Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Guest Post from R. Osterman


Mind the Thorns Author - R. Osterman




When I started writing Mind the Thorns, I knew I wanted to build my own vampire lore.  LIke Michelle, I wanted the kind of vampires I had to work for the kind of story I was telling.  But how does a writer build a perfect vampire:

Question 1:  How are vampires made?

Before you can really get into what makes a vampire in your fictional world tick, you need to figure out how they’re born.  In the case of most vampire fiction, it is transferred from one vampire to a human through the bite, usually with the qualification that the vampire has to completely drain the victim of blood.


There is a significant problem in saying that it is only a single bite or scratch in that the world would be quickly overrun with vampires with a new one being created each time one fed.

The lore does deviate a bit with the draining.  In some cases the victim must also drink of the vampire’s blood as well to seal the bargain and create the a new creature of the night.  This is, generally, to create form of mutual consent.  The vampire willingly offers undeath, and the victim accepts this unlife and the damnation of their soul.

Question 2:  What is the downside to being a vampire?

I put this high on the list because I think it is a question that is rarely asked but is of supreme importance.  If the cost of being a vampire is trivial or marginal, then why not embrace half of the world and then enslave the half that remains?  Or rather, why would anyone hesitate to become a vampire?

As a general rule, sunlight is treated as fatal to a vampire.  Giving up all activity during the day is a fairly high price, especially if light itself is fatal.  Many writers put that into the their writing but then find out it interferes with part of their story.  Thus Whedon-pires run around with coats over their heads, or the vampires in Moonlight stock up on blood before going out in the daylight.


This is the fundamental problem I have with Meyer-pires.  I respect that being found out would be a “bad thing”, but at the same time, that is really their only risk.  Yes they have to drink blood but they’ve managed a good long while on animal blood so that’s only marginally a problem.  The sunlight makes them sparkle and reveal their inhumanity, which is bad, but really not that bad overall.  My personal take away from Twilight was that vampires could have just been the mutants of the Marvel universe and could have fit into normal society.

Contrast that with, say, Harris-pires.  Sunlight is very fatal, a stake through the heart makes them a bloody mess, and they cannot happily get buy on animal blood.  It’s human blood or nothing, at least until True Blood is invented.  Those are some significant downsides.

Question 3:  What are the upsides?

If we are to believe that people are willing accept the gift of undeath, or at the very least don’t step out into the sun the moment they’re turned, what do they get in the bargain after casting off their mortal selves?

The common powers include an immunity to aging, immunity to non-silver weapons, and the ability to hypnotize or mind control their victims.  The mind control plays well with their efforts to stay hidden and explain why so few of us know they exist.  Flight is a common theme, as is turning to mist, or transforming into another creature.

This is also a turning point for the writers.  Some things are simply physically impossible.  Anyone who’s spent too long in the sun knows it can burn.  That disadvantage works with the rules of science as we know them.  Even mind control can be explained away as extreme charisma.  Flight, on the other hand starts into the realm of magic.  Now, that’s not a problem for every writer, but it is a decided choice.  One of the things I greatly respected about Rice-pires is that they were as limited by the rules of the universe as their mortal prey were.  They could not fly, though they could jump very high.  They could be seen in mirrors, and they were not automatically repulsed by crosses.  After all, why would a cross make something coil away all by itself?

So when setting up the powers for vampires, the challenge comes in, like for weaknesses, as to how much magic exists in the world you’ve created.

Question 4:  What makes a vampire a vampire?

I list this last even though it may appear to be the most important.  I do that because we all know it’s a relevant question and we have to get to it eventually.  Now, to clarify the question, what exactly happens in the creation of a vampire?

A Whedon-pire, for example, is really a demon that inhabits the human’s body.  The human dies during the draining and a demon comes to take over in their place, retaining the memories but is itself a new beast.  In contrast, a Vampire: the Masquerade RPG vampire is still the mortal but with all of their blood drained and replaced by that of their maker and bloodline.  They retain their memories, their passions, etc.  In some of the newer stories, vampires are a separate race from humans, living their own lives and only making offspring in a more traditional way, that is through good old fashioned sexual reproduction.

From there the rest of the vampire lore can be fleshed out.  How do vampires organize?  Is there a society of vampires or do they exist as lone creatures?  Do they see humans as companions, slaves, or food?  How many vampires are there?  The list goes on.  Part of the appeal of the genre is for readers to discover just what makes your vampires different and interesting.

And once they’re hooked, then you can drain them dry.

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