Three Basic Tips For Writing Vampire Stories

Well, I thought that I’d talk about vampire fiction today. Although I’ve had relatively little experience with writing stories in this genre (this short story, this short story, this short story, this other short story and this comic are the only ones that spring to mind), I’ve been reading a fair amount of vampire fiction over the past three or four weeks. Plus, I’ve seen, played and read quite a few things in this genre over the years too.

So, I thought that I’d offer a few basic tips.

1) Do your research: This one is really obvious, but it’s worth doing as much research into the genre (eg: novels, films, games etc..) as possible before you try writing a story.

Not only will this tell you a lot about the different “types” of vampire stories out there, but it’ll also help you to see what they have in common and how they set themselves apart from each other. It’ll also give you a sense of what audiences expect from a vampire story (and you can either follow this or subvert it).

And, yes, it’s a surprisingly varied genre. For example, there are “scientific” horror-based vampire thriller stories like Shaun Hutson’s “Erebus“, Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend”, a Channel 4 (UK) TV series called “Ultraviolet”, the first “Blade” film and a sci-fi/horror movie called “Daybreakers”.

In these stories, there is more of a focus on gory horror, there’s more of a focus on human vampire hunters/survivors and the existence of vampires is often explained or explored through scientific means. Because vampires are seen “from the outside”, these stories also tend to have a little bit in common with the zombie/monster genre too.

Then, there are gothic vampire stories. These tend to have a darker, bloodier (rather than gory), more complex, more poetic, more romantic/sensual/decadent and tragic atmosphere, often including elements from the thrillier genre too.

They also usually feature vampire protagonists too. These include games like “Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines“, TV shows like “Angel”, films like “Underworld” and “Interview With The Vampire” (I could never get into the book it’s based on though), novels like “Lost Souls” by Poppy Z. Brite and Jocelynn Drake’s amazing “Dark Days” series (which I’m reading at the moment).

Of course, there are many other types of vampire stories too, such as comedy vampire films like the Tim Burton adaptation of “Dark Shadows” or an absolutely hilarious 1990s film I saw on VHS during my childhood called “Dracula: Dead And Loving It”, which seems to be very difficult to find on DVD.

And, of course, I’ve got to talk about Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” too. Although it’s been over a decade since I read it, it’s a very different novel to what films (such as the gloriously gothic 1992 film adaptation, or the inventive 2013 TV adaptation) would have you believe. So, read it! Seriously, the whole thing about vampires not being able to survive in sunlight was invented after “Dracula” was written – in the novel, Dracula can walk around during the day, but his powers are weaker.

Likewise, although I’ve only read the first few chapters of it, another good “traditional” 19th century vampire story is one called “Varney The Vampire, or The Feast Of Blood“. The first chapter of this story reads almost exactly like a scene from a traditional vampire movie (although it does contain a somewhat disturbing, to modern readers, emphasis on how young the vampire’s victim is).

2) Horror!: Again, this is obvious, but vampire stories are horror stories. Although I haven’t read or watched “Twilight”, one of the things that put me off it was the fact that it apparently didn’t contain much horror. I mean, even comedy vampire films will still include some traditional horror elements (even if it is just to parody them).

And, yes, the vampire genre is fertile ground for many different types of horror. And the best vampire stories will often use multiple types of horror.

The main types of horror that work well in the vampire genre include… suspenseful horror (think vampires creeping in the shadows), tragic/gothic horror (think about the downsides of immortality, and the limitations of being a vampire), gory horror (this tends to work best in stories where the protagonists are vampire hunters, and the vampires are monsters), moral horror (think about how often vampires have to break the law), biological horror (when vampirism is presented like a disease), bloody horror (in stories where vampires are the main characters), paranormal horror (fairly self-explanatory) and psychological horror (eg: a vampire’s need for blood, a character’s reactions to becoming a vampire etc..).

In short, there are lots of different ways that the vampire genre can be eerie, disturbing, creepy or frightening. But, regardless of which types of horror you choose to use, your vampire story should include some horror.

3) Rules: Finally, your vampire story should follow some rules. The good news is that you get to make these rules. The bad news is that you have to follow them.

The only common rule that all vampire stories follow is that vampires need to drink blood. Other than this, you get to set the rules. But, think carefully about them. The best vampire stories will often put their characters in situations where the “rules” are applied in creative ways or present some kind of obstacle to the main characters.

For example, in the TV show “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” (and the spin-off “Angel”), the handsome vampire love interest – Angel – has been cursed to keep his soul. What this means is that, unlike many of the series’ other vampires, he isn’t a sociopath and he feels intense guilt about biting and killing people. So, he has to find a creative solution – which is to drink animal blood.

Likewise, the only way he can lose his soul is to experience a moment of pure happiness. Once this rule has been established, it is the impetus for a short story arc when Angel and Buffy finally spend the night together (which causes him to, you guessed it, experience a moment of pure happiness). Of course, once he accidentally loses his soul, he turns evil. So, of course, this leads to a rather dramatic little story arc.

So, yes, you get to set the “rules” in your vampire story, but you not only need to follow them – you also have to find ways to make these rules drive the story in interesting directions.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Short Story: “Amusements” By C. A. Brown

Although I don’t know how many I’ll write or how often, I felt like getting back into writing short stories. So, here’s a comedy horror story I wrote earlier today.

With a thunderous death-rattle and twenty banshee screams, the rickety old rollercoaster car shot past me like a ghost in the night. I must have jumped because the next thing I heard was Brad’s laughter mingling with the tinny music from the big top.

Brushing a strand of dark hair from his kohl-lined eyes, he grinned at me: ‘You know as well as I do darling that you can’t visit somewhere like this without checking out the house of horrors. It’d be like Paris without the catacombs or Romania without the castle or a hot date without…

I get the idea.‘ I laughed. ‘But, I’ve heard things about this one.

Brad put a warm arm around my shoulder, his leather trenchcoat crackling slightly. Trying not to laugh, he said: ‘Well, of course they’re going to say stuff about it. I mean, what’s the fun of a house of horrors if you can’t boast about being brave enough to enter it?

I let out a sigh and stared at the tapestry of flashing lights in the distance ‘No, I’m like serious. You remember Jorge. He’s been scared of the dark for the past two nights because of this silly house of horrors. I mean, Jorge of all people. Scared of the dark.

Oh please, he’s probably got indigestion. Or a hangover or both.‘ Brad smiled. ‘Or, of course, he’s trying to scare you. Maybe I put him up to it?

Above the distant rattling, jangling and babbling, an owl screeched in the distance. Another rollercoaster car juddered past us. A huge smile spread across Brad’s face, followed shortly by a frown. Finally, he said: ‘Or, I didn’t. Truth be told, I haven’t seen him in a couple of evenings.‘ The smile returned to his face: ‘Maybe… he never left.

Like I didn’t see that one coming.‘ I laughed. ‘Seriously though, I saw him last night. He was… noticeably perturbed.

All because of a silly house of horrors?‘ Brad pulled back his sleeve and glanced at his watch before saying: ‘The next tour begins in ten minutes. Now you’ve made me even more curious.

Go ahead.‘ I laughed. ‘I’ll wait outside. But, don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Coward.‘ He chuckled. ‘Well, it’s your loss.

Silently, we skirted the bright lights and baying crowds as we headed straight towards the house of horrors. As we drew closer to the unearthly grey building, a barker with a pointy beard stared at us and shouted: ‘Roll up! Roll up! A glimpse into perdition itself! A nightmare to shake even the stoutest of spirit! Dare YOU enter…

A giant smile crossed Brad’s face as he rushed towards the barker. I stood back and fumbled through my bag for a clove cigarette. For a second, both Brad and the barker seemed to share the same maniacal grin. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or roll my eyes. In almost perfect unison, they turned to me and said: ‘Last chance?

I laughed: ‘I’m fine. Have fun. I’ll see you in ten minutes or whatever.

The ten minutes seemed more like twenty. Two cloves and three unwanted pamphlets later, the doors to the house of horrors slid open gently and Brad staggered out. The barker was nowhere to be seen. As Brad lurched towards me, he stared at me with haunted eyes. I grinned and said: ‘Very funny.

No…‘ He mumbled. ‘I’ve never seen anything so horrible. To think that such things exist even in the worst nightmares of the worst souls…..

Look, you can tell me about it over dinner. I hear they’re doing a two for one. I’ve got a coupon.

At the blood bank, Brad barely even took a sip. Even when the waiter almost tripped over his cloak, not even a hint of a laugh escaped Brad’s throat.

Finally, he muttered: ‘There were people who were famous… because they were famous. There was a nightclub… except everyone wore bright clothes. The music! Oh god, the music! It still rings in my ears! Then there were TV shows that didn’t even have a script! And then there were…

Stop!‘ I found myself saying. My hands were trembling. ‘Don’t tell me any more! It’s too horrible!