Hello! I’m wondering how far it’s acceptable to stray from certain tropes associated with traditional monsters/races? For instance, I’m wanting to use vampires in my current project, but for it to work, vampires would need to be born this way rather than created. In addition, they wouldn’t be immortal, but would live and die just as those from other races, such as humans and werewolves. I would still incorporate a unique set of abilities/weaknesses based on conventional tropes, like aversion to sunlight, healing ability, and super strength. But is it okay to take a traditional creature like a vampire, which is generally expected to be immortal/undead, and change it to such an extreme degree?-Laura
Hey Laura, thanks for writing in!
This is a tricky question to answer because what constitutes an accepted trope is in constant flux, and vampires are a great example of that. Before the 1970s, the idea of vampires with complex personal drama would have been really weird; vampires were monsters that hung out in coffins when they weren’t biting people. But then Interview With the Vampire was published, and suddenly it was expected that vampires would have a lot of angst and drama, to the point that depicting a well-adjusted vampire still feels somewhat subversive.
To me, reproducing through the bite is part of what defines a vampire. They reproduce by changing humans into more vampires. If I read a book with vampires that don’t do that, I would wonder why they were called vampires. But that could just be me, and it’s possible I won’t feel that way in a few years. I’ve even seen books with something similar. For example, the Dresden Files has something called White Court Vampires, which reproduce by giving birth just like humans. Of course, to my mind these creatures were much more like succubi than vampires, but most readers don’t seem to mind.
The main thing I would think about here is how important it is for these creatures to be vampires. If it’s critical to the story, or if you’re specifically looking to explore new vampire tropes, then give it a try. If not, see if there’s some other spooky creature that can work instead. You’ve already mentioned werewolves, so you might try banshees, selkies, sidhe, or another urban fantasy trope. Just double check to make sure you’re not mining a marginalized culture for content.
One other thing I’d caution against is using this premise to create a supernaturally evil species. Vampires are often inherently evil, but that’s not usually a problem because they don’t appear as stand-ins for a distinct race or culture. If they’re a parallel for anything, it’s serial killers or exploitative aristocrats. But if the vampires can reproduce on their own and are a separate species, then they’ll definitely seem analogous to humans. I have a post on that if you’d like to read more.
Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your story!