasy vampire, would have fed off people. Their victims would often have died, or at the very least been assaulted and/or scarred for life from the encounter. “Oh, but wait, what if they hypnotize all their young nubile prey, so it’s not so bad?” Sure, if beating the shit out of someone and then making them forget you tore a hole in their neck and sucked out pints of their blood makes it o.k. Goldfish have a memory of two seconds, so I guess I can take them out of their tank every couple of minutes and then put them back in, wait til they forget and rinse-repeat. I’m sure PETA would be okay with that.
So take your typical, brooding, immortal vampire of say 450 years and put him into “Dark Night Warrior Blood Moon” part 6, and have him inexplicably pining for, or being lusted after by our strong heroine with a mysterious past. Wait, hold the phone. Is there a reason that our vampire is acting like a love sick twenty something? He was born in 1560! And why is our dark, brooding immortal a sensitive lover, with smoldering eyes? Assuming he “eats” once a week, he’s killed and/or assaulted 20,000 people! Even if he stopped biting necks circa World War I and started getting his blood from the blood bank that’s definitely beyond bad boy territory, into world’s leading serial killer.
To make these vamps more sympathetic, authors have gone to great lengths to de-claw them like some poor once feral house cat. We’ve been given psychic vampires, vamps without fangs, or even vamps who only eat animals in the wilds of the pacific northwest (I can almost see the hate mail cluttering my inbox already). Too many changes and we’re left with creatures that are shadows of their former selves. I don’t want to see Vlad Dracula on the therapist’s couch expounding about his mother issues. It’s totally out of character, and not just his character, but the character of anyone born during the middle ages, renaissance, etc. You don’t go from bear baiting, crusading, breaking people on the wheel, watching people being drawn and quartered, to asking the so-so girl to a high school prom.
Now there’s nothing bad per se about telling a story about a vampire with all these traits I’m kvetching about. Just don’t make him any older than the kids in Gossip Girl or 90210. Once one starts measuring their age in triple digits its time to stop acting like the emo kid with the SPF 1000.
Why Vamps make “good” bad guys
Precisely because they have lived so long and because they have to kill to survive. Take your typical person off the streets of Europe of 300-500 years ago, and you can bet they would have a fairly different view of what’s right and wrong from you or I. The further back in time we go, the more completely creepy our old world forefathers would seem by modern standards. Think of the atrocities of the Thirty Years War, The Hundred Years War, Julius Caesar’s Campaigns through Gaul. I mean dude killed 40,000 Gauls because they wouldn’t surrender right off and Romans loved him for it! That’s just the morality of the day. In the middle ages, people nailed kittens to posts and head butted them for fun. You can’t tell me that a vampire born back then would balk at having to feed off humans to sustain himself. Too dark? Perhaps, but all those horrible events from the pages of history were perpetrated by we run of the mill no vampire power having mortals. What evil would men do if they could glamor others, turn to fog, etc? Authors should embrace the inherent vileness of the vampire and take us to uncomfortable places. Check out Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night graphic novel, and movie. No emo vampires to be found and it’s truly chilling because you see that the vamps don’t want to ask us to the prom. Nope they want to eat/kill us.
So what traits do you look for in your tragically flawed characters?
Thanks Angela for a great article! For me, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about what traits I look for in my characters. I know I want them to be semi-believable, but other than that, I enjoy the ride the author gives us.
Here’s your fourth chance to enter my week long Hiatus Contest.
For full contest details, click here; here is the short version:
- Leave a meaningful comment at Dark Faerie Tales; then, come back here and leave a meaningful comment. When you leave a comment, include a link to the post you commented on at the guest posters site.
- As always, if you want one more chance to win, you can post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, twit it (#litesc), share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your answer (all in the same post please). The more places you share it, the more entries you get.