As a writer and avid reader of vampire fiction, I’ve seen a lot of different themes, styles, and clichés come in and out of popularity over the years. Rather than nit-pick which is which, it’s easier to call all of these things tropes, which is a more neutral term that has come to mean any sort of regularly occurring metaphor, symbol, or literary device.

With that in mind, I decided to come up with a personal list of what I think are the top 5 vampire-related tropes that have become over-used recently and need to be put to rest. You might agree, you might disagree, and you might even want to put a sharp wooden stake through my eye, but I hope this will give any vampire authors some food for thought.

To be fair, none of these tropes are beyond redemption, but I think that many of them have become so familiar that authors are beginning to include them in their stories without any good reason. Maybe they think they’re expected now. That way leads to Blandsville and the Land of Been There, Seen That.

Without further introduction, here’s my list:

5. Monsters, Monsters Everywhere!

This is the current vogue in Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance that owes its popularity to authors like Laurel K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, and others. The logic goes that, if vampires are real, so is every other damn mythological creature, horror archetype, folktale monster, and nursery rhyme character! So now we have an avalanche of kick-ass monster hunters who sleep with vampires, fight tooth fairies, shoot it out with Sasquatches, barter with leprechauns, and ride unicorns into battle against demon-possessed Minotaurs while arch-angels battle candy-house witches in the skies above!

I think we just need a few more monsters...

I think we just need a few more monsters…

Seriously, aside from comedic value, what do all of these creatures bring? Ask yourself if your series really needs the entire monster menagerie before you throw them in because “everyone else is doing it.” I’ve gotten to the point where I find it refreshing to read a story about vampires that doesn’t feel the need to include every other type of monster, too. Build your world carefully. The best kind of fantasy always keeps a foot grounded in the real world.

4. Putting On The Game Face

This one we owe to movies like The Lost Boys and TV shows like Forever Knight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel, but because of their popularity it has begun to crop up in vampire novels as well. This is the idea that vampires alone aren’t scary enough, so they have to have a special “monster face” that they bring out for feeding or whenever they want to surprise someone into screaming and running away. C’mon, really? A risen corpse who can socialize with you before leading you off alone to drink the blood from your body isn’t scary enough? A serial killer with super-human powers isn’t enough?

Yes, transforming into Steven Tyler does make me a more efficient predator, actually.

Yes, transforming into Steven Tyler does make me a more efficient predator, actually.

I’m a bit of a nit-picker, I admit, so the idea that muscles re-arrange themselves in the vampires face all for the purpose of giving them a wicked Halloween look just doesn’t make any sense to me. Movies do it because their special effects guys get bored, but there’s no excuse for it in a novel. If your vampires are some form of demon, that’s great, but either keep them possessed and looking normal or make it a permanent transformation. The reason vampires are fascinating and frightening is because they are the monster with the human face.

4.a. Everybody Was Kung-fu Fighting

Just a quick addendum to that last bit is another that we owe to Joss Whedon and the Blade series. Not every damn vampire in the world is a martial arts expert! Outside of China and Japan, nobody in the f***ing world knew anything about this style of fighting until the 20th Century! Ancient vampire sword master: no problem. Ancient vampire kick-boxer? No. Just no.

3. Playing With Your Food

You see this in so damn many movies and books and it just makes me want to scream every time! A bunch of vampires get some humans together for dinner and, before you know it, there’s vampires laughing with blood smeared all over their faces, vampires tearing open jugular veins with gleeful abandon and spraying blood all over the wall, and vampires wearing entrails like Mardi Gras beads! Yes, yes, we’re supposed to recoil at how savage and capital-E Evil these vampires are, right? Instead, I find myself thinking “How pathetic!”

Do you guys smell blood? I swear I smell blood nearby ...

Do you guys smell blood? I swear I smell blood nearby …

Seriously, when’s the last time you and a bunch of friends had dinner and poured the soup down the front of your party clothes? Laughed and poured gravy all over your face? Scooped up half your mashed potatoes and threw them against the wall before shoving your face to the plate to lick up the rest? If your answer to any of these questions is a number other than never, then please remind me to never accept a dinner invitation from you. Even evil people can have table manners! When blood is your food supply, why slop it around like a three-year-old? Vampires can be cruel without being sloppy and, in my book, an elegant predator is far more interesting and frightening. Leave the mindless mauling to the werewolves, please.

2. Romeo and Juliet … Again … and Again …

How many times do readers need to read the same story before moving on? The first thought that comes to mind is Twilight, but this formula has been going far longer than She Who Must Not Be Named has been writing. Vampire Romeo and Human Juliet, Werewolf Romeo and Vampire Juliet, Werewolf Romeo and Human Juliet, Vampire Romeo and Vampire Juliet—it’s all been done. Several times.

At least the real R+J had the decency to kill them both at the end.

At least the real R+J had the decency to kill them both at the end.

Now, I’m not saying get rid of romance in a vampire story, because that would be a ridiculous request (not to mention killing an entire genre), but let’s try to do something just a little new! For one thing, keep in mind that Romeo and Juliet was effective because it was a tragedy! It doesn’t work out! In every novel I read with this kind of story, however, it always works out hunky-dorey in the end. I’m a romantic, too, and I’d love to believe that love conquers all, but if you’re going to pull that story off then you damn well better earn it! Elevate your star-crossed lovers above the stereotype with strong characterization and throw in some twists! Here’s another idea: Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, and many other Shakespeare plots are out there just waiting for a clever supernatural riff. Let Romeo and Juliet rest in peace for a while.

2.a. Boy, Girl, Boy

I’m going to make a few female readers mad here, but I don’t care, because it has to said. Does EVERY female heroine in EVERY paranormal series have to be loved/ lusted after by EVERY male creature she encounters? Furthermore, do we have to put up with the same damn “love triangle” over and over again? “Gee, I love Hottie McFang, but I also get super-juicy every time Rugged Wolfbane comes near me! What’s a girl to do? My life is, like, so complicated!” I realize that this is a cherished and time-worn female fantasy, but seriously! If every series with a male protagonist included the hero having a threesome with different gorgeous twin sisters in every book, the feminists in the audience would start campaigning for book burning!

Because it's not sexist and offensive when a girl keeps a harem.

Because it’s not sexist and offensive when a girl keeps a harem.

1. I’m Too Sexy To Be A Monster

Okay, here’s my least favorite trope in recent fiction: vampires who have been neutered so much for romance purposes that they hardly bear any resemblance to vampires anymore! We’ve all seen this, I’m sure: the super-rich, super sexy, super powerful vampire romance god who maybe has a problem with sunlight (but sometimes not even that) and really only needs, say, a wine glass’ worth of blood a night. Really? How convenient! He’s always a fantastic and considerate lover, just dark and mysterious enough to be attractive, but otherwise completely harmless. Blech!

Pictured: Realism

Pictured: Realism

This is not a vampire. This is a male model with a blood fetish! I fully support the idea that vampires can be both heroic and villainous, but let’s try to keep some vague connection to the mythology, shall we? The vampire should be given his due and there should always be real danger present or else you’re just contributing to the slow sterilization of the vampire genre. Let’s keep our vampires deserving of the name, okay?

So, that’s the list. I hope you enjoyed it. I’d love to hear any reactions or your personal additions to the list in the comments! Stay thirsty, my friends!

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About xuemertie

Author, role-player, geek.

16 responses »

  1. 5. Many monsters inspire more story ideas – especially when there isn’t enough character in any one to drive the plot.

    4. This is often taken to an extreme, but there SHOULD be a reason for it. In my book The Matriarch, vampires in “hunting mode” sprout fangs and talons to get at blood, plus their eyes go black due to the extreme widening of the iris to give them better night vision. I like the idea that muscles swell a bit, but they shouldn’t turn from Bill Bixby into Lou Ferrigno.

    4a. When one of my neophytes asked an elder how to go about killing another vampire, the reply was “What? Did you think you’d rise from the grave with the powers of Bruce Lee or something?”

    3. In another nod to this trope, I have written the line “I’d prefer to avoid one of those television moments when the secretive bloodsucking monster kills everyone after an unsuspecting human cuts themselves on a sharp object.”

    2. I prefer when Juliet kills Romeo at the beginning of the second act (guilty as charged).

    2a. See #2 above.

    1. Frak that.

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  2. Maggie J says:

    Reblogged this on Maggie J and commented:
    So funny! and True. Don’t be cliché with your storylines

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    • There is far too much genre fiction like this that pretend their inspirations don’t exist. Your story doesn’t have to be a farce for your characters to sound informed; yes, it’s funny to have people in a vampire story talking about vampire fiction, but if the material is treated with respect – aka vampires ARE real – it can work as a lead-in to some real horror.

      Like

      • Maggie J says:

        my vampires are not into horror but they are not above killing. im not against it, and i have been exposed to enough similar storylines to have grown weary of the same issues you address. authors are free to artistic license, but be original, dammit. if it’s that hard, write something else.

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  3. Two things. First, can you clarify “my vampires are not into horror,” as in they don’t watch horror films or prefer not to make a mess when they eviscerate someone? Second, I think the biggest problem with duplicating the tropes is that new writers aren’t well read enough in those stories to realize they are doing something very familiar to fans of the genre.

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    • Maggie J says:

      I can agree with that. I am not as well read as I would like to be, but I’m working on changing that. Perhaps I will find that my story is more cliché than I thought… that’s a bridge I will have to cross when it comes I guess. To clarify, my vampires do not revel in the drinking of blood, they see it as sustenance. They don’t possess a blood lust. they’ve been… bottle fed, I guess you could call it. When they no longer have ample supply at the ready, they learn all about the real ‘thirst’ but that is yet to come 😀 To bring this full circle, I’m not sure how many times the “I-don’t-drink-from-humans-but-still-survive-on-blood” plot has been done, without relying on animals, but i’m looking into it.

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      • I went the opposite way. I’ve read too many books and stories where being a vampire is too easy. For my book series, the first rule was live human blood: freshly drawn, less than an hour old, no substitutes. If my vamps want to be “good,” they need to make arrangements, and any deviation in routine can be disastrous. Evil, of course, is the easy path, so there are plenty more of those; fortunately, none of them get along – vampire paranoia keeps them separated – so you rarely see anything more than a truce to stay the hell away from one another – trespass at your own risk.

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  4. Maggie J says:

    vampires are enemies of each other? interesting, but I can dig it. Rules are very important to these creatures. do those rules apply to the vamps in the matriarch? is that the reason for the five special donors each night? (forgive me if im confusing you with someone else.)

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    • The Matriarch, yes. I wanted powerful vampires, so the best way I could engineer it and give humans a fighting chance is to pit them against one another. They can create “ghouls” to act as minions (let’s say 3 times stronger, faster, and more focused than average) while vampires are 3 times that PLUS all the powers. This way, vamps tend to fight one another, allowing smarter humans to run like hell.

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  5. Karma Girl says:

    I’m guilty of the glowing eyes and popping fangs thing. I just can’t help myself there. Don’t like the star crossed lovers trope, however, and have been trying like hell to avoid it. My characters bicker too much for emo swooning and pining.

    Like

    • xuemertie says:

      It’s cool, if you only hit one trope on the list, you’re probably still okay. It didn’t actually make sense for my vampyrs to be purely nocturnal, but I was so used to it that I made up a reason. I wanted them to have a reason to need and fear humans. Same thing with fangs: it’s tradition now even if it doesn’t make perfect sense.

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  6. Dracula inspired the romantic element of vampire lore, the longing and loneliness of lost companionship in spite of being a creature capable of great evil; as long as that’s not ALL it is, I can hang.

    Like

  7. How my Vampire Syndrome saga answers these five:

    #5: The werewolves in my universe are not even mentioned in my saga. They will get their own book/series.

    #4: My human vampires’ eyes turn black when they extend their fangs, and THAT should be enough of a change to scare people!

    #3: The only normal humans killed by a vampire in my Book One were felled by Damien’s gun. Later, Jack and Zetania let a group of meth-heads live, with hilarious results.

    #2: Jack and Zetania don’t even become a couple (officially) until Book Two, and most of the other Vampires consider Zetania to be a loose cannon.

    #1: Damien must be rather attractive to women, after all his wife Lilith has killed at least four of his mistresses, and many of the other women he pursued over the past 253 years of their marriage. They’re about as romantic as “War Of The Roses” or “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry.”

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  8. andreazug says:

    I do love a good vampire story. Why, you might ask? Because I want to be scared out of my mind. I don’t just want terror though, I also want a good story. I agree that some have carried their plots too far. Trying to do something new, I would guess. Something that would set them apart. The way Daven handled that need with vampires who were once human and vampires who were, I assume, somehow born that way. This was an amazing blog and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will be looking to read a Brian Patrick McKinley novel very soon.

    Like

  9. Helena Dolph Jackson says:

    My names are . Helena Dolph Jackson,
    Am here to give my testimony of how i became a vampire.Long time ago,a friend of mine told me that Vampires are real and i doubted it
    at the first place,not until she confessed to me that she is one of them.She told me the reason she had to became a vampire,at first i was
    scared of her but later she made me understand that i need not to be scared and that becoming a vampire will only make me live longer than
    expected,become famous and be able to fight all my enemies which i later agreed to become,i never thought it was real not until recently.
    Am very proud to be one of them now,i have no reason to be scared to give my testimony to the world.In case you are interested,just contact
    the below email:vampireinfintecreed@outlook.com or joinvampire@yahoo.com

    Liked by 1 person

  10. 5. Monsters, Monsters Everywhere!

    Ugh, yes. EVERYWHERE! I love the Sookie Stackhouse books, but seriously? I was kinda waiting for a unicorn to pop up or something. It’s like the author got bored and thought „hey, I heard of the this mystical creature, which lives only in China, but surely it will make sense for it to pop up in Bon Temps, right?“

    4. Putting On The Game Face

    I actually love this one. I grew up with Buffy and call me weird, I kinda think Angel looks sexy with it. My vampire always have their fangs, but when they get mad, go for the kill or get aroused, then their eyes turn black. The pupils widen extremely and the white part of the eye gets flooded with supernatural blood, increasing their sight. When my heroine gets turned into a vampire, she notices that the eyes only looked black with her weak human eyes, but actually are dark red.

    4.a. Everybody Was Kung-fu Fighting

    I loved this in Buffy but yeah… I am guessing Buffy would have me flat on my ass in 2 seconds, because even as vampire I’d have two left feet.

    3. Playing With Your Food

    I agree. Hunting your food because you are evil and that is fun, great. But don’t paint the walls in red please.

    2. Romeo and Juliet … Again … and Again …

    I love romance in vampire novels and the dude has to be nice to the girl, but I really need to see that he IS a vampire and not a castrated poodle, geez. Dangerous, bloodthirsty, not above killing people.
    And, well, vampire.

    2.a. Boy, Girl, Boy

    Sookie is guilty of this too, but Anita Blake really takes the cake. I tried one book and got a headache. I really like it when one dude likes one chick and she likes him back. No extra drama. Some people like that, great, good for you, but I hate that. Twilight bugged me too, with all that Jacob drama and then the cop-out with the kid Renesmee (did I write that correctly?).
    In my books Ethan likes Elodia, Landon likes Alexis (he is going to get his ass kicked, she is a vampire hunter), Gwen likes Fiona. They all have enough other drama, no need for nonsense.

    1. I’m Too Sexy To Be A Monster

    This is why I love Jeaniene Frost’s vampires. Oh they are mostly pretty, but don’t dare to think you can cross them. If you do, you WILL lose your head. They don’t go on senseless killing sprees, but they are vampires, not just undead humans with fangs and a need for blood.

    Liked by 1 person

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