Tag Archives: horror

Q&A: Beware the Unintended Implications

 Hi! I’m writing a story that is in a dystopian setting. One of the characters is female and perhaps 110 lbs soaking wet. I want her to be a capable fighter, able to defend herself against fast moving rabid-like humans. I don’t want to overly rely on guns as this will be set about 15 years after the end time event. Any suggestions of the types of weapons a small yet capable woman could use effectively in combat? Also the kinds of strategy and fighting techniques she might use?

All of them? Sky’s the limit.

We get a lot of questions like this, and the answer is always going to be the fighting techniques and combat tactics that they thought were a good idea. It’s the wrong question, because weapons, tactics, combat techniques, and strategies aren’t based in body type or even who someone is. They’re based on who the enemy is, what their enemy’s strengths and weaknesses are, what the terrain is, and where they’ll be fighting.

The problem with this line of thinking  about women, weight, and body types is that it’s inherently sexist. Honestly, it’s sexist when we do it with men too but given the way gender norms work in fiction chasing after it with female characters will get you into a lot of trouble. The sexism begins with the thought process of “inherently less dangerous because x” or “cannot do y due to x”.  The problem with this is thought process is that it will lead you to overcompensate. Overcompensation with a character’s combat ability leads to imbalance of threat level, and will utterly wreck your tension.

A massive, overweight man can be the lightest, most graceful, and gentlest member of a Tai Chi Chuan class. (Seen it.)

A black man well over six feet can do full splits. (Seen it.)

A ninety pound girl can throw a 220 pound grown man to the other side of the room. (Seen it.)

If you want to write action, start by stripping out the preconceptions that led you to ask the question about weight. If you want your female character to be good at fighting or even just surviving, you need to start focusing on what she’ll be fighting, the dangers she’ll face, on her mental outlook, and what she’s comfortable with doing. Not what she weighs. Weight and body type are the least important question, and gender is really only relevant in regards to mental hangups. What we believe ourselves capable of is far more damaging than our gender or what we weigh.

Besides, starting weight is pointless. The body and body type changes under physical stress and conditioning. When we start training and have access to the food we need to put on muscle then you’ll put on muscle.  A character who is ninety pounds may jump to 110, a character who is a 110 will jump to 130, and it is not uncommon for female athletes to weigh in at 150. If you’ve got a character who is ninety pounds and its all muscle, it’s not going to matter. An athlete who weighs 150 will look like they’re 120.

Visuals can be deceiving.

Here’s some things to think about.

  1. Fifteen years after the end times, guns will still be working.

If you want guns not to be present or extremely rare, the character’s got to come out of some sort of utopian future where they’ve been outlawed.  Or, the technology has moved to the point where they can’t be easily replicated beyond what’s already available.  You’d still be looking at a time frame of around 100 years after the end, and for the record they might just fall back to or revive older tech. Guns designed 100 years ago are still in use, still sold, and considered to be among the most reliable on the market. The Colt M1911’s name comes from the year the design went into production, and it has a lifespan of over a century.

The problem of the gun for a post-apocalyptic setting is that they’re really easy to make. Even if the knowledge vanished (somehow), the guns themselves all vanished (somehow), you’d still be left with people who’d go, “yeah, explosive powder, barrel, small object, boom.” Or just move back to firing firecrackers at the walking dead before learning to catapult larger objects more effectively.

Never underestimate human ingenuity and their love of blowing things up. (Also, fire.)

2. There are reasons beyond lack of availability that may lead to them not being used.

Sound is the issue with guns. When it comes to zombies, loud noises will only draw more zombies. The person who fired the gun (and anyone with them) will wind up buried in bodies, which they will have no way of fighting past. The trick to understanding zombies, rabid, fast moving humans, or anything in that general category is that there are always more. It’s better not to fight them at all, if you can avoid it.  If we found ourselves in a situation where the combat viability of the gun ended up outweighed by the detriments then they’d start falling out of use. It’d have to be a very high threshold, but it’s possible. At that point, the guns would be kept around to deal with the other humans that weren’t feral. Even then, someone would be working to find a way to make them work again.

3. Think long and hard by what you mean by “feral” human.

This is actually very important. If you don’t, you’ll accidentally wind up caught in some very ugly imperialism/colonialism tropes. I know Tumblr likes to ascribe these thought processes as moral failings, but they’re not. What you will fall prey to in your storytelling has been here longer than you’ve been alive, and will still be here after you and I are gone. You can’t escape them by focusing on skin color or ethnicity, either. These tropes have been around before they had names because they play on our xenophobia and fear of the unknown. Whether it’s cowboys and Indians, savages in the dark depths of Africa, shrieking Bedouins on horseback, or white devils.  The civilized versus the terrifying, unknown, feral humans has been around for a very long time. There’s a term for it, one you should immediately recognize: savages.

“They’re savages, savages,

barely even human,

savages, savages”

– “Savages” – Pocohontas

Say what you will about Disney’s Pocohontas, and there’s certainly a great deal, but that song sums up the issue at the heart of these narratives. Feral humans, savages, every monster of a similar vein, they’re all historical means of dehumanizing those who are different. Now, that doesn’t mean all narratives involving this subject will fall to the trope. They can sidestep it, avoid it, get around it. They can even be transformative like Richard Mathesen’s I Am Legend. The issue is the “feral human” part and the long nasty history associated with the phrase, along with all the otherworldly qualities that get applied on top of it to disregard entire civilizations as monsters.

I get the feeling you were trying to go for “zombie” without saying “zombie” but if that’s what you want, really, just go with zombies. The mindless undead or the virus that drives everyone mad will somewhat slip under the radar. Zombies can, sometimes, sidestep the embedded colonialism due to being a commentary on something else. They can also fall right into it, like in Resident Evil 5 with the white protagonist killing African zombies. Joss Whedon managed to get there (I hope) unintentionally with the Reavers in Firefly. Given the way Firefly chases Ghosts of Mars in its aesthetics, there’s a real possibility it was accidental for Whedon. The monsters in Ghost of Mars were intentional, but count on John Carpenter to know the Western tropes he’s working with. The Reavers are a trope pulled straight from the darkest hell in the Western genre. They are an exact rendition of the way Westerns treated the Native Americans, otherwise known as the unknown darkness of the wilderness that drives men mad. The feral humans you’re talking about in your question are on their way to becoming that exact trope.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Apocalypse Now, and Spec Ops: The Line all do a decent job subverting the trope (though the last two are adaptations of the first one), I Am Legend by Richard Mathesen, with The Omega Man with Charlton Heston and The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price probably being the only decent adaptations. Sadly, the Will Smith version cut the original ending and plays the trope completely straight.

All genres have similar issues. Some more than others are fields lined with landmines. However, you get past it by not completely dehumanizing the other side. This is also not me saying you should never touch these concepts. I am suggesting you think this concept through.

4. We don’t fight animals like humans. A human reverted to the point where they aren’t cognitively functioning is approached like all other animals. (Remember, we discussed the implications of this thought process above.)

Here’s where the horror comes in.

If you’re really intent on these former humans being fast moving but mindless like the ghouls in the Fallout series or the virus filled monster freaks in 28 Days Later, then most of the standard single person combat styles aren’t going to work. Hand to hand combat doesn’t function well against dogs and it won’t work against zombies either. They can’t feel it and they’re just going to bite you anyway.

Humans fighting other humans aren’t working off the idea that they’re just going to scale you and start ripping chunks out of your neck with their teeth. The idea they will is terrifying, watching them do it is even more terrifying. What is even more terrifying than that prospect is the fact humans are both persistent predators and pack animals. They (yes, they) are just going to run her to exhaustion. They are going to follow her until she is too tired, and then they will kill her. You should get it into your head right now that she is the hunter, she is the hunted.

The answer to how to fight them is you don’t. One human against two is a losing proposition for anyone, no matter how well they’re trained. Groups are the greatest of all threats a single individual can face and as the numbers increase, so does the danger. The upper human limit of what we can deal with at once is 8, and that’s for martial arts masters who’ve been training for thirty years. For most everyone else, they have a small chance against two and three is out the window. The problem is you can’t fight them one at a time, they’ll come at you together as a unit. They circle, they flank. That’s just normal human instinct, we don’t need to know how to fight in order to coordinate. One person against a team is screwed, doesn’t matter if they’re feral dogs or a bunch of drunken frats leaving a bar.

We avoid predators, and drive them off as necessary. This involves making ourselves less valuable as targets because of the effort necessary to succeed outweighs the risk. All you can do with predators is drive them off, so they’ll attack easier targets. The stakes will make it so they eventually get in or will no longer be dissuaded, but that’s the nature of the post-apocalyptic zombie genre. The problem is there’s no winning. It’s just people trying to survive as long as possible and ensuring they don’t get into a situation where they’re in over their heads. The other humans surviving are a far greater danger to the protagonists than the mindless, devouring swarm. (This is usually how we sidestep some of the accompanying grossness, though not all of it.)

5. How a character fights is based on what they know, what they’ve been taught, and what they’ve learned how to do.

How your character fights will be based on what she has access to and how she’s been trained to deal with the environment around her. Unless she’s the result of an experiment and turned out superhuman like Alice in the Resident Evil movies, standing toe to toe won’t be an option unless it’s a last resort.

It’s not a function of gender or training, it’s a function of numbers. If she’s working with a team of survivors then that’s a different story, but on her own she faces the same problem that these other humans do. She has to consider water, food, and the cost versus reward of expending her energy to fight if she doesn’t have to.

Combat risks injuries she can’t afford, requires energy which she’ll need time to recoup, would need to eat more food in order to regain (possibly more than what she has, meaning she’ll have to take more risks later to find food), and, of course, water. Not to mention sleep, exhaustion, and attracting the attention of other members of this species which will inevitably result in a fight she can’t win.  When she hits that point, game over.

The tension in survival stories is all cost versus benefit, and the inevitable consequences that result from people having to choose between morals and pragmatism. Ingenuity and problem solving skills are the order of the day, not how many monsters one can kill because there are always, inevitably, more. The guy who runs off to murder all the zombies is the moron who screws up the supply run because we were here to get baked beans, Bob, and now we have to find a way home through every zombie in the goddamn neighborhood.

6. Weapons and Strategies.

The answer to how to fight is ranged weapons, traps, and spears. Shotguns really wouldn’t hurt, they’re easy to load, easy to maintain, spray wide, and can be a great equalizer against the crowd.

The staff is the easiest hand to hand weapon to learn, provided she has someone to teach her. The spears has range (provided there’s room), and the reach means you can hit your opponents before they hit you. It is one of the best weapons for handling groups of enemies as a single. At the very least, she can swing it around in front of her to make it a bad idea for anyone to try and get close.

The bow is the silent killer but, fair warning, if she trains on one she’s gonna end up stacked. The compound bows will most likely have difficulty surviving, and regardless all bows require way more care than most people think. They also take time to prep, string, they cost arrows that’ll need to be either collected or replaced, and it’s not great for single combat or melee. In addition, if she goes out with just a bow, she’ll end up in the Jurassic Park velociraptor problem. One distracts and the others come in from the side. (However, when these “feral” humans begin showing signs of intelligence we’re back into those nasty colonialism themes. The colonialism issue can be solved by them being intelligent, but that defeats the initial purpose and any feel good killing.)

Traps. The traps are for the home front, so she can sleep well at night barred behind carefully erected walls. We’re looking at barbed wire and hanging cans. Pit traps, snares, etc. Anything she can come up with that makes getting to her difficult. (With exit strategies in case someone lights the tree house on fire.)

In the end, she has two basic options.

One: Hunt them down before they get her.

Two: Run like hell.

In a survival setting, number two is the smarter option.


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Just how fit are cheerleaders? What fighting styles might suit them best, given the muscles they use the most? Any weapon suggestions? I’m doing some research, but i’m not understanding it. I always understand your blog, though! My character will be fighting monsters larger than her, if that helps any. Thank you in advance! You’re the best!


Cheerleading is a sport, especially in the nationally competitive range. It’s like combining dancing with gymnastics except as a choreographed team event. It’s a grueling sport with athletes who are in pretty incredible condition, and like similar sports runs the risk of serious blowouts in the joints which will result in semi-permanent to permanent injury.

When you’re setting up a cheerleading character, the most important thing to remember is that cheerleading is a team sport. This is a character who is better at working with and relying on others than going it alone. The other thing to remember is that they’re athletes. These are driven, competitive, hardworking, and intense personality types when it comes to their sport. These are the girls who ditch their boyfriends for practice (if they have them), and sacrifice their off hours to being the best they can be. Like any athlete training for the pinnacle of they’re sacrificing a lot of personal/life time to be the best they can be. Netflix has the reality show: Cheer Squad, which may help you some. Bring It On is, of course, a classic.

Remember, this is a character who is used to working in a team when under pressure and has a social outlet. They won’t transfer well to working alone, and you’re going to need to either address this or remember to create their cheer buddies. If you want a similar kind of athlete whose sports background primary gears them for working solo when out on in competition then you want a gymnast.

This is part of the real life dynamic where Buffy the Vampire Slayer really lies to you, because if you went with the cheerleader background you’d end up with twenty girls fighting monsters rather than just one. Only one might have superpowers, but you can bet your bottom dollar the others would be ride or die. For the Sisterhood!

So, what does this net you for starting them as a martial artist/monster hunter? It cuts out a lot of the ancillary issues.

We’ve got someone who is: courageous, fearless, a high achiever, nicely conditioned, flexible, with an athletic history which means she’ll breeze through endurance training and the vast majority of basic physical conditioning has been taken care of. She’s got a running start.

You can push her a lot harder in basic training than you can your average recruit who starts with zip. She’s got more control over her body, so she’ll adapt faster. Cheer is just far enough off the basic combat move set that the two shouldn’t conflict too badly when it comes to her currently conditioned reflexes. Coming out of a background in choreography, she’s going to need some retraining for her timing and gets more comfortable with free flowing chaos.

If you wanted a character with parkour for a background, then this is one which can be adapted fairly quickly.

Monster Hunting:

So, you’ve got a big decision to make on the Urban Fantasy front for how this character is going to go about fighting monsters and solving crime. So, I’ll break it down by some of the big supernatural shows.

The “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – The Buffy modus is essentially fisticuffs. You get a superpowered heroine whose essential means of fighting monsters is punching them out. There are a few other weapons here and there like crossbows, axes, and swords, but guns are persona non grata. You get magic from the support characters and someone else does the research.

In the end, Buffy’s approach to the supernatural is fairly limited on the combat front with the interesting bits happening in other parts of the narrative like the character’s personal relationships. If you want a pure human approaching the supernatural from a combat perspective then Buffy is not right for you.

The “Supernatural” – The Winchester brothers… aren’t quite human, but close enough. This model is The X-Files and Urban Fantasy Private Investigator. Your character is more of a Jack of All Trades. They need to be able to do it all: research, fighting with a primary focus on guns, and investigation (especially in the early seasons). This is “determine what the monster is and figure out how to kill it” mode with the occasional problem that can’t be solved. 

The “Charmed” – Magic is the solution. This is where the primary solution to defeating the monsters is through magic. Magic is the weapon, and the focus, and normal weapons are mostly useless.

Unless they’ve got some sort of special, mystical weapon or a setting clear on its rules, a character who hunts monsters needs a fairly wide array of skills because the ancient monsters of myth, folklore, and fairy tales often require diverse solutions that are all fairly specific.

The decisions between guns or not, the level of technology your character will be using/relying on, their skill at researching and hunting down hidden truths in forgotten folklore, and their flexibility with alternative solutions are all on the table. Whether your setting has a “barrier” between the mundane and supernatural world is also a big decision as that will affect what level of strangeness your character can get away with.

When looking at a “standard” weapon for the character to carry, you want one that will fit a wide variety of situations or the ones the character is most likely to encounter.


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Book Smugglers Calls for Fiction Submissions for ‘Gods and Monsters’ Anthology – Pays up to $500/story


Book review blog and digital-first publisher Book Smugglers (est. 2008) has issued an open call for submissions to find the best original speculative fiction short stories based on the theme of “GODS AND MONSTERS.” Founders and publishers Thea James and Ana Grilo plan to publish a minimum of three stories, connected to the main theme, between May and August 2017. Original artwork by a commissioned illustrator will supplement each story.

Writers are encouraged to inject their creativity into the Gods and Monsters theme and create a story that excites and inspires them. It can be Gods VERSUS Monsters, or Gods but not Monsters, or Monsters without Gods. Writers may overturn these sample themes, embellish upon what “gods and/or monsters” represents, and fine-tune the concept to other plausible nuances and genres under the Speculative Fiction genre.

Keep reading


New Writing Contest! If this looks familiar, that’s because it is. The One Sentence story competitions are back! We’ve simplified the rules and changed a few things around to improve the format and accommodate a larger audience, and we’re excited to see what you can come up with. The genre theme for this contest is: Horror


One Sentence One Story

When you’re an authorial superstar, maybe you can throw sentences out with natural flair and have every word mean something new and astounding. Writers who are still learning, however, have to be very aware. Casting aside the bloat of a story and laying bare the essential organs can be painful, but the end result is worth it. Nietzsche, author of Beyond Good and Evil and the Anti-Christ, wrote in Twilight of the Idols: “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” This Halloween season, we want you to try to do the same.

Tell us a story in a single sentence. The entry can be in any style, prose or poetic, but the piece should fall within the Horror genre or use themes and symbols closely associated with it. 

Scary stories should be emailed to contest@cleverhelp.org or submitted here with the headline “[Your Title] by [Author] (Horror Contest)” by Midnight EST on October 30th. In order for us to send out fanmail about the contest and results, you must be following the blog to win. Under the cut are specific rules and prizes. Three random followers who reblog to promote the contest, regardless of whether they entered or not, have the chance to win a prize. So, help us get the word out!

Read More

On Unfortunate Implications

In fiction, we often use the supernatural and fantasy races as analogies to real world situations. We can say that it began with Buffy, but that does the genre a disservice. Linking vampires to sexual freedom and using them as an analogy for the dangerous sexuality of foreigners goes all the way back to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Horror, mystery, speculative fiction have used monsters as stand ins for xenophobia, repressed sexual urges, and countless other social issues. Both horror and speculative fiction have always been venues for which we talk about real world issues and fear in different guises.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with writing a story about monsters where the monsters are analogies for the fears and worries we have about growing up. Werewolves, for example, make for an excellent parallel to going through puberty. The issues pop up when a writer decides, accidentally or intentionally, to make their monsters thematically representative of a real world issue. When you explicitly make your werewolves about sex, remember that you’ve also opened them up to a discussion about rape. If your story involves a violent act on an unwitting party and spurred on by traumatizing transformation then yes, you may indeed by dealing with a rape analogy. Making magic, particularly demonic possession, your stand in for a discussion about mental illness is more than a little awkward given the history of treating mental illness. The discussion cannot simply be waved off because you don’t want to have that conversation. If you choose to start it, you will end up telling a story that says and means something vastly different from the one you intended.

For example, in Paranormal Romance and some Urban Fantasy, there’s a disturbing trend of supernatural creatures who want to be “normal”. There’s nothing wrong with this concept or desire in isolation. In fact, it’s a perfectly natural to want what society tells you you’re supposed to. Nearly every person experiences this desire at some point in their lives. However, there’s a difference between a swinging single young woman with a history of abuse entering into a relationship with the average handsome romantic lead and a werewolf jumping into bed with someone who has no clue that they just ate the neighbor’s cat (or used to kill runaways in Atlantic City on long weekends before they decided they didn’t like it anymore). When we step back and realize that most supernatural communities are treated as the equivalent of criminal organizations, mobster families, or gangs in their worlds then the process of leaving becomes much more complicated.

How do you feel about characters who knowingly endanger the lives of their loved ones without their knowledge or consent? Who knew they would be endangering their lives by entering the relationship before it even began? Is it romantic to sign the person they claim to love up for a gruesome death because their desires are more important than their lover’s life?

It doesn’t matter if you’ve decided that your character is a good person. It doesn’t matter if they’re supposed to be a hero in the context of their novel. There is no out to a dangerous lifestyle, there’s only delay. They know this, or they should, because most stories will bend over backwards to tell us how intelligent their protagonist is. If your character is a supernatural monster engaging in turf wars or a monster hunter or merely existing trying to get by, they’ll have made enemies. Those enemies aren’t going to simply go on sabbatical and hang up their hat just because the character has decided they’re done. While this can be a good source of drama in a story, it’s also worth noting that any character who does this is a selfish asshole. They can be a hero and an asshole.

What I’m saying is that it’s slightly different when a character discovers their boyfriend/girlfriend is a telepath who has been reading their mind the whole time after they’re already emotionally invested. Telepathy represents the ultimate breach of privacy and a character should have a choice to decide whether they want to have their minds read at all, much less realize that their “perfect guy” is literally knows their every whim. When the thread of the novel revolves around the idea that the love interest must acquiesce to allowing this character inside their mind (whether or not it’s within their control) and the character making no move at all to even negate the effects says very little about how much they value their lover and their right to privacy. When the novel ignores these problems, it becomes an issue.

For a real world parallel, how would you feel if your boyfriend hacked your Tumblr without your permission? How would you feel if a guy you’ve been crushing on at school did because he wanted to know more about you? Not just Facebook stalk or Twitter stalk, but a full on investigation into every aspect of your life. Instead of talking to you, he reads your diary and decides you’re the perfect girl for him. You don’t even get a chance to tell him you like him, he already knows. He’s decided you’ll be together, you can’t say no, and everyone in your life agrees with him. They think he’s great for you even though he’s been in your bedroom rifling through your underwear drawer.

Connotations and implications do matter, there’s a disconnect when the author says one thing about a character that doesn’t match up with who the character is in text. What your characters do and say, how the novel approaches their problems, who you choose to say is your character’s True Love, all these things matter.

There’s an easy solution to the problem which is allowing other characters to react in a realistic manner and sort through their feelings without being pressured or introducing new information to make the previous transgressions okay within the narrative. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if there’s a good reason for their harmful behavior. Kant is bullshit.  Regardless of intentions, justification is just how we live with ourselves and the choices we’ve made. It doesn’t mean other people have to be okay with or accept the choices we’ve made.

“I’m sorry I was a dick, but I was only doing it protect you!”

This doesn’t change the fact that one character hurt another character and now these two characters have to sort out where they’re at in the context of their relationship. Own it, your story will be better if you hold your characters to the consequences of their actions. Don’t force your characters to stay, give them the choice to walk away. Maybe they stay, maybe they don’t, I personally never know until I’m working in the moment. I’m often surprised.

In the end, there’s no way of escaping Unfortunate Implications. We are all flawed human beings shaped by our experiences and cultural prejudices. Despite our best intentions, they’ll always be there. All we can do is attempt to mitigate and address the problems we find. The trick is to acknowledge that they’re there and work to circumvent them both with our world building, plot, and characters. Handwaving or ignoring the problem won’t make it go away nor does it mean you automatically have to dislike or hate those characters because of it.


Hi! This blog is so helpful. I have a question regarding armor. My MC is part of a s.w.a.t. like team. They fight supernatural being who use sword and shields and engage in gunfights. What kind of armor would would you nede to be alle to engage in both?

Well, riot armor actually reduces mobility. It’s good for dealing with someone chucking a bottle at you, but if someone opens up on you with an automatic weapon, you’re screwed. I’d assume your supernatural beings would be slightly more dangerous than that.

Normal SWAT gear is probably the best option, honestly. Unless they’re dealing with a specific threat that calls for heavier armor.

If you’ve never seen it, the British TV series Ultraviolet, might be a good thing to look at.

I would strongly recommend against sword ‘n board in a modern environment, though. The problem with going toe to toe with a monster that’s superhumanly strong and fast is, in melee, you’re just going to lose. If your characters are going up against werewolves or vampires, or something worse, a shield isn’t going to save them, at best it will become the implement used to beat them to death.

Something Ultraviolet does, that might be worth expanding on is specialized ammo. Just because a vampire is “immune” to a chunk of lead passing through their body, doesn’t mean a dragon’s breath shotgun shell won’t ash them on the spot. High explosive rounds are a (rare) thing, so your monster might be able to soak off a .38 to the face, but when that .38 explodes on contact, it’s a different story.

Even things that are immune to conventional weapons might not be able to shrug off a Tazer slug.

The other thing that might be worth looking into is Hunter: The Reckoning. My fondness for the original World of Darkness is pretty well documented, but, Hunter was about humans with limited superpowers going up against monsters in an urban fantasy/horror setting.


I’m writing a story in which a vampire and a human create a deal where the vampire can suck the humans blood in return for money. The only issue is, I’m not sure how they’d safely go about it without A. Killing the Human or B. Turning the Human into a Vampire. I’m also not sure how often that exchange could happen, when taking the harm done to the human into concern and letting them heal up. Do you have any ideas? :0

This is all excellent and I’m just throwing out some other ideas for consideration. Here’s a quote from the fantastic British series Ultraviolet on this problem of vampires and feeding. It’s an amazing show and it has some pretty neat insights into vampires that are worth lifting. It also has Idris Elba as a vampire hunter.


  1. The FAQ here says it takes about a month to replenish the pint of blood that normal donations ask for. You should probably go by that law or maybe cut it a little closer – say, every twenty days – to avoid killing the human or giving them severe anemia. You should probably bring more people into the blood fold so the vampire can feed more often.
  2. Your vampire could suck the blood out through an IV, straw, or any other device that keeps the vampire mouth away from human skin. Or the human could give the pint of blood and the vamp could suck it out of the donation bag. Alternately, you could come up with a different method of spreading vampirism, like a spell or being touched with a talisman or dying in a certain way.

Just a note: blood isn’t a very good nutrient. The vampire bat drinks about half its weight in blood at every meal to get the nutrients it needs. To compare, an 80 kg vampire would need to drink 40 L of blood (84.5 pints) almost daily if they had the same blood-evolved digestive system as the vampire bat. Also, at the end of feeding, the vampire bat is too heavy to fly, so it urinates most of the liquid in the blood it has drunk. Most vampire books don’t address this – and I’m not saying you should either – but it’s something to think about.

Mike: How is all this kept quiet? I mean, a body turns up drained-
Doctor Angie Marsh: Doesn’t happen. Successful parasites don’t kill their host. They don’t drain their prey unless they want to recruit, and they’re very careful about who they recruit. Like we are

You get into trouble if you think about vampires as predators, but instead as parasites. A vampire doesn’t have to kill, in fact, it’s better for them in the long run if they don’t because they can keep themselves fed on a safe, steady supply of blood without having to worry about the mess that comes with having to constantly dispose of the bodies.

If you’re dealing with a variant of vampire that has to completely drain the host to ensure their own survival then this won’t apply, but if a vampire can leave the person their feeding on alive then they should because that person is a replenishing supply of blood. Now, your vampire is going to have to have developed some measure of self-control to be able to do this and depending on the kind of person the vampire is that may be difficult. It’s also going to depend on how often the vampire practices feeding. A vampire who feeds on human beings constantly is going to be better at controlling themselves than a vampire who does not do so regularly or one that usually completely abstains, such as Stefan Salvatore of Nicholas Knight. A vampire who turns up their nose at being a vampire isn’t going to be a very good at actually being vampire when it counts.

You’re going also going to have to ask yourself a few questions:

1) How much blood does the vampire need to drink to survive?

A vampire who needs to devour the whole amount of blood in the human system to replenish the blood they lose daily may actually choose to feed from multiple different people everyday instead of just one. If they only need a little blood, they may just use a single individual.

2) How often does the vampire need to feed?

If your vampire needs to feed every day, then feeding from the same person could be a problem. If the vampire only really needs to eat every few days or only needs fresh blood every few days while alternately subsisting on blood bags or animal blood, then they’ll probably give the human the time they need to recover before they feed again. Will they be living with the human or will it be a standard drop by situation?

3) How do people become vampires in your setting?

Sometimes, the process can be complicated. Sometimes, depending on the vampire society, it can be highly and carefully regulated. How people become vampires is going to depend on how many people know that vampires exist or if the existence of vampires is common knowledge. If turning someone into a vampire without the express permission of the local vampire government is illegal, then it’s likely that your vampire is going to be very careful when he or she feeds.

4) Why isn’t the vampire just taking the blood?

Vampires don’t generally pay for blood, so this is something that you’re going to have to cover in your story if you haven’t already. It can be moral reasons or the vampires not possessing powers of mind control, but the reason should be fairly upfront to avoid confusion.

Recommended Reading/Viewing:

Ultraviolet (1998): This fantastic British serial from the late nineties starred Jack Davenport, Idris Elba, Suzannah Harker, and Philip Quast. It may be a little hard to find, but you should look at it.

Forever Knight (1989-1996): This campy show starred Geraint Wyn Davies as the 800 year old vampire Nicholas Knight, who was looking for redemption and worked as a cop in Toronto. It’s ridiculously campy, but the vampires are done very well and might provide you with some ideas for getting out of the Anne Rice box. (If nothing else, Nigel Bennet as Nick’s sire, Lacroix is memorable.)

Vampire: the Masquerade: I usually throw this one out there, but it’s a great toolbox for how vampires might live in the modern world and what sort of societies, rules, and laws they might generate. Specifically, the source book Ghouls may be helpful to you for generating ideas on how other vampires might view your vampire’s arrangement with your human and how other relationships between vampires and humans evolve. If you want the experience of being a vampire or existing in the Masquerade world, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines is a great video game RPG to get you thinking like a vampire (just don’t play the Malkavians first).


do you have any tips on playing a vampire?


If you’re in a group, they should have guidelines to playing their vampire species that discuss strengths & weaknesses, abilities, etc. I’d stick to that. But if not, here’s my two cents on playing/creating a Vampire, as a person with intimate and extensive history with this species.


There are different types of Vampires out there, and even more that you could add on to or change somehow to reinvent them. There are sparkly Vampires, Buffy The Vampire Slayer I-have-a-very-strange-angry-face-effect-when-I-turn-on-my-Vampyric-powers Vampires, categories of Vampires, IRL Vampires, more stuff on IRL Vampires, ‘The Four Types of Vampires’ Vampires, ‘Vampire The Masquerade’ Vampires — literally shit tons of different ones out there to choose from or take inspiration from. 

Dive in and explore your options to figure out what kind of Vampire you want to use or base your Vampire off of. Typing in ‘types of vampires’ into Google is a+ helpful. 


I do not exactly recommend using outdated, overused, old ideas from other mythology to base your Vampires off of. Instead, I’d suggest you invent them all your own using what you know of Vampires already and building off of that.

Things to consider when creating Vampire mythology

  • Do they use clans? If so, how do clans function? How to Vampires outside of clans work? Are Vampires capable of being happy or fulfilled outside of these clans? Are clans a traditional thing that’s outdated in your society, or are they still present? How do other Vampires join these clans, if they can at all? 
  • Is there more than one kind of Vampire? Is there a hierarchy among different types of Vampires, such as ‘this one is deemed lesser than the others’? If so, what is this hierarchy based off of?
  • What do they eat? Human blood only, or animal blood too? How does blood effect Vampires in general, and how could different bloods effect them individually? Can they drink and eat human food, or will it makes them fall ill? Can they eat other supernatural creatures?
  • Do your Vampires follow any kind of religious views that are strictly of the Vampyric realm itself, or are they allowed to believe whatever? Do they believe in anything at all? Are their beliefs dependent on what clan they belong to?
  • How does turning work? How long does it take? Can Vampires turn humans and other species all they want? Are their progeny(s) seen as sacred children of theirs or just another Vampire? 
  • Can they mate to produce more children? Will their children be Vampires too? What about hybrids?
  • Do they hide from the world, or are out in plain sight? Or, do they reign over a selected piece of land?
  • Are people afraid of them? Are they part of the society’s folk lore?
  • How do they act? Does being a Vampire effect their personality? Does being in a clan effect their personality? Is there anything considered ‘bad Vampire behavior’?
  • What is their history throughout the centuries? Where did they come from / begin? How did they migrate? Do they shape-shift at all?
  • What are their fangs like? Rounded? Straight? Do they extend? Where are they located? 


Some Vampires smell as well as dogs, or hear as well as bats. Some Vampires are capable of sensing emotions that help them realize what a person is feeling even if they try to lie about it. Others can see visions while they sleep. Again, I don’t recommend using the same old boring folklore throughout history to rip your Vampires’ abilities off of. Get creative. 

I do, however, suggest you keep the whole ‘can’t be in the sun’ thing, since that’s a distinguishing Vampire-mainly type weakness. Their strengths and weaknesses are ultimately yours to play with, so have a bit of fun and think outside the box. 

Things to consider

  • Does Vampyric age effect how strong or weak a Vampire’s abilities are? 
  • What is your Vampire’s individual abilities? Meaning, out of all their abilities, what is their most honed or least good with?
  • How do Vampires die? 

I normally just play/create my Vampires based off everything above or take these things into consideration when developing my Vampires, and they seem to spring to life rather well. Hope this helps you out a bit, anon!

This is really great. I’d also add, don’t forget about vampire variations beyond the Western. These myths are world wide and you can take a lot of inspiration from the different varieties. Africa and Asia both have very interesting myths dealing with these undead.

Wikipedia: Vampire Folklore by Region is a good jumping off point to see the wide variation (and how old) vampire folklore really is and how far back beyond Dracula it goes. Vampires have been an important part of cultural myths all over the world and there are a bevy of interesting stories to draw inspiration from.

Jiangshi: The Jiangshi are a variant of vampire that feeds directly on a person’s energy or life force.

Kindred of the East was White Wolf’s foray into Asian vampire counterparts that that they called the Queijin (specifically Chinese and Japanese, and more specifically “chi eaters”). It’s a wothwhile starting point for research, but take it with copious amounts of salt. White Wolf can be spotty when dealing with other cultures, though their research is usually good. Either way, it’s a nice starting point and may give a few ideas especially if you’re looking to go in a different direction. The powerlist and descriptions in the sourcebook is very helpful.

Wikipedia: Asanbosam from West Africa.

Wikipedia: The Adze

The Kindred of the Ebony Kingdom: this was a secondary sourcebook dealing with the “Laibon” which were the vampire bloodlines out of Africa and based in the continent’s myriad of mythological traditions in the White Wolf’s World of Darkness setting. Again, some interesting stuff that already gears itself towards character building, storytelling, and society crafting.

White Wolf ran historical versions of Vampire in Vampire: The Dark Ages and Victorian Vampire.

The GURPS Vampire Companion, Blood Types, Creatures of the Night, and Undead are excellent investments for the collection of research material that is easy to flip through and are all a treasure trove of ideas. They’re also pretty cheap to order used from Amazon.

However, always be aware of the perils of Exotification and Orientalism in  the works listed, in any you uncover, and in your own work. Always do research on the societies the myths are based in so you can grasp some of the themes these societies valued and feared.