Tropes Rarely Seen

In companion to the essay on tropes over-used, here are some suggestions for tropes we rarely see. Any of these might be great, or at least have the potential to shake things up a bit.  Or maybe a lot.

Beautiful Monster.screenshot-med-01 Vampires are nearly always seen as either gloriously beautiful or satanically evil. But only sometimes do we see a vampire who manages both. One of the few examples is Lilith in an otherwise average direct-to-dvd film 30 Days of Night: Dark Days. Mia Kirshner’s eyes are black as pitch, her teeth an array of fangs equal to any piranha. Her fingertips end in slightly curved claws. Yet weirdly, she remains beautiful–and only partially because of facial features. There’s an elegance to her, even as her voice remains this whisper of alien cruelty. One wonders how this might go even further–what if a vampire were beautiful but more obviously deformed?

bbc_023Faith. No, not her (although I love her). Religion in vampire stories so often is nothing but a vague source of anti-undead tech. One thing that remained slightly exciting in Dracula 2000 and its sequels was its central conceit–Dracula as a man who personally knew Jesus Christ. The films did little enough with this, alas, but the whole notion of treating religion seriously seems viable, yet rare. It pops up now and then (with the hint of the Impaler’s redemption as portrayed by Gary Oldman for instance). Yet consider what might actually be done with such a notion–and start by reading The Strain trilogy to see how subversive that might be. Might a vampire earn forgiveness? Might an undead, like Iblis in Muslim lore, long more than anything else for a sign that he or she might one day see the face of God? How might they go about it? Would it work? Why? Or why not?

800px-Slovakia_Oravsky_PodzamokMoney. The now (sadly) defunct series Blood Ties actually dealt with this–that a vampire almost certainly needs money. To pay rent, to get a car and pay for gas. They probably need clothes, and in the modern era things like security systems. Plus the internet! They cannot all be rich, all be nobles with a convenient castle in which to hide during the day. Razor Blade Smile actually tackled this in a very logical fashion–the vampire in question worked as a hitman! Kill people, get a meal while you’re at it, then have your client fork over some cash. Simple! Of course some stories play this for laughs (and one can see why) maybe this might work even better to make the vampire an evil hidden in plain sight.

nadja05Magic. Back when Forever Knight was on the air, and soon after, I got into a debate with some fans of the show who insisted the series had zero supernatural elements. Think about this for a moment. A show about vampires. But nothing supernatural.  No, no, no–they just had a disease. Underworld went with this whole hog, calling vampirism a pathogen as did the third Blade flick. But what about something that doesn’t fit that paradigm at all? We seem on some level reluctant to view the undead as mystical beings, even though by any definition they must be. How much more interesting if we saw more vampires who matched a classic definition–“a blood-drinking ghost.”

Some will say such ideas are hopeless, that nobody wants to stray from tried-and-true formulae. But I know too much theatre and literary history to believe that. Break the rules well, go against expectations in a startling and fascinating way, and you can indeed find an audience.

But what do you think?

By david

David MacDowell Blue blogs at Night Tinted Glasses.  He graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory and is the author of The Annotated Carmilla. and Your Vampire Story (And How to Write It) as well as a theatrical adaptation of Carmilla.


  1. Great tropes, especially the last one. It’s a bit boring to explain everything about a vampire, there should be something supernatural to keep it interesting.

  2. Money: My vampires have their own worldwide currency system and banking network.

    Faith: Centuries of normal people’s religions considering them to be demonic naturally leads them to agnosticism.

    Magic: When striving for scientific realism in explaining large portions of the world’s folklore, extraterrestrial beings make the most sense. Of course, you can go the true supernatural route and say “F*** science!”

    Beautiful Monster: Aliens fit this bill, too…

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