What Makes a Vampire a ‘Real Vampire?’

A comment I hear on a fairly regular basis from readers here, friends, coworkers and others is that the vampires found in fiction nowadays aren’t “real vampires.” Twilight vampires aren’t real vampires, Vampire Diaries vampires aren’t real vampires, and on and on. From what I am told, most vampires in modern fiction, particularly young adult fiction, aren’t real vampires. So I ask Dear Readers, what makes a vampire a “real vampire?” Why aren’t these modern day vampires considered vampires?

Personally, my definition of a vampire is any being that needs to drink blood in order to survive. It’s a pretty simple explanation of a vampire and one that works for me. With so many MANY types of vampires in fiction this one definition tends to cover them all. Vampires drink blood, therefore a creature that drinks blood is a vampire.

Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, and every other vampire series out there feature beings that do in fact drink blood. Therefore, they are vampires. Simple.

However, others don’t see it that way. Their definition of a vampire is much stricter, full of guidelines and rules – vampires must be reanimated corpses, vampires must feed on humans, vampires must be badass, vampires must be scary, vampires must fear holy items… etc. I think that’s a boring way to look at vampires. The amazing thing about vampires is that they are wide open to interpretation, they can transcend every genre, they can capture every single person in some shape or form. If you love romantic vampires, well, there are countless romantic novels surrounding vamps. If you’re a fan of horror, vampires have that covered as well. Vampires can be whatever they want to be, they just need to drink blood. Or at least, that’s how I see it.

Sure, vampires that sparkle is a ridiculous and lame idea. But that doesn’t change the fact that they do drink blood. And yes, two vampire brothers fighting over a single human girl like love-struck puppies isn’t as badass as other stories, but hey, those brothers drink blood. Makes them all vampires to me.

But what about you? In your opinion, what makes a vampire a vampire?

– Moonlight

By Moonlight

Moonlight (aka Amanda) loves to write about, read about and learn about everything pertaining to vampires. You will most likely find her huddled over a book of vampire folklore with coffee in hand. Touch her coffee and she may bite you (and not in the fun way).


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  4. My basic definition is a creature who drinks blood as well. But I also believe it can be extended to anything that drains the life force of another creature (via blood, psychic energy, etc).

    I do like blood-drinking vampires to have fangs. They just seem incomplete without that trait of a top predator. However, in the case of a psychic or other type of vampire (the Wraiths in Stargate Atlantis, for example), fangs are irrelevant.

    As for the Twilight vampires, I think Meyer’s reasoning behind the sparkle was quite unique and actually pretty clever: 1) that their skin was as tough as diamonds (most of your harder stones have reflective planes – think of quartz) and, 2) that the reflective nature of their skin and fear of exposure are what made them sun-shy, rather than the musty myth of bursting into flame. I find the concept rather original and brilliant, but, unfortunately, not everyone examined it that closely, and it became another target for those who disliked Meyer’s series.

    I do enjoy the variations of these fascinating yet horrifying creatures that I continually encounter in fiction. I’m currently re-reading Elaine Berstrom’s Shattered Glass, and love the familiar yet totally different aspects of the alien Austra vampires in this and her subsequent books.

    My own are more along the ‘traditional’ lines, yet have a few unique twists to their biology and behaviors that people seem to enjoy. But rest assured – their primary motivation in all they do is to bury their fangs into a never-ending stream of hot, pulsing blood.

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  7. Actually Vampires in mythology feed on more than just blood. I am a Vampirologist and many of the legendary Vampires (esp the eastern philosophies) feed on the life force of others (primarily humans, although even that is up for debate). Though all my research I have come to believe that Vampires are basically supernatural creatures who feed on human life force either blood or direct life force. unfortunately most people esp in fiction get Vampires wrong as it is so far from the legends and no Vampires cannot survive on dead blood as they feed on life. Also they need more potent blood than animal blood so those Cullen boys wouldn’t survive very long on animal blood. Also fangs are not mentioned much in mythology and sunlight didnt kill vampires in the old myths as many where seen diring the day though hunting at night is best to stay out of sight is what brought on the sunlight killing vampires falsehood. Nosferatu started that BS to avoid being sued since Dracula wasnt actually effected by sunlight…

    1. Folklore is just that, lore. They are stories made up by people hundreds of years ago who lacked scientific knowledge to explain common diseases. There is no right or wrong when it comes to vampires. I am also an expert on vampire lore, and I love it, but those stories aren’t necessarily what makes a vampire a vampire, especially since every country and culture has its own unique vampire myths.

      1. Well Christianity is a form of mythology as well but that doesnt stop people from swearing it is fact just the same as so called folklore. Whats the difference? I believe all forms of mythology and folklore just the same have some fact in them; you just have to find where the fact is in there.

        1. I don’t believe the bible is fact anymore than I believe folklore is fact. And sure, there’s a bit of truth in some myths, but that doesn’t make them “right.” With the countless vampires myths out there, there is no right vampire. Yugoslavian Gypsies believed that watermelons could return as vampires. The Albianian Sampiro was said to dress in layers and layers of flowing fabric that would hide most of its body, the only thing visible from the folds were its headlight sized glowing eyes. The Malaysian Penanggalan is nothing more than a flying head with organs hanging out of its neck. There is also the Langsuir, a vampire who can be tamed by stuffing her hair in the hole on the back of her neck. And on and on. There are unique vampire myths all over the world, there is no right or wrong there. Everyone has their own stories.

  8. One of the beta readers of my novel said, “Thank you for getting back to predatory killing machines.”

    The vampires in Twilight and The Vampire Diaries are predatory killing machines, but the story lines focus on their relationships. Their predator aspects are pushed into the background.

    There are a large number of readers thirsty for, well, thirsty vampires. Good news for me! The harder part is to give the vampires human qualities, while not playing down their predatory nature (as paranormal romances inevitably do).

    1. I think people are too quick to judge The Vampire Diaries. I know I definitely wrote it off as a lame Twilight rip off for ages before I finally watched it. Yes, it focuses on relationships quite a bit (lets face it, it DOES have a specific audience in mind), but it shouldn’t be lumped in with Twilight the way it is. I’m all for predatory killing machines. I love seeing vampires portrayed as predators, as that’s what they naturally are.

      ..and that’s why I enjoy Vampire Diaries. Yes, it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure as far as the romance/drama of the show goes, but it does have what I see as legit vampires in it. Every single vampire encountered on the show has killed at least one person. Most have killed many people, and quite a few continue to kill people and have no issue with it whatsoever. There is only one character who even attempts to not drink human blood, and it’s constantly shown that not only does it make him weak but it’s near impossible for him to control himself when he’s exposed to human blood.

      I’m not try to sell the show to you or convince anyone to watch it since I acknowledge there is quite a bit of high school romance nonsense in it, but it also never shies away from violence or real vampires. There’s graphic beheadings, throat rippings, dismemberment, torture, and absolutely no sparkles. It at least deserves some credit and separation from Twilight for that.

      It’s also worth mentioning that the books The Vampire Diaries is based on were released a good 14 years before Twilight was.

      Also, kudos to you for contributing to the “real vampire” fiction out there. Would love to read your stuff when it’s ready to be shared!

  9. Vampires are the original walking dead. No heartbeat. They need blood to exist. Simple. After those requirements, they can be anything an author wants them to be. Natural looking, monstrous, or drop-dead gorgeous. Most have acquired exceptional abilities. How, doesn’t matter. What matters is that some can move at the speed of light, and some are unnaturally strong. Whatever comes along with your favorite vampire it all boils down to this one fact…they ALL need blood of some kind. Be it human or animal.
    R. Hoffer Author of Silentheart and Silent Madness.

    1. and here I thought the original walking dead were Zombies? People always get Vampires and Zombies confused. It rather annoying. Zombies are brainless walking corpses (though sometimes they are not dead just mistakes to think they are dead) who do not need to feed on anything, though brainless things tend to naw on whatever, but are controlled by a sorcerer. Vampires are the supernatural who feed on human life to survive. There are the supernatural Vampires (spirits), Vampires who possess bodies without a soul, or Living Vampyres (such as the Strigoi Vii).

      1. You can’t limit vampires myths to two categories. There are far too many bizarre myths that can’t be fit in a neat little package.

  10. On that topic, some amusing actual quotes gleaned from around the internet:

    “Anne Rice wrote about emo jackasses, not real vampires.”

    Referring to the TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer: “Forget those lameoid MTV generation vampires with boyband haircuts who get unconvincingly beaten up by 16- year-old girls on a weekly basis. They’re not real vampires.”

    Review of Vampyres (1975): “… were these supposed to be real vampires? They were initially shot, which is not how you create a vampire, and active in the day, which is a no-no for vampires.”

    Review of Wisdom of Crocodiles (1998): “Jude Law plays a weird serial killer who doffs of his romantic attachments. That is different from a vampire. … Is a vampire who burns up in the sun, has fangs, is afraid of crosses and garlic and is killed by a stake through the heart too much to ask for?”

    1. Actually Anne Rice had a lot more right than most fiction writers such as Vampires cannot survive on dead blood. It wont kill them but it is useless to them. Vampires feed on life not death – people are too rapped up on the blood thing but the main thing is life

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    1. As stated before she was wrong about it killing Vampires but the supernatural Vampires in legends (fiction) cannot feed on it as they feed on life to keep going and to live forever or they will starve since they have no life of there own…

  12. There’s no precedent for that elsewhere. In fiction, a vampire is whatever the author wants it to be. There’s no right or wrong. The problem with vampire fiction right now is that there’s a double-standard in place. The sexy, romantic, urban hipster vampires are just one kind of vampire, but the people who favor them defend their preferences by saying they like variety. Except, there’s not variety, because THAT is the kind of vampire that you get the majority of the time now. For every one or two vampire books published in a year that come close to something more old school, there’s like 20 or 30 that shovel out the same hunky Harlequin Romance vampire stuff. It’s not the presence of that stuff that annoys fans like me, it’s the absence of variety, the absence of traditional Gothic Horror vampires, or vampires that other people like that aren’t part of the “vampire studs and divas” sub-genre of vampire fiction. I know there’s this lack of variety because every so often I go on a hunt for new vampire fiction, turning up next to nothing notable while the same old stuff just keeps getting shoveled out. As for my specific tastes, I prefer the old school Gothic Horror vampires, the likes of which were featured prominently in Hammer films, the old Universal films like Dracula, Count Yorga, etc. Dracula is the obvious quintessential example. Few, if anyone, is producing that kind of vampire anymore, let alone anything in that sort of setting/sub-genre anymore. You can’t tell me it won’t be profitable, because you can’t find out how well it’ll do financially unless you release it in the first place, and no one is testing the waters at all. Besides, I’ve been around, and I have it on pretty good authority that there is a pretty big desire for old school, traditional vampires out there. It’s not fair to neglect that desire just because we’ve gotten cranky about it every time a new “sexy vampire romance novel” is released and ends up popular. We’re cranky because we see a bunch of people getting what they want from the genre, and we’re not. And those same people will try to find any means they can to make out sound like whiny babies who need to be ignored. The same people argue that variety is a good thing, and then support the lack of variety.

  13. I’ll check it out. But still, it seems like another entry in the “gritty urban vampire as drug addict” sub-genre. Not that there’s a whole lot of those, but it’s not quite what I’ve been thirsting for, so to speak.

  14. Why r vampires drink blood for cuz i discover online that vampire r real. cuz i rote everything down and besides i want to no about vampires cuz i am in love with vampires and i want to be a vampire to thank u for listen

  15. A vampire is a demon or humans whom drink blood from humans to gain power from Satan himself. It is to gain favor into the wickedness, the evil. It cannot resist holiness. Its future is eternal death and suffering in the Lake of fire. It reveals itself in darkness. It mainly hungers for your Soul. It’s goal is to kill you and destroy you.

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