I started with a basic idea of a character I wanted to use and began to break down my own version of vampirism from there. The word vampire can evoke some simple concepts, but there is a lot to consider when writing them. I want to flesh out all these details before starting. Is its origin a virus or a curse, natural or magical? What exactly does it do to the body? What are all their strengths and weaknesses? How exactly is it spread to others?
What’s been done. What I want. What I considered. What I decided on.
I gave thought to all the different versions of vampires that have been in entertainment, mostly to figure out what it is I don’t want. I’m not interested in portraying them as beautiful, misunderstood creatures, who fall in love with humans and isolate themselves to protect others more than themselves. In other words, I don’t want to glamorize the whole thing. I do think glamours, however, are a good idea. The use of magic to appear beautiful, for the purpose of feeding, is more in line with what I’m looking for.
I’ve seen vampirism portrayed as a curse, a gift, a burden, a prison, a punishment, a virus and many other aspects I’m probably not listing. I already have a notion of what sort of magic system I’d like to use, so a magical curse as punishment makes sense for an origin. This wouldn’t be the case for how it’s spread, though.
I like the idea of choice, that a person must damn themselves to become a vampire, that it cannot be simply thrust upon a victim. I like the idea that once a person is bitten they must drink blood to complete the transformation (Vampire Diaries has a lot of very cool ideas), but I’d like to take it a step further. My idea for one type of magic uses the soul (grace) as a source. A vampire has been cursed to consume their own soul (to fuel the curse) until they perish. So they feed on others, draining the victim’s grace (through blood) to sustain their undead body. A person who is bitten must not only feed but kill. The act of taking another life corrupts the soul, completes the curse and allows them to survive on the blood of others through dark magic.
Unlike other versions (virus, demon possession), my vampires are no longer alive. They have no heartbeat and only need to draw breath for the purpose of speaking. Their blood is dead, thick and black. Their body is pale and emaciated, with hair diminished to frail wisps. Their teeth are yellowed, the canines and premolars sharpened to deadly points. Their nails are blackened, short but tough enough to mar steel. Their muscles are supernaturally strong. They no longer feel bodily pain, though all their senses are magically heightened. They are much faster than they once were, though not so fast that their motions can’t be seen. Their stamina is only limited by how much grace (soul) they have remaining.
Weaknesses are typically sunlight, silver, wooden stakes to the heart, holy water and decapitation. I envision mine to be damaged or weakened by sunlight in direct relation to how much grace they have remaining. In this way, a vampire who has just fed can appear human. Sunlight would have little effect for a short while after. Silver and wooden stakes make no sense to me, in light of the origin I have in mind. Neither does holy water, unless it’s been blessed with grace (magical). In this manner, the vampire is truly an unholy creature (born of and a user of dark magic). This could also lead to poisoning by blessing a person’s blood. Decapitation makes perfect sense, although I would make it extremely difficult to do so. A vampire’s body is greatly enhanced by magic and not easily damaged.
This leads to a few other details. Unrelenting thirst or even bloodlust is often portrayed as a struggle, something to be endured or battled by the vampire with a conscience. I do like the idea of unending thirst as a part of the curse’s punishment, a reminder the vampire is in a constant state of diminishing toward oblivion (they’re already dead, now they can only be destroyed). Bloodlust, however, I see as something that only affects new and younger vampires, those who haven’t survived long enough to realize the pleasure gained from feeding, from the momentary rush of feeling alive again, is a double-edged blade meant to enhance their torturous existence. The grace gained through blood is fleeting, like dying all over again, until the taste of blood is like ashes on the tongue. This would eventually leave a vampire numb to the pleasure. Feeding would become no more than a bitter necessity.
With all of this in mind, I’ve considered how a vampire might live day to day. Killing would be messy (in that it leaves a trail, draws undue attention) and is not only unnecessary but counter to survival. That same victim could be fed upon again once recovered. Ideally, a vampire could cast a glamour to appear attractive, lure a victim to a secluded area for feeding, cast a charm to erase the victim’s memory and leave without a fuss. Would someone who lives like this want the company of another vampire? It would be another mouth to feed, a greater risk of mistake or discovery and a choice not easily undone. Even vampires should have difficulty killing another vampire, young or otherwise.
This of course leads to other details that I might consider as I write but don’t necessarily need to start. Do vampires get stronger with age (maybe an increased capacity for grace)? Can vampires feed on each other (stealing grace, kill by draining)? What sort of power struggles would this lead to? Does it make sense for a vampire to desire the existence of more vampires, to rule the world as a greater species, to farm humans as cattle?
Taking on the curse must be a conscious decision. Rather than spreading vampirism by biting a human, the victim must drink the cursed blood of a vampire. Once they undergo the painful death of their body and take on the curse, they have twelve hours before their grace is fully consumed. To complete the unholy transformation, to become a vampire, they must kill another human by drinking all of the victim’s blood, by taking another’s grace. There will be nothing sexual, glamorous, gratifying or desirable about this process.
I need to consider how vampires interact with humans as a whole and the other supernatural races. I already have a vague notion of my werewolves, fairies, angels and demons. It makes sense to keep them all separate, distrusting (even hateful) of one another but adhering to an understanding of territories and general behavior toward one another and humans. While humans dominate the planet in population, they’re in reality no more than a commodity (food, slave labor and property). Control is maintained with an illusion of freedom. To threaten this control, in any way, is to forfeit one’s existence.
The supernatural populations are kept in check by their very nature. Werewolves, too, are victims of a curse. Though their numbers rival that of vampires, pack life is not conducive to large groups. Angels, while immortal, cannot reproduce. Their numbers can only dwindle, usually by a violent end. Fairies require great magic and sacrifice to create offspring. A newborn often comes at the expense of an elder. In this way, their population is more recycled than increased, except in the very rare instance of twins. Demons are comprised of the fallen, those angels, fairies and humans who have lost all their grace by force or choice. In this way, vampires and werewolves are types of demon.
Is sunlight (being weakened or damaged) and the need to feed every twelve hours (which can be mitigated with age) enough of a detriment? There is the torture of persisting, the driving thirst and pain of endlessly dying. There is the solitude and despair, existing in mental anguish until time hardens the mind into a monster equal to that of the body. Is this enough to dissuade someone from wanting to become a vampire?