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Everything You Ever Wanted To Ask About Vampires
B ut Were Afraid To Know

by Dominick Cancilla

o you want to write about vampires, do you? They act cool, don't they? They look cool, too. And cool people play them in movies: Tom Cruise. Wesley Snipes. Paul Rubens. Okay, forget that last one, but still, you get the idea. And you've got paper and pen, or, if you're a less traditional type, a word processor. Maybe you've even got a cool, Goth-type place picked out to do your writing and a bottle of Chartreuse or absinthe or some other color-associated beverage.

And of course you've got a great idea. Something unbelievably awesome. Something nobody has ever thought of before.

You're ready to go, right?

Wrong. Very wrong. Wrongwrongwrongwrongwrong.

There's still a little something you need to do. Namely, you need to figure out exactly what vampires are.

"But hey," you say, "I already know what vampires are." Right. I know what cars are, too, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to build an engine with my bare hands. And I know what a computer is, but that doesn't mean that all computers are the same.

"Give me a break," you say. "I've read Anne Rice. I've read Stoker. I'm the vampire-freakin master. Get real." No, you know Rice's vampires. You know Stokers'. As an artist, you're not going to just rip them off are you? Before you can write about vampires yourself, you have to decide how they work in your literary universe. What they look like. What they can do. In other words, you need to rebuild vampires from the ground up. How do you do this? It's as easy as answering a few basic questions.

"What kind of bulls--" you begin to ask, your words cut off as you're smothered by a hoard of flesh-eating rats summoned at a casual twitch of my hand. As I was saying, all you need to do before you start writing your great vampire opus is answer a few questions. Once you've done that, you'll know exactly what vampires mean to the universe you're writing about. Believe me, your tale will be stronger for it.

Let's start at the beginning: In the universe you're going to be writing about, how does one become a vampire? I'll be referring to vampires as "he," but does gender make any difference? Are male vampires masters and females slaves? Or vice versa? Do abilities differ between genders?

As for the transformation itself, can it occur only after one has been bitten by a vampire? And if so, does it take one bite? Three bites? Over what period of time? Do they have to all be from the same vampire? Or is vampirism more like a disease with each bit increasing the chance of infection? If one has been bitten enough to be transformed, is the transformation immediate? Gradual? Does it not occur until the victim dies? Does it only occur if the vampire's bite was the cause of death? Or are the bites just part of a ceremony in which the victim is a willing participant, perhaps exchanging feedings with the vampire?

If bites aren't part of the mix, is vampirism conferred upon those who have the force of will to refuse to die? Or is it a curse (or a blessing) from some demonic force? Can it be obtained through sorcery? Is it something certain individuals are born with a propensity for, which perhaps only shows itself when they die? Is it, perhaps, a mystical force which can be transferred to another at will? Or which escapes the vampire's body to infect another when the vampire is killed?

You may even decide that vampires have nothing to do with humans at all. Are they a separate species? An alien race? Are there many different kinds? What is their culture? Where did they come from? Where are they hiding?

Once you've decided what it takes for one to become a vampire (assuming that one can become a vampire), you need to decide how the change impacts the victim. Do the eyes change? Glow? Become cat-like, dry, or lifeless? Does the skin pale or change shade? Become leathery? Do the fingernails darken? Sharpen? Elongate? What about the hair? Can it be cut? Can it grow? How does a vampire smell? How long do these changes take? Can any of the vampire's physical traits change after it has changed, or is it locked into the form it had a the moment of death? Could the fact that "locked" vampires all have out-of-date hairstyles be something that vampire hunters look for ("Remember, drive a stake into anything with a beehive.")? Would a disabled vampire still be disabled? Could there be vampires in wheelchairs?

If vampires can change physically, do they age? To what extent? Only until they are mature? Are there baby vampires? Does their mind age but not their body? The other way around? Can vampires be physically perfect but have Alzheimer's?

Does the body change in other ways? Does the heart stop beating? Does it start again while the vampire is feeding? Does the blood remain liquid or coagulate? Do vampires perspire? Cry? Breathe? If they don't breathe, do they pretend to so as not to draw attention to themselves? How could a vampire get a job that required a physical exam? A urine test? Can they reproduce like humans? With humans? Are they subject to disease? If they're damaged can they heal? Instantly? Quickly? Over a prolonged period?

Can a human recognize a vampire on sight? Can another vampire? A vampire hunter?

How does becoming a vampire impact the mind? Is it unchanged? Corrupted? Reverted to an animal state? Is a vampire a will-less slave to the creature which created it? A creature with free will when it is not under its master's orders? A completely independent agent? If a vampire has a master, what happens when the master dies? Is the slave vampire cured, made free, or destroyed? Does it become a master itself? And what if its master isn't killed but is somehow cured of vampirism -- what happens then?

If you want to get metaphysical, you need to consider what happens to the spirit after vampiric transformation. Is it forever corrupted? Released and replaced? Does this explain why crosses, mirrors, etc. affect the undead? Is the vampire's previous human-form soul released when it dies? Are vampires necessarily evil? Do they have to stay that way? Can they use their powers for good?

Can the change to being a vampire be reversed? We've already considered what happens when a vampire's master dies. Is there some ceremony that can reverse the vampire process? A medical cure, if vampirism is a disease? A blessing or good act which can be performed to remove a vampiric curse?

If no cure is found, how long with a vampire last? Are they immortal? Do they just have long lifespans? Do they die a natural death under certain circumstances? Are they capable of killing themselves?

When a vampire does die, what happens? Does it turn to dust? Go through rapid aging and decomposition? Explode in a gusher of blood? Become a normal human corpse? Just die? Does the death effect depend on the method of execution? Or is it impossible to do more than incapacitate a vampire?

That pretty much covers the basic vampire life cycle. By now, you should have a decent foothold on your vampire comings and goings. So let's spend some time considering what happens in between.

Aside from the whole "feeding on blood" thing, vampires are largely characterized by their weaknesses. Pretty much everyone makes their vampires susceptible to sunlight in one way or another, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to consider on the subject. For example, what is the immediate effect on a vampire when it is exposed to sunlight? Burning? Withering? Destruction of the touched area? And is the effect immediate or does it follow a period of agonizing pain? If the damage is non-fatal, will it heal? How quickly? Will it leave a scar or other mark? Or does sunlight simply make a vampire human for a time?

Don't forget that sunlight comes in many forms and can be delivered in myriad ways. Can a vampire by harmed by reflected sunlight? If reflected light is effective, how about moonlight? Sunlight that has been somehow stored? Starlight (since it's just distant sunlight)? What about filtered light? Light through glass? Light through stained glass? Light through a prism? Will different parts of the spectrum effect the vampire differently? How about laser light? Sun lamps?

Can a vampire avoid the effects of the sun? With sun block? Thick clothing? By living aboard an airplane and flying ahead of dawn?

Because they shun daylight, most traditional vampires sleep during the day. Does yours? If so, then during what hours? Are the hours based on when the sun is actually in the sky (allowing odd exceptions for solar eclipses and vampires living near the poles)? Does it matter if the vampire can see it? Or if it's deep under ground? Are the hours of sleep clock based? Do they respect time zones (for example, must a vampire sleep when it is daylight locally or daylight at its place of death)? Or, perhaps, does a vampire not sleep at all, only retreat during daylight to hide from the sun?

If a vampire does sleep, what is the experience like? Is it a time of nightmares? Dreamless emptiness? A complete blank? Can the vampire sense what is going on around it? Is it in a senseless torpor? A maddening wakeful paralysis? Can the vampire act if aroused?

Must a vampire sleep in a coffin? Does it have to be its own? Can it have more than one? Can the coffin be moved? Will another box do as a substituted? How about a tomb? A trunk? A cave? A closet?

Must the vampire sleep on its native soil? If so, what is considered "native soil?" Soil from where it was born? Where it was converted to vampirism? Where its human form was buried? How far away from the critical point must the soil come? From the immediate area? From the same town? From the same country? What if the area's borders change? Is the soil less effective the farther away from its point of origin that it gets? And how much soil is needed? A handful? Enough to form a layer beneath the body? A pinch beneath the pillow? Must it be against the vampire's skin or just close to it? Must it be loose? Can it be imbedded in a mattress? Under a sheet? Sewn into pajamas?

If the vampire is unable to find an appropriate place to sleep, what happens? Is it destroyed? Maddeningly unable to sleep? Does it go insane? Does it immediately go to sleep wherever it happens to be when dawn comes?

The most famed way to do injury to a vampire is with a stake through the heart. If your vampire is susceptible to such things, then what range of weapons would be adequate to do the deed? Any sharp object? A lightning rod? A candle stick? An iron stake? An ivory one? If only wooden stakes will do, then is the type of wood important? How it was obtained? How it was prepared? Must it be pounded in or are crossbows allowable? What happens if the heart is missed?

Is the vampire able to be harmed by any weapon so long as it is made of wood? What if it bangs its  head on a wooden table? How much damage can be done? And what do non-effective weapons do? Bounce off? Pass through? If so, what happens when the vampire bangs its head on a metal table? Or do non-wooden or non-stake weapons just create wounds which immediately heal? If so, then will enough mundane wounds, inflicted rapidly enough, destroy the vampire? And can the vampire regenerate indefinitely without feeding? What about explosives or, to get really extreme, nuclear weapons?

When the time comes to stake a vampire, how hard is it to do? Does the stake go in like a knife through butter? Does it take great strength to pound it in? If the vampire is asleep at the time? Does it wake up? Must the stake be driven in in one thrust so that a waking vampire doesn't kill the vampire hunter?

How quickly does the staking kill the vampire? Immediately? After much thrashing around? What if the thrashing around dislodges the vampire? Must the stake nail the vampire to its coffin?

Is death by staking permanent? Will removing the stake bring the vampire back to life? How quickly? Can other methods be used to revive the undead? Are there steps that must be taken after the staking to assure that the vampire won't come back? Burial at crossroads? Holy wafers in the mouth? Decapitation?

And if the vampire knows that it is susceptible to being staked through the heart, can it protect itself by having its heart surgically removed and kept somewhere safe (like in a safety deposit box)?

For those who wish to repulse a vampire as opposed to killing it, a cross is a traditional tool. Are your vampires turned by such things? Why? Because of the faith of the wielder? By the power of God. Because they have no soul? Doesn't the fact that vampires are turned by crosses imply that Christianity is the one true religion? Or are vampires upset by Christianity for other reasons? How about the symbols of other religions? Or the vampire's own, pre-vampire religion.

What is considered to be a cross for this purpose? Only a formal crucifix? Only a silver cross? Anything cross shaped? Crossed chop sticks? An architect's T? A drawing of a cross? Does the item have to be blessed or otherwise sanctified? Can it be any item held in true belief that it will stop a vampire? A Bible? A teddy bear? Does a person have to be holding the object? Does it have to be a physical object at all? A hologram? A film projection?

When a vampire encounters a cross, what is the effect? Is it repulsed? Banished? Destroyed? Just annoyed? Is prolonged exposure harmful? Can a vampire force itself past a cross? Can it be trapped by one or more? Does contact with a cross cause harm? Burning? Scarring? Does the effect vary by the strength of the vampire?

Running water is also a traditional bane to vampires. If you'll be using this, then what counts as running water? Rivers? Streams? Gutters? Underground pipes? Filling bathtubs? Water balloons? A light rain? And how much movement is necessary? Rushing water? Just some movement? Or any water at all?

Do your vampires find running water fatal? Does it destroy the immersed part? Erode away the flesh? Turn it to dust? Or is water just incapacitating? Does it cause paralysis? Unconsciousness? Does a vampire sink like a rock?

If water is more than an obstacle than a harm, what is the effect? Is it just difficult to pass over? Does it take strength of will? Physical strength? Does the vampire feel that it is pushing through thickness? Or is running water impassable? If so, how can the vampire get anywhere? Can it leave the continent it is on? Walk over a bridge? Step over a filled water hose? And how far above the water must the vampire be to avoid the effect? Can it fly over as a bat? In an airplane? In a space shuttle? Can it use a tunnel to pass under running water? If vampires can tunnel but can't cross the ocean, are vampires limited to a certain area? Might one of them use the Chunnel to enter England if no vampires had ever been able to get there before?

As a subset of water, does holy water harm a vampire? What does it do? Burn? Scar? Destroy? Or is it just the same as running water? Who must it be blessed by? A priest? Any true believer? Must it be kept pure? In a blessed container? In glass? In a bucket over a door? In an compressed-air-powered super-soaker 3000?

Is your vampire able to be harmed by the other traditional purifier, fire? What about silver? Does it have other weaknesses? Can it be harmed by blood diseases? Parasites? Will feeding on a drunk or drugged person get the vampire high? If aspirin thins the blood, will it harm a vampire?

To be worthy of the name, your vampire will likely drink blood. Why does it drink it? Is that the only way a vampire can get nourishment? Must it steal the life of others because it has none of its own? Is there some physical reason that only blood can be digested? Is it the source of their power? Or is it just an addiction? Can non-blood foods be consumed as well? If not, what is the effect? Vomiting? Cramps? Weakness?

What kind of blood can a vampire drink? Only human? Only particular types of human? Women? Virgin? Non-kinsman? Or will animal blood do? Mammals only? Are chimpanzees genetically similar enough to humans that they count as people? What about special genetically modified pigs?

Must the blood be fresh? Must it be drunk straight from the source or can it be stored? If a vampire drinks because "blood is life," is it still considered life if it's been in a blood-bank plastic pouch? Can one vampire bring blood to another? Could there be some chemical or other engineered concoction that could be substituted for blood?

How do different kinds of blood taste? Does blood type matter? The age of the donor? The race? What the donor has been eating? Can types be mixed by a connoisseur?

How often must the vampire drink blood? Nightly? Weekly? Monthly? Does it depend on how much is drunk? On how active the vampire has been? On the type of blood?

Must the vampire bite its victim on the neck? Will any major artery do? Is heart's blood particularly potent? Can the bite be literally anywhere?

When drinking blood, how does the vampire feel? Sexual? Does sex lead to feeding? Feeding to sex? Are they part and parcel of the same act? Is the vampire out of control? In a frenzy? Revolted by himself? Does he go nuts at the site of blood? Is he obsessed by the site of it? Do these feelings vary from individual to individual?

How does a vampire's victim feel while it's being fed upon? Euphoric? Paralyzed? Numb? Unconscious? Hysterical? Does the act of feeding subdue the victim, or will the victim continue to resist? And how does the feeding leave the victim? Weak? Euphoric? Dazed? Dead? Strengthened or otherwise strangely empowered because some of the vampire has rubbed off on them? Do they remember the feeding? Is there a mark left? A gash? A cut? A gaping wound? Is the victim torn apart in the vampire's feeding frenzy?

What happens to a vampire if it is unwilling or unable to feed? Does it die? Weaken? If it weakens, will it eventually become unable to move and live paralyzed for the rest of eternity? Will it just lose its powers? Eventually become human?

Moving on to slightly less graphic considerations, can your vampires be seen in mirrors? If not, then how do they react to mirrors? Are they angered? Repulsed? Upset by the reminder that they can't see themselves? Or do they just hope that nobody will notice? Do their clothes show in reflection? Only clothes they weren't buried in? and what about things they're holding? Are people in the process of turning into vampires semi-transparent in a mirror?

What about other reflective surfaces? Teapots? Shiny floors? Can vampires appear on film? On video? Can they be tape recorded? Can they trip infrared alarms? Be seen by motion detectors? Robots? Do they cast shadows?

Must your vampire be invited before it can enter a house? If so, then what kind of building qualifies as a house? Any home? Does an invitation into an apartment let the vampire into any apartment in the same structure, or must it receive a separate invitation into each unit? Must it be invited into any structure, even if it's not a home? How about a mall? An office? A home which is claimed as 25% office space for tax purposes? Must a vampire be invited before entering the home of another vampire? And who must do the inviting? Any resident of the place? Anyone with the authority to do so? Can the owner of a rental property invite a vampire into a house that he has rented to someone else? Can a guest in a home invite a vampire? Can any human invite the vampire in? In that case, could a vampire bring a stooge around with him for the express purpose of having the stooge invite him in places? Can a vampire who has been invited into a home invite other vampires in? Can an invitation be revoked? If not revoked, how long does an invitation last? Forever? One night? Until ownership of the residence changes? If someone inherits his grandfather's house and his grandfather invited a vampire in 100 years earlier, can the vampire still enter the house? Can a vampire force someone to invite them in through force of will?

If the vampire isn't invited in, what happens. Is he unable to enter? Does he feel like there's a wall preventing him from crossing the threshold? If so, can he use his powers -- for example, hypnosis -- across the threshold? Or is he just powerless if he enters uninvited?

If garlic repulses your vampires, what form must it be in? Crushed? Dried? Cloves? Must they be fresh? Growing wild? In food? On one's breath? And just how repulsive is it? Is it just annoying? Will it keep a vampire away against its will? Just prevent it from feeding? Or does it do actual harm on contact? Is it effective anywhere? Just at doorways or windows? Only on the neck of a potential victim?

Enough of the down side of being a vampire. Let's talk about the fun part -- a vampire's special abilities.

Can your vampires transform themselves into an animal? What kind? Bat? Wolf? Rat? Seagull? Anything from their native land? Anything icky? Anything at all? What does the process of transformation look like? How long does it take? Is it painful? How often can the vampire do it? Where does the vampire's lost mass go? What happens to his clothes? Are the vampire's vulnerabilities the same when he's in animal form? Is he more vulnerable the smaller he is? How long can he stay in animal form? Can he sleep as a bat, for example? Are senses improved or hindered when in animal form? Does a vampire who can change into an animal have some of that animal's characteristics when in human form? If senses are impacted, then which ones? Sight? Hearing? Smell? Sonar? Do wounds suffered in human form appear in animal form? Does changing back into humanoid form heal wounds? What happens if a vampire must change back into human form but there isn't enough room (e.g., some annoying kid caught him and put him in a shoe box)?

What other abilities involving animals do vampires have? Can they communicate with or command some animals? Wolves? Insects? Reptiles? Rats? Other Rodents? Even Beavers? Only animals they can turn into? Can they see through these animals' eyes or otherwise use their senses?

Are vampires able to change into a mist? Again, what happens to their clothing? How much stuff can they take with them? What does the mist look like? Thick? Thin? Grey? Barely visible? Does it billow? Sink? Can it be blown about by wind? Blown apart by a big wind? Split by a closing door? And if the gas is separated, what happens to the vampire? Destroyed? Unable to return to form until the parts come back together? Or can the largest mass return to human form but with a piece missing? What happens if the mist gets mixed with another gas (natural gas, for example)? What if two mist-form vampires get mixed together? Can a mist-form vampire be cooled enough to become a liquid? A solid?

When the vampire is in mist form, can it see? How does it perceive the world? How does it navigate? How fast can it move? What happens if the vampire tries to return to human form in a confined space? In a glass tube? In a locked safe? In an enemy's lungs?

Do your vampires have the ability to hypnotize or compel mortals? How do they go about it? Eye contact? Words? Bella Lugosi-type hand movements? Can it be done at a distance? Over the telephone? Through a video tape? Can a strong-minded person resist? For how long? At what cost? Is there any risk to the vampire of being exhausted or even overwhelmed by a strong mind? If control works, how extensive is it? Complete control? Can victims only be compelled to do things they would normally not protest doing? Can suggestions be implanted? Post-hypnotic ones? Can false memories be created? Or is hypnotism only able to paralyze opponents to make them easy feeding targets?

How many people can a vampire control at once? One? A room full? An entire village? How long does the effect last? Only as long as the vampire has the victim's gaze? As long as the vampire concentrates? A set period of time? Until dispelled or counteracted? Until some blessing or ritual is performed? As long as the vampire lives? Forever?

What other powers do your vampires have? Can they fly without changing into a bat? Are they inhumanly strong? Can they read minds? Do they have telekinesis? Other psychic-type powers? Can they climb sheer walls? Walk through sealed doors? Clean up on Jeopardy because of their knowledge of history? Regardless of what a vampire's powers are, how does it learn about them? Does it instinctively know? Must it be taught? Do powers need to be discovered? Is there a sacred book? A rule book? A For Dummies guide?

Once you've got all of the physical details of your vampires worked out, you need to work out their social situation. Are your vampires secretive? What would they do if word of their existence got out? Does the public at large know about them? Only the inhabitants of their town? How do those in the know view them? Are they tolerated? Endured? Hunted? Adored by some and loathed by others? Is there a group of humans they protect in exchange for reciprcol protection? Do the members of this group keep the vampire's nature a secret? If there is more than one of these groups, are they at odds with each other?

How do vampires view each other? Do they feel separate from humanity? Are they all loners? A community? A family? Are other vampires just competition? If they are a group, what kind of organization do they have? A council of elders who can be consulted and whose word is treated as law? A network of loose contacts for communication only? Methods of contacting other for use in emergencies only? Regular meetings like a social club? Gangs? Cartels? Sororities? Hunting packs? Weekly poker get-togethers? If there is some kind of organization, how are rogue vampires treated? New ones initiated? How do they identify themselves to one another?

Is the number of vampires inherently limited (because there are only a certain number of vampire spirits to inhabit bodies, or something). If not, and it's not overly difficult to create a vampire by accident, do vampires have to take steps to control their numbers? Are they careful not to bite the same person more than once? Do they stake out [sic] territory and eliminate competition? If a new vampire is created, does an old one have to be destroyed? By who? The new vampire's creator? A vampire chosen by some organization? Someone of the creator's choosing? Someone of the new vampire's choosing (as in, destroy another vampire or be destroyed yourself)? Do they just not pay attention to the problem, like the inhabitants of a growing fishing town who will one day over-fish themselves out of existence? Do vampires allow a certain number of vampire hunters to exist to keep the balance?

Speaking of hunters, are they individuals who have stumbled upon the truth? An organization? Is the job passed through family ties? To apprentices? Do you want to just rip off the whole Buffy the Vampire Slayer thing and risk a lawsuit? Do they have a body of knowledge they share? Special weapons? Secret tricks? Handshakes? Decoder rings? Are some of them reformed vampires? Vampires who want less competition? Environmentalist vampires trying to keep the undead population down to prevent an I Am Legend scenario?

Once you have the physical, metaphysical, and social stuff out of the way, you need to decide on the details of your individual vampire's life. Does it live in a Castle? A mansion? A cave? A crypt? A mobile home? Is it transient? On the run? Following food sources? Does it move between a number of established "safe" houses?

How does the vampire protect itself, particularly when it is asleep and most vulnerable? Does it have guards? Trusted servants? Familiars? Friendly townspeople? Hypnotized individuals? Does it leave booby-trapped false coffins around? Live in a maze of traps? Protect itself with magic? Take advantage of technology? Or is its reputation protection enough?

If the vampire has a group of humans on its side -- townspeople, initiates, patrons, selected maniacs, a fan club -- does it treat them well? How do the vampire's followers view it? As a protector? A monster? A lord? Do they even know his nature? If no, how would they feel if they found out? If they know and are not supposed to, do they hide their knowledge from the vampire?

What do people in general know about vampires? What legends have they heard? Do they believe them? How many of them are true? Where did they come from? Tradition? Folklore? Hints of the truth? Organized vampire propaganda? Outright lies? Outdated truths?

When the time comes to feed, if the vampire feeds on humans, how does it choose a victim? From among his subjects? Strangers only? Criminals? Individuals offered as sacrifices? Captured subjects of other vampires? Prostitutes? Homeless people? Democrats? Whoever it happens to run into first?

If the vampire must keep its feedings a secret, how does it do so? By traveling frequently? Feeding only infrequently? Trying not to leave a mark or take too much blood? Disguising feedings as run-of-the-mill murders? By feeding only on those who wish to become vampires? Or who pay for the ecstasy of being bitten? Or who are in the vampire's power? Or who would not be believed (drunks, the insane, tabloid columnists)? Or who are in comas? Do they avoid humans all together and feed only on animals? Or do they keep human "cattle"?

To avoid suspicion, how do they hide the fact that they are not aging? Do they keep a private life and move on when people start to ask questions? Do they change identities every few decades? Move? Pretend to be their own offspring? Do they just hope nobody notices and see that anyone overly nosy "disappears"? Do they even worry about it?

If your vampire isn't a ruler or otherwise independently wealthy, what does he do for a living? Does he have a night job? Writer? Detective? Watchman? Blackjack dealer? Criminal? Rock star? Does he kill rich vampires and take their stuff? Or is he a professional bum? Does he live in a cemetery because of the low rent?

And how does your vampire feel about being undead? Does he love it? Love parts of it but hate others? Just feel jaded? Bored? That he's living under a curse? Depressed? Trapped? Suicidal? What is his morality? Does he see humans as less than vampires? Does he justify his actions by "survival of the fittest"? Does he try and only feed on "deserving" individuals? His competition? The morally low? Political opponents? Does he try and avoid feeding until pushed to the point of frenzy?

The qualities of the universe in which you set your story can have significant impact on the way your vampire behaves. Is it a magical setting? Are their other evil beings for your vampire to form alliances with? Rivalries? Are there supernatural creatures that vampires lord over? Werewolves? Ghouls? Or that are traditional enemies? Witches? Unicorns? Leprechauns?

Is your story set in the modern day? How are vampires handled by law enforcement? The government? Are the authorities aware of vampires? Out to destroy them? Recruit them? Will your vampire have trouble dealing with modern technology? Or will he take advantage of it? Do nocturnal computerized "day trading"? Rig his crypt with electronic alarm systems? Wear a stake-proof vest? Have his coffin sealed in a steel-reinforced block of solid concrete accessible only through a half-inch-diameter tube by someone in mist form? Contact potential victims via the Internet?

What are the potentials of a science fiction universe? How would a vampire exist on another planet? One where it is always night? Could he move about in a hostile environment without an environment suit? In space without a space suit? Could he expose himself in space at all, given all the sunlight? And how would he interact with other technology? Would cranial implants work? Retinal scans? Lie detectors? Would he show up on a life-form scan? Can he feed on aliens? Could a blaster be developed that is as effective as sunlight?

And what if your SF-universe is strictly old fashioned and unable to keep up with technology? Might he want to make his home on the dark side of the moon, not understanding that the sun sometimes shines there? Would he finally be captured and kept in a zoo? Protected as an endangered species? Would he be left behind when all of the humans moved off the planet because of pollution or some disaster? Might he be all the remained after a horrible disease? Nuclear war? Meteor impact?

What about other possibilities? Dark ages? Medieval? Caveman? Western? Hard-boiled detective? Comedy of manners? Bodice ripper? Traditional gothic? Modern gothic? Gothic rock? Rock opera? Gilbert and Sullivan musical? Pulp fiction? A classic retold with a vampire main character? Moby Vamp. Casey and the Bat. Curiously Still Living George. How to Succeed in Bloodsucking Without Really Trying.

Let's see: life cycle, physical characteristics, social stuff, universe -- I think that covers the basics. It should be enough to get you started. Now you just need to work out the details. Make sure that everything works together in a sensible, logical way. Come up with a unique plot or a good twist on an old one. And write it well, of course.

"Aaa!" you say as the rats continue to devour you. "Oooh! Uh!"

To that I say you are quite welcome. Happy writing!

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