Vamping Out: Using Famous Characters to Inspire Your Own
One of my favorite starting points for creating new vampire characters is to look around at my favorite characters from other genres and imagine what kind of vampire they might make. I also do this with historical figures, as anyone whoâs read Ancient Blood can tell you, but thatâs a different article.
My choices here are purely my opinion, based on characters that I enjoy, but Iâd love to hear about other possibilities in the comments section. All ideas presented below should be considered fair game (except for the inspiration characters themselves, who belong to their creators), so if something presented tickles your fancy, go ahead and use it!
Now, letâs try a few!
Well, heâs already a cannibal, so drinking blood should be no problem, right? He can mix in a nice Chianti for extra flavor! Literatureâs new favorite psychopath can easily make the jump to nocturnal blood drinker. Heâs cold, calculating, fiercely intelligent, and without conscience.
How you could use him: Obviously, a vampire with the skill, intellect, and depravity of Hannibal Lecter would prove a challenging antagonist for any hero. His penchant for psychological gamesmanship and playing mentor to like minds both make him ideal for a long-running series villain. When he finds a truly worthy adversary, he would delight in testing and toying with them, putting them through deadly tests that result in some kind of âlessonâ or reward. Everyone loves a crafty, sophisticated villain. The other, more daring option is to take this idea and make it your main character! You donât have to use every aspect, of course, but think about Hannibal the renowned psychiatrist and the possibilities that might open. A vampire who uses his towering intellect and long life experience to treat the neuroses of the ultra-rich and famous, perhaps using his uniquely effective form of hypnosis (and taking a bit of blood in part payment). Perhaps he consults for local police and FBI in his spare time? Now youâve got a Nero Wolfe or Mycroft Holmes with a savage bite. What happens when his carefully cultivated persona and elegant lifestyle are threatened by an old enemy? You decide.
I know, I know, another serial killer, but think about it: What better job for a vampire than as a blood specialist? Once again, we have a vampire that has no issue with killing to survive, but also one who adheres to a private code of only killing dangerous individuals. Granted, poor Dex would either have to be embraced by a vampire that doesnât have a problem with sunlight or get the hell out of Miami quick! Maybe Alaska needs a good blood tech?
How to use him: The key to a Dexter-like character is the staple trope of the double life that must be maintained. Imagine a Forever Knight scenario where your vampire is the Medical Examiner rather than a detective, a Quincy with fangs helping his police friends solve murders while maybe helping himself to one or two when the evidence wonât convict them. Law & Order: Special Vampire Unit? Why not! As a vampire, his palate might be able to identify properties in the blood that lab tests would take weeks to confirm. And, of course, when bodies start popping up drained of blood, not only is it his responsibility to cover up the cause of death, but also to stop a killer that the cops canât. Give him a vampire society to add to his problems if you like and perhaps some human enemies. Naturally, such a character could also make a great complex villain: a serial killer turned vampire with a lust for more than blood whose escalating crimes threaten to expose the existence of vampires.
Natasha Romanov from the Marvel Universe aka Black Widow is such an obvious candidate that Iâm surprised I havenât seen it yet. Take a beautiful former secret agent with intelligence, dedication, linguistic capability, a knack for unorthodox interrogation, and phenomenal martial arts training and then turn her into a vampire? Holy crap! How refreshing would it be to see an Urban Fantasy heroine whose supernatural abilities are merely accessories to an already formidable skill-set?
How to use her: Well, Selene from Underworld springs to mind as a pretty good template. However, the fun here is to really emphasize the espionage and intelligence-gathering aspect, because for a character like this, resorting to combat means that things have already gone wrong. Make the vampirism subtle and use it to add flavor, but keep the focus on the characterâs human skills and talent. You could go full-on James Bond here, if you like, but part of the appeal of such a character is her ability to be underestimated by the enemy.
You think Iâm kidding, donât you? There are plenty of characters in George R.R. Martinâs Song of Ice and Fire (and HBOâs Game of Thrones) that would make excellent vampires. Sure, Daenyrs is great, but sheâs already got dragons! What more does the girl need? However, Tyrion is my choice precisely because of the same qualities that make him a fan favorite in Martinâs series. Heâs clever, resourceful, charming, witty, cynical, and the odds against him are immense. The son of a wealthy family who largely despise him for his dwarfism, Tyrion has survived more plots against him than almost anyone else in the series. He is a survivor and what is a vampire if not the ultimate survivor?
How to use him: For one thing, the handicapped arenât well represented in vampire literature. Take the concept seriously, as Martin has done, and imagine a dwarf made into a vampire for some reason. In my fictional universe, the vampire virus causes a complete genetic rewriting of the bodyâs cells, which could theoretically transform a dwarf into a person of average stature. But suppose it doesnât work. Or the transformation triggers previously-recessive dwarfism in the genes of a ânormalâ person. Either way, you have a vampire who is likely a laughingstock among his own people, someone for whom feeding is difficult, someone who is going to have to work twice as hard as everyone else to get ahead. Thatâs great hero material. On the other hand, you could take inspiration from the original Wild Wild West character of Dr. Loveless and imagine how a character like that could become consumed with bitterness and rage. Combine that with a genius intellect and you have a formidable opponent.
You want chick-lit paranormal romance? Just imagine Elle Wood from Legally Blonde, but instead of going to law school, her life is interrupted by death at the hands of a vampire. The original story shows us a girl uncovering a surprising talent for the law after she enrolls for all the wrong reasons. Behind that sparkling smile and baby face lurks a surprising intelligence and a fierce determination to get what she wants.
How to use her: A light touch is the key here, so a story with a sense of humor is a must. Imagine the kind of reverse-Buffy story you could get if you took the ditzy, perky socialite and vamped her, then watched her discover resources she never knew she possessed in order to succeed in the vampire world. Thatâs the most obvious way to use this character, but there are already series out there doing similar premises, so make sure to give it a fresh spin. This type character could also make a wonderful false friend or comedic foil for a strong female protagonist. Think Harmony from Buffy and Angel, but with more brains. As a protagonist, you could have a lot of fun doing a vampire version of Working Girl as we watch her climb the vampire ladder. Or you go in a different direction with a Bridget Vampireâs Diary kind of story. Hell, throw in a little Nancy Drew and you could have a vampire investigator that hides her deductive abilities behind a sweet smile and a harmless bimbo act.
Thereâs five suggestions for you. I hope you found them entertaining at least, but maybe they gave you an idea for your own vampire masterpiece. Hurry up, though, because if you donât use these, I will! Special thanks to David MacDowell Blue for the photos!
Brian McKinley has written four screenplays, a stage play which won a state-wide contest and was produced by a NJ community theater, and two short stories that have appeared in Reflection’s Edge and Challenging Destiny magazines. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and his first novel, Ancient Blood, was published by Ambrosia Arts Publishing. Brian lives in New Jersey and is working on his next novel.