Thursday, March 16, 2006

Vampire Physiology 101

When writing vampire novels, authors must figure out their creatures' powers and limitations. There are no hard-and-fast rules within the genre about "what makes a vampire a vampire," other than the need to drink blood to survive.

Depending on which series you read, you find vampires that:
  • tolerate sunlight (mine can't, not even indirectly)
  • eat regular food (mine can, but they don't enjoy it--"everything tastes British")
  • shapeshift (no)
  • retract their fangs (yes)
  • read people's minds (hah! like they think about anyone but themselves)
One contradictory set of facts seems almost universal in today's vampire fiction:
  • They have sex--lots of it, or the book doesn't sell.
  • They lack heartbeats, because they're dead.
Anyone who knows basic physiology or, say, has a human body of their own, knows this is impossible. A guy needs blood flow--and lots of it--to make things work. We're expected to believe that they function differently than humans in every way except sexually.


This discrepancy bothered me enough that I gave my vampires heartbeats and breaths--because hey, I wasn't about to make them celibate. Their body temperatures are lower than those of humans, except right after they drink, at which point they can climb into the mid-nineties Fahrenheit*.

My vampires grow less and less human as they "age," making life and un-death more of a continuum than an either/or.

But this creates other problems--if they're so human-like, then what makes them vampires? Am I just cherry-picking the monstrous traits I find appealing or convenient?

Such is the mental conversation every vampire author faces sooner or later. Me, I made it up as I went along, mutating aspects to fit the story's needs.

If that sounds sloppy and cavalier, don't worry. That's what rewrites are for!

While I'm at work today, feel free to discuss the mating habits, food preferences, and any other peculiarities of your favorite vamps.

*One of their nicknames for humans is "98.6er's".

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It just occured to me to wonder what Count Chokula pours over his cereal.

Posted by: Blogger Rob S. at 3/17/2006 11:42 AM

(Someday, I will spell "occurred" right on the first try. Not today, though.)

Posted by: Blogger Rob S. at 3/17/2006 11:43 AM

Speaking of misspellings, it's "Chocula."

Unless, of course, you're thinking of his original Macedonian name. Not too many people know that Chocula didn't come from Romania as Dracula did. They didn't hook up until much later, in Bern, Switzerland, where Chokula first encountered the sweet, tasty chocolates that inspired him to change the spelling of his name.

Dracula and Choc(k)ula spent many a year roaming the Alps together, making candy and drinking human blood, until one day they simply parted ways. Some say it was artistic differences, some say it was Chocula's desire to move to the New World and start a career in advertising. But I'll always suspect it was that little twit Heidi who came between them. To me she'll always be the Swiss Yoko Ono.

What I want to know is, how does Chocula stay so tan?

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 3/17/2006 12:00 PM

He rolls himelf in cocoa every morning?

That's an inspired history, Jer.

Posted by: Blogger Rob S. at 3/18/2006 4:21 PM

Good thought, but don't you mean "every evening"?

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 3/20/2006 10:19 AM

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