Forget the character sheets for this one, we are inventing. Get out your metaphorical test tubes and lets mix and distill until we have created a monster. Stepping seamlessly into my alter ego of the mad professor or indeed Dr Frankenstein, we will pick over the bones of the undead. Mixing and matching mythologies, sewing together the rendered corpses of the undead until we have breathed new life into the vampire.
In my secret laboratory (my laptop) I collect pieces of the undead to stitch together and create new life. First we can raid the bible for characters like Lilith or Judas, but this has been done to undeath so tread very carefully. My favourite passing fancies of the moment are the Chinese hopping vampires. However, my problem with this is the Blackadder sketch featuring the Jumping Jews of Jerusalem. Now anything that bounces makes me howl with laughter and kills the menace stone dead. Basically we need to research and find, if not a new vampire, a new angle.
Just as important, what can or can't your vampire do? Can he day-walk, touch crosses, drink holy water or cast a reflection? Is your vampire good or evil and does he feed off the innocent or chow down on the bad guys? I personally like my vampires bathed in moonlight and ready to do battle for my fleeting honour. Sometimes I am a bit of a girlie when it come to vampires.
What does your vampire look like? Does he have a human and a demon face or retractable fangs? For me at least, fangs are a must. If you've seen the film Rise, you will know what I mean. The vampires use an implement to sever the arteries of their victims; it does add to to cult metaphor in the film, but adds nothing of worth to the vampire myth. There is no point in me listing all the vampire traits here; get out there and research. Read books, watch films and think about what you look for in a vampire.
Choosing your genre also typecasts you vampire, bad vampires are not the heroes in romances. A happy ending is not possible if the hero is busy ripping out the throats of the heroines nearest and dearest. I love the idea of creating the perfect vampire, one that is as evil as Dracula, sexy as Lestat and as good as Mick from the television series Moonlight. So the genre of vampire novel is an important factor in the invention of your vampire.
This exercise is one based on lists. Inside every good writer is a thousand lists waiting to break free. The first list to write is all the genres you can think of. Discard any that really will not accommodate a vampire within it. I think you will be surprised at just how many genres allow the vampire to comfortably take off his shoes and make himself at home. Now make a list of settings to fit in with your genre, the city or an institution, my favourite at the moment is a country house. Now finally make a list of all the vampire traits that are important to you. When you read a vampire novel or watch a film, I can guarantee, if you're like me, that some vampires work and some don't. The television series Moonlight was ruined for me because the vampires could go out in the daylight, although I liked the sleeping in a freezer angle.
Be daring; make your vampire evil, forget the hero and have the heroine save the day. Take a leaf out of Anne Rice's book and create a whole mythology and run with it. In Rice's novels Lestat only feeds off evil doers and this enables the reader to give him hero status, while Louis eats rats, yuk. I think the important fact to gleen is that, although there might not be anything new, you can take the old and give it a twist.
Having written your three lists, each will help you to create your own personal monster. You know what you like to read or watch yourself. However original your writing, plot and characters might be, if you neglect your vampire the whole thing will fall apart. The vampire is a changing entity, twilight is a the new sensation, but out there in someone's laptop labratory is the next monster. Make those lists, read and watch anything you can get your hands on and never forget the next vampire is waiting in the darkness for you.