Thursday, July 1, 2010

Boring Vampires

Okay, so I mention Vampires a lot. In this case I'm using them as fodder for a lesson in writing. See, here's the thing - even vampires can be dull, boring and (dare I say it) cliche. You think: 'Gee, if I put some ultra cool stuff in my manuscript then I can't lose! It's a formula for best-seller.' Um, no. See, I've heard it said (quite a bit because I keep saying it too) that it isn't WHAT you write, but HOW you write it. Granted, you need a plot. Something that moves the action along and propels the characters forward. But - here, let me show you what I mean. The following are a few examples of a boring vampire story:

1. Cliche Description

His eyes held me in a way that took my breath away.

"You've been watching me," he said. My cheeks turned as red as a beet.

He smiled, showing perfect white teeth. My heart beat sped up. "Do you know what I am?"

"I don't care," I said. "You won't hurt me."

2. Useless Dialogue

I jumped in the passenger seat and he peeled out of the drive. Alone at last - just me and my vampire.

"Where to?" he asked.

"I haven't had dinner yet," I said.

"Do you like Italian food?" he asked.

"Too many carbs," I protested.

"Sushi it is then."

"No. I don't eat raw anything."


"Okay," I said, turning on the radio.

3. Telling Not Showing

We stopped at the doorway. It was late and the rest of the house was asleep. I felt nervous. He leaned forward and kissed me. It was amazing and when he pulled away I could see his fangs were extended. For the first time since I met him, I was afraid.

Now, lets take a look at the same scenes REVISED:

1. Try to say the same things in a slightly different way.
His eyes met mine and I froze, the air knocked from my body like when I was seven and fell off the swing in my backyard. I couldn't have moved if I'd wanted to.

"You've been watching me," he said. I fought the heat bubbling up my neck that threatened to incinerate me.

He smiled. Blood rushed behind my ears. "You know what I am."

"It doesn't matter," I said, finally finding my voice. Of course I knew. "You won't hurt me."

2. Replace with dialogue that is meaningful by showing us something about the characters' personalities.
I jumped in the passenger seat and he peeled out of the drive. Alone at last - just me and my vampire.

"Where are we going?" I asked, unable to stand the silence.

"Worried?" The corners of his mouth turned upward and he stole a taunting glance in my direction.

"No. Just curious where a vampire takes his date."

"I'm taking you back to my coffin so I can have a midnight snack."

"Very funny."

3. Show
We stopped at the doorway and he turned toward me. A thick slice of moonlight broke through the clouds bathing his face in soft blue light and reflecting off of his large, dark eyes. I sucked in my bottom lip as he stood motionless, silent, heartbreakingly beautiful. Crickets sang through the blanket of night. Then he moved, fast and smooth. One moment he was watching me, the next I felt his lips on mine, unexpectedly warm and soft. A shiver of pleasure trickled through my body and I pushed forward, eager for more.

He jerked back in a sudden movement and a gasp escaped my throat. His lips pulled back to reveal a row of elongated teeth, each as sharp and deadly as a steak knife. That wasn't what frightened me though. It was his eyes. His eyes filled with pain and a silent plea. Run.

See? I really didn't spend a whole lot of time on this and you can probably tell, but the second does read better, doesn't it?

Now, how about you? What are some boring vampires you've been wrestling with?


  1. Great great GREAT post! So true, cliche is only cliche if you let it be. Fight conformity! :) Your examples were great about how to switch boring vampire story into interesting/readable vampire story.

  2. Yup - like that 2nd one better :)

    Cliches can be hard to spot sometimes because we are so used to using them and seeing them. It's important to be fresh!

  3. Thank you all! I'm so glad you liked my examples. Yes, cliches are hard to fight. You have to keep up those defenses and when they do sneak in banish them during revisions!

  4. loved this post, it is very hard to keep a subject that has been so written about from coming off cliche. But it can be done, I'm a firm believer than the undead are not done talking and evolving. Love those vamp story's :)

  5. Reana - thanks! Viva le Vampires! Oh. Oops. Was that cliche? :)

  6. I had such a good time reading this post! It made my day!

  7. Catherine - I'm so glad I could make your day!

  8. The second one definitely reads better! You're right, there's nothing worse than a boring vampire, especially when there are so many out there! You proved that they don't have to be boring.

  9. Heather - thank you for the compliment. I don't think anything has to be boring or over-used. Not if you approach it in the right way. ;)

  10. You did a great job "showing" how to do that scene right. Yeah, Lisa!

  11. Yep, second one is much better. Might even be a vampire story I would read (which is saying a lot).

  12. Wow, that is HUGE, Julie! Maybe I ought to consider it... LOL

  13. What a great post!!! You did awesome at showing, the second one is much better for sure, something I might read!

  14. Thanks, Jen! I'm so glad you liked it. Ha! I might have to turn it into a short story or something now...