Vampire novels (stories including vampires in general) are something I only got into last summer, and even then, the only vampire media I’ve touched upon are The Vampire Diaries, Dawned by Michelle Areaux, and most recently The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare (halfway through City of Bones as of this post). I am by no means an expert on the subject, but I wanted to share my perspective, even if it’s only going to be for me to look back on.
Because of The Vampire Diaries (TVD), I’ve decided to dive further into this genre/niche. I’ve heard about Twilight (who hasn’t?), and I know that people either love it or hate it. I haven’t read it yet, but I bought the entire series for cheap at a local book fair, and it’s on my TBR shelf.
This book was recently published. I found it when the author posted a link for ARC (Advanced Review Copy) readers on Booksprout. I decided to give it a try, as it was advertised as a combination of Twilight and Lucifer (Fox/Netflix series), though I found it a better match for TVD. Not sure if it’s just me. The characters were interesting, though their motivations were confusing at times. My full review of this book will be posted soon.
Now to get to the part you’ve probably been waiting for: my opinions. As I’ve said, I’m not an expert in vampire/supernatural lores, but I know stories (I like to think so, at least). No matter the genre, elements, or stories being followed, I like to think that all fiction has features that take them from “just okay” to “great.”
First thing: cliches. Of course. All genres and stories have them, but there are a few that I’ve found are specific to the vampire niche. Maybe this is purposeful because it’s what people like, but I’ve always been the type of writer to try and break the mold. A few of them, I’ve found that I despise. The “love at first sight (despite the obvious danger/fear gut instinct)” cliche. The “hot, brooding, loner guy” cliche. The “overpowered character” cliche. The “watching you while you sleep” cliche (this last one really makes me cringe).
Not that I hate all cliches–just the ones that are executed poorly, and I think most people can tell when that happens. You know, when you’re reading a book and there’s a cliche on every other page just for the sake of it, or when a scene is thrown in without any impact on the story as a whole? That’s what I mean. I think everything that’s included in a story should have at least some impact on the story. Otherwise, it’s just filler, and it doesn’t make sense to have it. Even if a scene is just for expanding on a single character’s motivations, it should move the story forward. Plot is driven by character desire. What do they want? If I’m reading a scene where one character is sleeping in bed, and the vampire boyfriend climbs up the side of her house to watch her in her sleep for no reason that affects the story (creepy, by the way), why should I care? Does it prove that she’s a heavy sleeper, and therefore people can sneak up on her? Does it show that he has no sense of boundaries? Does it show that she doesn’t lock her window?
Sorry. Went on a bit of a rant there, but I’m going to leave it in because I think it accurately states my point.
I think these “pointless” scenes are what a lot of authors struggle with, and that’s where the “editor cutting a lot of stuff” joke comes from. As a professionally-trained editor, this is how I see stories. They can’t be completely barebone, but overloading a story with unnecessary information doesn’t make it good either. An author needs to find a good balance.
Moving on, let’s talk about romance. Romance and vampire stories seem to go hand in hand–there’s a whole subgenre of just vampire and/or werewolf romance, of course, because it’s something that sells. I love a good romance, as long as it’s well-written.
I can almost see you shaking your head. Of course, good romance needs to be well-written, right? It’s a lot harder to find than you’d think. There are so many romances out there that are unrealistic, toxic even, and they sell because that’s what most people think romance is. Appearance is always so important in these kinds of stories, and it tends to forget that vampires (and werewolves) are instinctively aggressive supernatural creatures. That’s because they’re predators, and I think the danger aspect is definitely a selling feature. It’s the thrill, but there are things that I hate about it. But I won’t go any further into that for now. Maybe I’ll write something more on that later.
Another thing I find very important is the story’s plot. Luckily, I haven’t come across anything in this genre that’s fallen on the issue, but there are others that do, and it’s that the plot of the story centers around the differential element. Like, the fact that there are vampires in this world is the story. I think a much more powerful story is one that’s relatable and real, and the author has managed to include this supernatural element into the story and make it work. That’s a strong story!
My ideal vampire novel would include what most good stories have: a variety of interesting and deep characters (who stay consistent), a compelling plotline (one that doesn’t revolve around the fact that vampires exist), a healthy dose of cliches (but not for the sake of having them), a balance of action and magic, and maybe even a bit of romance.
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