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Why doesn't anyone write about more corpse-like and uncanny vampires?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Peregrine, Nov 11, 2017.

  1. valiant12

    valiant12 Sage

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    I think this is an awfull idea. Subverting a trope for subvering's sake.
    By definition zombies are mindless undead cannibals and vampires don't sparkle..
    By making them less stupid and monsterios this remove the horor of one day the whole city/country/the world become overrun with decaying shambling corpses.
    It also remove the power fantasy of surviving in a postapocaliptick world, loting and killing mindless monstrosities.
     
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    OK, I'm among those who instinctively won't read vampire books. Or zombie books. I wish to speak up in favor of subversion for its own sake.

    Or, rather, subversion for the sake of art. Take apart a trope just to see what happens. We writers love to toy with ideas, and every once in while--or even twice in a while--this can lead to story ideas. It's brainstorming. So I would say to the OP, go ahead and storm that brain. See what you get. If it clicks for you, write it!
     
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  3. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Why? How? Why is the traditional mindless zombie trope the only vessel for creating horror? There are infinite ways of creating horror. Subverting the zombie trope or the vampire trope does not "remove the power of fantasy" it simply asks the writer to push up their sleeves and create something new. Don't copy old ideas simply because they are there. Do something new.
     
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  4. I had a dream about Castlevania Symphony of the Night last night [perhaps from reading this thread?] I've noticed that Alucard is pretty much a vampire only in name [apart from turning into a bat and a wolf and sleeping in a coffin]. He can eat, drink, doesn't drink blood, can go out in daylight, can wield holy weapons/amulets, can go inside a chapel [that is admittedly inside Dracula's castle]...and [in Dawn of Sorrow, at least] he doesn't seem to have fangs. Sure, he's 'only' half vampire, but still.
     
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Typically the horror with zombies is that it feels inevitable that sooner or later we're all descending into creaturehood (to continue with language from my previous posts). I haven't seen Warm Bodies, and have only heard a little about it, but I didn't get the impression that it upends that fear completely. Also, it's paranormal romance, and comedy, not horror.

    In the original "I, Legend" book, the main character doesn't realize that the zombie-like monsters are sentient and aware, and telling legends about the man who comes and burns them in their sleep. These creatures aren't really zombies - they're poisoned people, there's no corpses, they're not after brains - but they fit the same role in story. The point of the story is the subversion.

    For me, if I were writing "zombies," it's not about the creature but the role they play in the story. In fact, I have notes for a zombie story - sort of, it's really a time travel story involving a "zombie apocalypse" as the possible future - and if I sat down and really ironed out the details, they could very well be closer to the I, Legend version, and not use the word zombie at all........... but people would still call them zombies, because let's be real, it's a future where everyone is devolving into creaturehood, and that's a zombie apocalypse.

    I get it. Vampires don't sparkle. I thought the sparkling was lame, too, to be honest. But people like what they like, for reasons that are more or less all their own, and I don't have to like it too in order to "get it." And it's too easy to get caught up on these surface definitions and lose sight of what's actually happening in the story and important for making it work.

    Scary monsters are scary, but so are best friends who turn into lethal human predators and use your relationship with them against you. Vampires do that. Stupid corpse monsters can't.

    And when it comes to zombies, what's scarier? Knowing that your dead corpse will go walk around killing people, or knowing that you'll still be kind of awake while you're doing it? I mean, think about that for a second. A secondary character, POV: A zombie who's fading in and out of a dim consciousness, struggling to get control of a zombie body that's gradually in decay and wants to operate on instinct...

    ^Because that's what Warm Bodies is, isn't it?

    See, I would wager to guess that the problem here isn't the way that vampires and zombies are portrayed, but that they're being used in romance instead of horror. And in that case, we're back to the statement above: People like what they like, and for the most part you've got to get over it.

    That said, I did have issues with the way that the romance in Twilight is portrayed, and the question of whether it was a healthy romance to idolize, but that's a somewhat different topic.
     
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  6. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    I hate vampires. They're disgusting.

    Now, werewolves? I'm totally in.
     
  7. ^Me, too.
     
  8. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I don't know if this is true. Infinite is quite a number.

    Yeah, I had been thinking of mentioning serial killers. If normal humans — ahem, special-use case of "normal" — can be terrifying, then a human-like vampire can also be terrifying.

    I've been thinking of two very general approaches to horror with respect to vampires. These will apply to other things used for horror, but for the sake of this particular topic....

    What they do can be horrifying. This is like the horror a human serial killer can inspire.

    Example: The vampire that attacks those criminal, degenerate human types for our viewing pleasure versus the vampire shown entering a nursery, lifting the bawling toddler, and sucking its blood from its thigh as the kid continues to scream, the screams slowly quieting until the sweet young thing is dead and hanging limply in the vampire's hands.

    What they are can be horrifying. This is "body-horror" I think, although some other formal term might exist.

    In this approach, it's not that they suck blood, nor exactly who they attack or why they are attacking a particular victim, but it's in what their bodies are, how their bodies look, the various functions of the parts of their bodies. I don't know, but seeing a vampire attack one of those low-life degenerate humans—let's say, a wife beater, child beater, overweight ****** who is obviously unwashed and generally a scumbag—can still be terrifying if the vampire has worms and flies crawling out of his skin at the time of his feasting. Maybe. Execution is key. That same scene could perhaps be comedic if handled differently.

    I suppose there's a third, a blend of the two. Things like some killer clowns work with both body horror and the first sort. Alien is like this, also. It's not only that the alien is a monstrous creature with acid for blood, but also that it tries to lay its eggs inside you. [Edit: Well, some do that, the queens? The others do scary things also.]

    Perhaps putting all the weight on one or the other of those two approaches might be quite risky. I think that simple body horror for vampires is riskier than focusing on the horrifying things they do. If horror is your objective, at least. So X vampire has grayer, undead skin unlike sparkly vampire. Big deal. Again, however, execution matters, and the nature of the vampire's body could be used to create the horror even if he doesn't do much vampire stuff that is different from what other vampires do.

    I think there's a special consideration for vampires in a secondary world fantasy novel. An awfully lot in that milieu could be strange and horrifying, and some of the body horror and horrific activity of the vampire might get lost in that background music, or muted, as compared to the vampire that appears on present-day Earth.

    Edit: And of course, one type of human serial killer plays on that "what he is" side of things too, because most people don't fully understand those psychotic, dead-heart realities, and those serial killers can seem non-human.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
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  9. valiant12

    valiant12 Sage

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    This was supose to be a joke.


    I haven't read twilight. From what I remember from Dracula, the titular vampire is like a metaphor for a psychopath. If remember corecly he even gave a small speach how his ansestors are the best race ever. Since all modern vampires are influenced by Dracula , most of them have a psychopathic personality. I know that some people have difrent interpretations, but I like this one. Also most vampires are undeath. Vampire romances are like a combination of necrofilia and fetishising the worst criminals in human history. Why people like them ?
     
  10. Agreed. Werewolves>vampires.

    My WIP includes both zombies and were-creatures, so i'm interested to see how this discussion goes
     
  11. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    But what about werewolf-vampires? Back in the very old day the distinction between the two was as blurry as could be. In my opinion this adds a certain mystery to the beast if pulled off right. Imagine a vampire suddenly turning into a beastly man-wolf. That would surprise me if I was in for some vamp fiction.
     
  12. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    And this is why, with most zombie stories, it's not really about the zombies. From The Walking Dead to Shawn of the Dead the zombies are never the actual horror. In The Walking Dead the horror is the other humans, and in a comedy like Shawn of the Dead the zombies are a metaphor for the monotony of daily village life.

    Simply throwing in a rotting dead guy who wants to eat brains doesn't necessarily make things scary (or interesting).

    So in the case of the OP... you have decided to not use the modern interpretation of Vampires, which is all good. You have decided you want Vampires to be dark and dead and decaying... so what? What does that mean to your story? What does that mean to your plot? If it is simply to "have them there as monsters to be scary"... but any other monster would fill that role, then what is the point? If wolves or aliens or evil robots could serve the same purpose... then what is the point? How are you going to use the traditional view of Vampires in a new and interesting way? What does it serve to your story?


    That is what I want to know. In I Am Legend the zombies fed the plot. The doctor was trying to figure out how to stop the spread of the disease. He was experimenting on them to try to find a cure. When he found out they were actually "in there", and they were telling stories about him, that was a pretty major plot moment that changed the way he made choices after that.

    When using a monster, think about what it does to your plot. What is the best vehicle to address your theme? Your character arc?
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
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  13. IRL, both are arguably based on cases of rabies affecting humans. Makes sense why they'd be similar.
     
  14. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Jump scares are not the only thing that a animalistic creature offers. I'm not a horror expert, but my impression is a lot of horror fans consider jump scares akin to the groin shot in a comedy. It's low hanging fruit. When applied with a skilled hand, it can be very effective, but when simply applied to everything without care, it turns into meh.

    I mean consider horror classics like The Thing, Alien and Jaws. They had way more to offer up than the simple jump scare. There was lots of psychological horror to be had in these movies and many others like them.

    For clarity's sake, the creatures in the I am Legend book and original movie are more akin to vampires than zombies. In the book the MC protects himself with mirrors, garlic, and crucifixes.

    This isn't the correct definition. If you go back to the origins of the zombie, it originates from Haitian voodoo, where a zombie is simply someone who died and was brought back, but has no will of their own. They are slaves to whoever brought them back. They are not mindless, and they are not cannibals.

    That stuff got brought in in more modern times. But really, there are no hard fast rules for what a zombie can and cannot be other than being undead. Even then... Any way, there are contradictions all around. Look at the granddaddy of the modern zombie movie, Night of the Living Dead. The very first zombie we see on screen moves fast and is strong. They're strong enough to beat a man in a one-on-one struggle and fast enough to catch up to someone running away from it. Not only that, they're smart enough to stop and pick up a rock to smash a car window to get at the person inside.

    Zombies have always been an ever evolving creature. I believe that's the case with all monsters. In Romero's Day of the Dead, part of the story revolves around zombies retaining intelligence.

    For me, it's all about the right tool for the job, not one or the other. There's no right way to execute a concept, just what's right for the story one is trying to tell. Sometimes what's best for a story is a mindless force of nature. Other times, it's a malevolent, scheming entity, and still other times, it's a cute and cuddly creature of the night that may or may not sparkle, or run, or crave brains, or want to do your nails and cut your hair.
     
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  15. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Fair enough. I didn't mean to diminish the horror genre into jump scares. And, also in the interest of fairness, a character-like vampire runs the risk of losing the mystery and awe of a monster and kind of devolving into a villain. Shifting the focus away from the use of vampires generally and towards writing good horror, there is still a lot to be said for the monster.
     
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  16. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Dang, so many good arguments on each side! I'm literally struggling with my "thanks" button right now.

    PenPilot and Fifthview have awesome points. Devor, you have some great stuff as well as far as the value of a horrible monster just for the sake of a horrible monster (which maybe brings us back to "Do all villains have to be sympathetic?" debate). I think my biggest concern is this:

    I'm writing a book where the theme is about dreams, and about how you can't just allow your dreams to be stolen from you. All to0 often in life people tell us we can't achieve something, or we will never be able to achieve what we want, and we just sit back and allow our dreams to be taken from us. In order to show this as a fantasy I developed my own sort of brain dead demon... an eater of dreams. They are called the Devourers. They are like black holes, totally devoid of life or hope or happiness. They simply exist to devour dreams. I created this beast because it served the purpose of the story. The theme.

    When developing monsters think about what is the right tool for the job. Don't just use stuff that already exists because it seems scary.
     
  17. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    Its ironic that I am Legend inspired later zombies in the media when I am Legend had vampires instead of zombies.
     
  18. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    A vampire doesn't need fangs in order to be considered a vampire, someone could be non-mainstream for a change and make a vampire without fangs.

    A human could just as easily bite neck with normal human teeth.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017
  19. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    I like my vamps evil and nasty. Salem's Lot was, hands down, my favorite vampire novel. One thing I always found slightly annoying in a lot ov vampire characters was their lack of self-control; I found it quite infantile. The slightest whiff of blood and they either lose it or are bordering on it. I have my favorite foods and my lusts, but I'm not slaves to them. If Denise Milani showed up in a bikini to serve me a bacon cheeseburger, I'd greatly desire both of them, but I could behave myself. I'd expect more maturity from a creature with several centuries of experience behind it.
    I have a plan to use vampires in a future story and, like many others, am sick to death of the sexy angsty vamp. I tried to make mine as loathsome as possible and took inspiration from blood-suckers or liquid feeders in the animal kingdom. In my world, they are creatures of pure id, total slaves to their desires. Vampires start out as larvae, a grotesque cross between a human and a lamprey eel – a long serpentine body, a giant, toothy suction cup for a mouth, and huge, lidless black eyes. Blood is not very nourishing, so they need to feed much and often, at least once a night. As they feed, they develop – spindly hands and bird-like feet on stick-like limbs. They gradually develop more, going from crawling to lurching, hunched bipedalism. The suction cup mouth is the last thing to go before they look fully human again. At this stage, they no longer feed on blood alone. A retractable spiky apparatus in their tongues pierces the victim and they vomit digestive juices into him, dissolving him from the inside out, and slurping up the goop. At this stage they no longer need to feed so often, only once or twice a month. They are still creatures of pure desire, though, so they feed, vomit it out, and feed again. They are not especially intelligent. Their minds are almost completely dominated by their desires. Still, they do possess a certain animal cunning. While they are incapable of long-term planning or strategy, they can still be quite clever. Moreover, due to their gigantic urge to gratify their every desire, they are very determined and have developed certain methods that are effective in satisfying their urges.
    The only way to become a vampire in my world is to ingest a vampire’s blood. This is generally done through trickery or seduction. They can trick a victim into drinking by convincing them it’s a potion that will grant their fondest wish, they can slip it into their food or drink, or drip into a sleeping person’s mouth, though most of them aren’t smart enough for the latter two. Many are ensnared through seduction, as people easily giving in to their basest desires are the raw material for a creature like a vampire. Someone killing a vampire runs the risk of the blood splashing on their face and being accidentally ingested, so vampire hunting is a cross between combat and hazmat operations.
    In the story I have planned, the protagonist is a warrior/witch who not only has to deal with a vampire infestation but save two people infected by them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2017
  20. Peregrine

    Peregrine Troubadour

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    Tolkien had vampires in Middle-Earth along with werewolves. He liked vampires and werewolves and included vampires and werewolves just for the sake of having vampires and werewolves, the vampires are just giant bats who don't have humanoid form and the werewolves are not humans who shapeshift into wolves, but sapient wolves, its confusing to readers, isn't it?
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2017
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