Scare Yourself First: A Horror Writing How-To

scare-yourself-titleHorror seeks to scare, terrify, and disturb. It can do this in a variety of ways, each exploiting things both readers and writers find terrifying.

Yes, you read that right. I did say the writer.

You see, the easiest way to terrify the reader and by doing so get the genre’s desired effect is to scare yourself first. To plumb the depths of your mind and soul to exploit your own fears, or twist the things you love into something you find terrifying.

How To Scare Yourself

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It may seem redundant to have a graphic reinforcing the theme of the entire post, which I already talked about in the introduction. But grasping this type of thing can be really difficult for people new to writing Horror, and any good Horror writing how-to should, in my opinion, make this type of advice clear and give plenty of chances and time for the reader to slowly absorb it.

So, how do you scare yourself so that you can better terrify your readers?

1) Look for things that scare you.

This bit of advice relies on the idea that you’re reading the genre. If not, go and read some Horror. It’s really hard to write an effective and, in this case, terrifying story if you’re not familiar with the expectations of the readers. What they’ve seen a lot of, what they haven’t seen much of, what they want to see more of as readers etc. To try to in any genre, but especially an emotion-based one like Horror, is to shoot yourself in the foot.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot when you can start writing with an advantage over those who underestimate the genre.

If you are a Horror reader, think about the things that scare you when reading Horror. What genre tropes do you like? What was the most terrifying story you ever read?

By examining the things terrify you in your own reading adventures, it allows you to use those things to terrify readers with similar tastes to you.

2) Write About Your Fears.

Another easy way to write a story that terrifies both yourself and your readers by extension is to write about the things which you already know terrify you.

Are you scared of ghosts? Write a ghost story. Scared of the dark or deep waters? Write a story featuring either or even both of those fears.

The idea behind this bit of advice is that, like other bits of advice before and after in this Horror writing how-to, you’re trying to lend a hard to master and indescribable quality to your writing. To create the impression for the reader that your heart raced, palms sweat, and flight or fight response was in overdrive while you were writing.

3) Turn Something You Love Into Something Scary.

The aim of this isn’t to ruin your enjoyment of the thing you love, but to ask yourself…what if? What if you have a character who enjoys drinking tea or coffee as much as you do that is going to be killed by a monster, serial killer, curse etc. as soon as they finish their cup? What if you have a romantic scene with cuddling, but one of the people cuddling is a flesh eating demon or a serial killer?

4)Take A Happy Memory And Apply It To A Horrifying Situation. Try Writing From The Monster’s Viewpoint.

Happy memories invoke many feelings in us. Therefore, it stands to reason that turning those memories into terrifying situations is an effective way of creating a truly terrifying story.

Think of something like a baby shower, a birthday party, your first kiss etc. What would that first kiss be like if you were a monster that ate their victim’s soul via kiss? What would a baby shower look like if the people holding it were demons or flesh-eating aliens? A birthday party that is normal and then, at the last minute, turns terrifying when it becomes obvious everyone is going to die?

5)Try Writing From The Monster’s Viewpoint.

A lot of Horror stories are from the point of view of the victim. The person being pursued by the demonic stalker, being followed by the werewolf, trying to outrun the serial killer that is after them and things like that.

Less common is the same situation from the point of view of the monster, which is what makes it so effective. By writing from the viewpoint of the monster, you immediately put the reader at a disadvantage. They’re being forced to identify with someone or something a writer normal doesn’t ask them to. The monster, in essence, no matter how monstrous, becomes human to the reader for the duration of the story.

monster-humanity

This is also a great place to go for little-known monsters instead of something everyone else is doing. How many people are writing from the viewpoint of a ghoul just coming of age? Someone who is an unusual strain of vampire? A serial killer that isn’t Dexter-like in their channeling their murderous impulses for the greater good?

While the number is insignificant, it gives an advantage when done right.

Another way to give yourself this advantage is to read books on the craft of monster creation and writing Horror. I recommend the follow books:

Writing Monsters by Philip Athans (Amazon link.).

On Writing Horror (Amazon link.).

Horror Upon Horror by Suzanne Ruthven (Amazon link.).

Until next time.  Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and the blog or check out my Facebook page if that is what you prefer. I hope anyone reading this has been able to get something out of it.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!

My Research Process

Each good writer has their own method of research. A method that is, among other things, the following:

Now, what qualifies as adaptable and reliable will change from person to person. But my own personal method works for me, and that’s all any of us can ask for. I hope that by detailing my method, someone will be able to take bits and pieces to create one that works for them.

My Method

Though I wouldn’t call it complicated, my method of research and taking notes does have a number of components that make it work for me as a writer. I use an analog capture method like the Bullet Journal, start with the most interesting thing first, make sure to answer some basic questions, and follow a note-taking procedure that I find to be effective in my own work.

Starting With The Interesting Stuff

If someone asked me, I would say this is the most important part of my personal research method. More important than how I take notes, my questions lists, or the way I use a Bullet Journal to capture notes and other information.

Without it, the other two would be a moot point. Who wants to spend hours and hours researching something that they have no interest in? Not me and definitely not when it comes to my writing, which I love.

It is with this in mind that I always try to start with the subject I find most interesting first when undertaking research. Starting with the interesting subject leads to more investment in the research itself. It also means that I am able to, through my research, develop an interest in areas I didn’t previously find interesting.

Generally, it means I look at big picture books first or in the case of a book on Hatshepsut that I’m reading, look at things from an individual to system approach. This was the life of Hatshepsut at this time in Ancient Egyptian history, how was it influenced by big picture things going on in Egyptian history at the time? This is what life was like in 1917, what impact would it have on the lives of the character in my story?

Analog Information Capture

analog

I prefer to capture as much information as I can via my Bullet Journal and binders or notebooks. Using and analog or non-digital method, whether a Bullet Journal or something else, means that I don’t have to worry about my computer or some other device conking out on me when I’m in the middle of doing something. This allows for an uninterrupted flow when I’m researching or writing.

You don’t need to use a Bullet Journal for this to work. I just love the Bullet Journal as a method of analog information capturing. Mainly because I’ve found it to work for a variety of different applications in my life. The benefit for my research process, in particular, is astounding.

If using a Bullet Journal for research, however, I would suggest dedicating it to a specific project instead of multiple projects. I like to keep the following types of things in my project related Bullet Journals:

  • research notes.
  • a bibliography.
  • a project breakdown.
  • a basic questions list.

The basic questions list will be explained and so will my notes, but the bibliography is basically the same as a research paper or a secondary source text like Whirlwind by John Ferling (Amazon link). It’s a good way for me to keep track of what I read for a project/novel. Sometimes it’s short and sometimes long.

Sometimes it’s short and sometimes long.

The project breakdown, which I reference here and here (Link pending.), allows me more control over the scheduling aspect of the process.

Another thing someone may want to add in is a log of some sort, a tracker for research hours. Which I will be incorporating into things myself. Like I mentioned at the start, a good research process is adaptable and reliable.

Questions Lists

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For some strange reason, I like lists. I just do. They’re useful ways of keeping information straight. Which is part of the reason the Bullet Journal works so well for me, being that it is, in it’s most basic form, a book of lists and/or sketches.

One of the types of lists I kept, even before I started to use a Bullet Journal, was what I like to call a  basic questions list. It’s something that helps me determine the basics of a story’s setting. Which may seem odd, but considering how influential to the story setting can be, is something I’ve found makes sense to know in order to frame my research.

My basic questions lists, generally, fall into one of three categories: secondary world, historical, and Earth-based settings. Each playing a part in how much research and the type of research I may need to do for a project.

secondary-world-questions

The research needed for secondary world settings, whether Fantasy or Science Fiction, tends to vary depending on the story. Something it shares with the Earth-based settings. A setting based in whole or part on a specific place and time requires more research, in my experience than one with a more nebulous base.

earth-based-questions

Earth-based stories also have a variable amount of research, but where they differ from Secondary World stories is that, for my work, the range of genres is wider and the research very detail oriented rather than big picture. This type of set of questions also tends to mean that the story is either near future, contemporary, or near past. Something which, itself, helps with the research being more detail based.

historical-questions

Lastly, we have the historical questions. Historical stories, be they Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror etc. require the most research. Because in order for the story to ring true and make sense, the story needs to make sense within the chosen time period.

Answering my historical questions list is the one I take the most time on out of all three for. I like research, so I devote quite a bit of time to research in all three cases. But I spend longer researching the questions on my historical list in order to be better able to determine my plot, character histories, if something I want to do in a story is even possible and how etc.

Notes

note-taking

Notes are the last part of my research methodology. They’re separated into two types, primary and secondary, because that makes them easier to label and reference later if and when I need them.

secondary-source-notes-2

Secondary source notes, or notes made on materials not contemporary to the event, are done like the picture above. Doing it this way allows me the flexibility of incorporating any needed changes to this part of my process pretty easily. Like in a previous post, where I mentioned that I’m trying to make the area below direct quotes into their own miniature references.

Primary source notes are, as mentioned in the same post, done differently. What I didn’t mention is that I’m working on distinguishing notes that deal with terminology. For now, I’m experimenting with a gold dot to signal those types of notes. So far, I like it.

Since both all of these things are done in a Bullet Journal, I make use of a hack known as threading. Threading is when you write the next or last page that is part of the collection next to the number of the current page. It’s most useful when the parts of a collection are separated by several pages being used for pages that are part of other collections.

Materials I Use

The Zebra Z-Grip Flight in Broad (Amazon link.).

The Uni-ball Signo UM-153 in Gold (Amazon link.).

The Moleskine Classic Notebook in Large (Amazon link.).

That all for now. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and the blog or check out my Facebook page if that is what you prefer. I hope anyone reading this has been able to get something out of it.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!

An Introduction To My Current Projects

An Intro To My Current Projects

Part of being a writer and choosing to blog about writing is sharing things personal to us. And what could be more personal than information about our projects?

The projects a writer chooses to undertake and share tell stories about who we are, what matters to us. With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to my current projects.

Written In The Stars

Written In The Stars, YA SF I tend to just call this one Stars. That’s even the way I labeled it when writing the outline for this post.

Stars is a Near Future Scifi story aimed at the YA market and based on my favorite play by Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet. And I have to admit, I just love this story.

It’s epistolary in nature. Which means that the story is told in a diary, letter or newspaper article etc. format. The format is a fun one to work with and part of the reason I enjoy writing the story so much. Though, I have to admit  I haven’t been working on it as often as I would like in the last couple of months.

Then there is the alien species in my story, which I will from now on be calling X when I talk about them. Besides just being awesome and thoroughly alien, I love that having the Romeo and Juliet relationship be a human-alien couple allows me to talk about some things I find to be important. Namely, the following:

  • racism.
  • integration.
  • friendship.
  • coming to terms with who you’re attracted to.

All of this including a Black 17-year-old girl who already identified as part of the LGBT spectrum. In short? LGBT, Girls of Color, Romeo & Juliet, and aliens! What’s not to love about that?

Bringing Me Dreams

Bringing Me Dreams, Gothic HorrorThis story actually started as a Camp NaNoWriMo novella in July of 2015 and plays into my love of Gothic Fiction and Gothic Horror. Particularly my love of vampires and/or immortals. Because if you know me, you know how much I love vampires and other types of immortal beings. Though the draw of vampires is, of course, their predatory nature and the fact they prey on humans. There’s just something appealing about that.

However, this story isn’t just all about vampires. It also features an interracial lesbian relationship, the story being seen through the eyes of the character who is a Woman of Color (A woman who isn’t White.), angst, and a story within a story.

I’m still in the prewriting phase of things at the moment. Rereading the story and tearing it apart, research, trying to decide which part of the story I want to write first and all that Jazz that comes before getting into the writing for me.

So far it has been fun and I love it.

I should also mention that “Bringing Me Dreams” is based on and inspired by the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe. It’s damn good and I urge anyone who hasn’t read it to do so.

Which brings me to the last project…

The Novella

The Gothic NovellaMy Unnamed Novella is what I’ve been mentally calling “If Wednesday Addams fell in love in a Secondary Fantasy world.” (Yes, that is a mouthful and I can’t wait until I find a more concrete title for it.)

It’s, of course, based on an obvious love of the iconic Wednesday Addams. Not to mention inspired by the some of my favorite songs by the band HIM, the poem “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe, and Lord Byron’s poem “She Walks In Beauty.”

However, you may be surprised to find out that is it still, like Bringing Me Dreams, in the planning stages. The only truly active project of the three is “Stars” and I like that because it takes some of the pressure off of writing.

One more thing before I go. I write longhand, meaning I write the story out on paper before transcribing it into a document. There’s a post coming on this next week where I will go into my whys and hows, but don’t be afraid to write longhand if typing into a computer isn’t working for you. It may be that you just need a change of scenery.

As always, thank you for reading. Please feel free to follow the blog if you want to. You can also find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook if that is your preference.

Research Tips For Writers

research-tips-title

Sometimes new writers can underestimate the importance of doing research. I know that it was something I struggled with myself, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. The problem was I hadn’t come across a research methodology that worked for me as a writer yet. I knew I needed to research and that all genres and stories would require it.

From a Gothic Fantasy story featuring a lesbian relationship and set on a world that resembles  18th century New England/England, based on the poem Anabel Leed by Edgar Allan Poe.  To world hidden within our own, or one that doesn’t resemble ours at all culturally but uses swords. Even a coming of age story set in the year 2000 or a modern Horror story/Thriller featuring a serial killer. (Badly research serial killer stories are, surprisingly, a lot worse to read than most people would think. And so, for that matter, are badly research SciFi & Fantasy stories of any sub-genre.)

Then I found Anthony Brundage’s Going to the Sources (Amazon link.), and though I found his aversion to computer sources weirdly amusing, things started clicking into place for me. The most important being something I had already known but didn’t quite understand, the difference between primary and secondary sources.

Primary sources are things like letters, news footage, diaries, artifacts, and other items that actually come from the era a writer is researching. Think of Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man (Amazon link.), an Ancient Egyptian tomb and its contents, an item of clothing from the 1940’s, and newspapers from 1820’s London.

What a primary source does is provide facts while putting you in the mind of people or a specific person living in a place during a certain era in time.

Secondary sources are by contrast, though all great ones are supported heavily by primary sources, distanced from the event by virtue of being written after it took place. Generally by someone who didn’t experience the time in question or were not even born when considering modern scholarship of things from more than a century ago. Books like Between Women by Sharon Marcus (Amazon link.) or Whirlwind by John Ferling ( Amazon link.) for example. The upside of this type of source, however, is that we have the chance to evaluate the writer’s logic by comparing them to the Primary sources and judging the quality that way. A book with a logical theory and approach to proving it for example often lists a lot of Primary sources in the bibliography.

The upside of this type of source, however, is that we have the chance to evaluate the writer’s logic by comparing them to the primary sources and judging the quality that way. A book with a logical theory and approach to proving it for example often lists a lot of primary sources in the bibliography.

Tips

Now, to get to the part of the post you’ve been waiting for. The tips themselves. I’ve created a handy infographic with them, which you can find below and to the right:

research-tips-graphic

The tips are simple in and of themselves, but I’ve found that implementing them is the main component of a successful research strategy for me. And in order to do that, I’ve found that I have to be flexible in my approach to them.

Let’s use notetaking as our example. I use the Bullet Journal® system for my research related to writing. (You can find my post about how I use it for writing here and here, though I will be doing a more comprehensive post about the way I use it for projects like novels in the future.) I also format my notes differently depending on the type of source I’m working with. When working with primary sources, I put the reference information at the top of the page right under the title. On the left side below that,  I put the text of the source. On the right, I have my notes and impressions of the source. Sometimes I like to print the sources out if they’re from a reputable site like Yale Avalon and too long to easily write out. In which case, I copy, paste and make sure to put the link in the upper right-hand corner.

For secondary source related notes, the procedure is similar. Reference info and the title of the article and all that jazz, though I don’t print info from this type of source since I prefer to own the actual text in this case. The notes themselves are done in a bullet point style, differing from my typical dash for daily log notes. I keep them fairly uniform in nature so the focus is on the notes. Here’s a graphic of how I tend to do my secondary source notes since it is sort of difficult for me to explain.

secondary-source-notes

As you can see, my personal impressions are signified by a gold bullet point instead of my standard black bullet point that I use for other secondary notes. And quotes pulled directly from the text have the page number located on the right-hand side just below the quote itself.

But you’re probably wondering this has to do with being flexible. Simple. I’m not married to this exact style of taking notes for secondary sources. In fact, I sometimes have a thin column on the left where I store more information. Things like the chapter and/or the subheadings. But I’m trying to streamline things and turn that info into a sort of mini reference under my direct quotes.

I’m always looking for ways to make my notes more efficient and easier for me to use in the future. Which, when I actually think about, is what makes a good writer. You adapt things about your system that aren’t working for you until you have a method that works and a story that shines like a diamond. Notetaking and research are just one of the areas we can polish our systems until they shine.

I hope this post was helpful. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, and my Facebook page. And once I finally conquer Pinterest, you will be able to find me there as well.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!

Why I Write Young Adult

 

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Unfinished YA Paranormal main character, Belladonna. Drawn for me some years ago during a writing even.

 

There are a lot of misconceptions about Young Adult or YA Fiction. That it is fluff and nothing but, while somehow being full of issue stories. That it doesn’t take as much effort to write YA because the demographic, 13/14-year-olds to 18-year-olds will allow a writer to get away with just about anything. That YA is a genre in the traditional sense. Even that you can’t have sex, violence, swearing, or other material adults find objectionable for young adults to read in it.

Much like so many misconceptions in life, none of these things are true

Young Adult or YA Fiction is, for example, not a genre in the traditional sense, but a marketing category based on the themes and the age of the character. Which means that a YA story can be any genre. Horror, Romance, Contemporary and Literary, Scifi & Fantasy, Historical. All of these genres under the YA umbrella are equally able to support the theme of teen concerns and coming into yourself that is the hallmark of this awesome market.

Then you have the graphic content issue. There isn’t much to say except that you can have sex, violence, or swearing in YA stories. Even graphic swearing, violence, sex etc. is allowed as long as it isn’t gratuitous. Which may seem strange to some, but I like to think of it as the following: if a story is about a teen struggling with cutting, trying to survive a serial killer classmate or school shooter etc., then swearing or graphic violence aren’t out of place. They are part of the story and it is our jobs as writers to represent the story in as true a form as is possible. Glossing over a teen who cuts, or the swearing in a YA Horror novel doesn’t add anything to the story itself. Letting the story be what it is, graphic content and all does.

The same can hold true of any other YA story; if the story is actually enhanced by the graphic content, whatever it may be, then removing it doesn’t make any sense from the story perspective.

Which, finally, brings us to the reason I love writing YA. The combination of almost anything being allowed as long as it isn’t gratuitous, the wide range of genres within the market, and the innovative combination of genres and themes many YA stories cover. It’s a heady combination as a writer, to have that type of freedom and only be expected to write a good story.

And if you love something, like a specific type of writing, why not put in the time and effort to write stories in that market yourself?

The belief a writer should write what they love is what keeps me writing the genres I do. Graphic Horror stories aimed at the Adult market, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and yes, the various genres you can find in YA.

And I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Thank you for joining me and please don’t forget to subscribe to the blog, my Instagram, Twitter, and like my Facebook page. You’re taking the time to read this blog is important to me, and I’d appreciate the chance to make this blog more interactive for you guys.

 

The Not So Great Blog Merger 2017

belladonna
A picture of a character from an unfinished YA story that was drawn by someone for me during a writing event, and later became Eclectic YA’s background image. Isn’t she awesome?

Let me tell you a story. 

Once there was a naive, enthusiastic young would-be blogger who decided to start a, you guessed it, blog. She put a lot of work into this blog. Though it lay dusty for random stretches of time, she always came back to it because she loved it. But this blog had grown beyond its scope and one topic was battling like betta fish with another. 

The topics?

Writing Young Adult Fiction and an eclectic mix of topics that centered around her experiences as an aspiring novelist writing Adult Fiction. Nope, not porn. Think the Horror you would see in your average Horror section of a bookstore, provided they have one, vs Young Adult ( known to writers of the category as YA) Horror. Or another genre that has both a Young Adult and a “normal” adult market such as Fantasy, Scifi, and Historical Fiction.

One day she was struggling with whether to give the Young Adult or the Adult topic more love on that specific day and it dawned on her, she could start another blog for the Young Adult related stuff and her Adult market writing could stay exactly where it was. It would be more work, but well worth it if she could just switch between blogs when needed.

Long story short. Yes, I know. It’s too late for that now that I’ve told you the story. I was that blogger and a few years ago, during an earlier incarnation of the blog, I created an offshoot that I called Eclectic YA. Suffice to say the blog, to my great dismay, didn’t make it. It repeatedly fizzled out for a variety of reasons, just like older versions of this blog. But I still love it and some of my posts for the old version of this blog. 

And since I love them so much, and think they could definitely be of use to my current readers, I’ve decided to slowly integrate them both into this blog.  New and improved but integrated just the same. 

I will, of course, tell you which ones are part of the merger. So be on the look-out for them. My first merge post is tomorrow’s post on why I write Young Adult or YA.

Vampires as Byronic Heroes

byronic-heroes-title-banner-post

There’s something about vampires that draws us in and has for a long time. An undeniable attraction exists between us, their would-be prey, and them, our would-be predators.  And the same can be said for the archetype of the Byronic Hero. An archetype that has, in my view, melded with that of the vampire so much that it is nearly impossible to separate.

However, I don’t expect you to take my word on it. I’m not the first and last authority on the subjects in question. So, without further blathering, let’s dig deeper into the topics of vampires and Byronic Heroes.

Vampires

Everyone seems to know what a vampire is. But, for the sake of this post on the subject, I will define what a vampire is:

Vampire: The reanimated corpse that survives on the blood of the living and hunts the living as prey.

Not quite the Merriam-Webster version of what a vampire is, but a solid working definition nonetheless. Though it does ignore that vampire-like beings have been a part of mythology for thousands of years, going back to demons that stalked the night drinking the blood of or devouring a variety of unsuspecting humans, including newborn babies.

Despiting being around for thousands of years in some form or another, scaring the living daylights out of humans who for most of their existence thought them real, modern vampires do share a number of similar traits:

  • They tend to be dead or, in those stories where the writer wants to go a more science-based route, have an extremely slow heartbeat. Dead/undead is far more common, however.
  • For some weird reason, they tend to be attractive. This could be seen as a consequence of the fact that a lot of modern vampires tend to be “turned” due to love or a desire for companionship and us humans are social beings, we want people in our lives that we find attractive in some way.
  • They consume the blood of the living.
  • They, generally, hunt humans.
  • They tend not to care about human laws, mores, and the like unless it is somehow of benefit to them.
  • They’re immortal more often than not.
  • May be isolated and/or a tortured soul.

In short, vampires are no more someone we would want to meet in a dark alley at night than a serial killer whose victimology we happen to fit. Especially if that serial killer is a sociopath or smart psychopath.

Byronic Heroes

On the other hand, we have Byronic Heroes, a character archetype that permeates popular culture in many ways while not being seriously discussed outside of academic circles in most cases. But what is the Byronic Hero?

But what is the Byronic Hero?

The Byronic Hero is named for George Gordon Byron (Jan. 22nd 1788 – Apr. 19th 1824), the sixth Baron Byron, a  British poet, politician, and major figure in the Romantic movement. Byron was known for his disregard for societal opinions on a number of subjects and thought to be bisexual by some. Essentially, Byron was the bad-boy of the early 19th century and famous for it.

More than being named for Lord Byron, however, the character and their traits were codified in his writing. Byronic Heroes:

  • Are capable of heroic behavior and redemption.
  • Tortured by some deep, dark secret in their past that, typically, is something they did or a trauma they experienced.
  • Are intelligent, charismatic, and often also very physically attractive to others.
  • Are isolated from society in some way, whether it be emotional, physically, or even both.
  • Disregard social rank and have little respect for social institutions and mores.
  • Are individualistic in nature, commonly with a penchant for self-destructive tendencies.
  • Sympathetic despite rejecting what society sees as being virtuous.
  • Are moody.
  • Have obsessive passions, be they revenge, love, things they enjoy.
  • Are easily bored/jaded and arrogant.
  • Are cunning and able to adapt.
  • Are introspective and self-critical.

Doesn’t sound like a pleasant character, right? And they’re not. They’re not meant to be pleasant, but sympathetic and redeemable instead. Which brings us to the overlap between vampires and Byronic Heroes.

The Overlap

If you’ve made it this far, great! I’m glad you were able to deal with almost seven hundred words of me simply describe the characteristic of these two seemingly disparate things. The monster that appears human and the redeemable monster that is human.

Make no mistake, Byronic Heroes, despite their heroic nature and ability to be redeemed can be viewed as a sort of human monster. And vampires are a classic part of the monster lineup in literature and film. But this section is for the overlap, not more gushing.

So, how are vampires and Byronic Heroes similar?

On the surface, both share an attractiveness, cunning, and ability to adapt to their surroundings in order to better survive. Both also are isolated from society by what/who they are and have little respect for how society operates. But if we go deeper, we find that many vampires, even ones meant to be emotionless such as Anne Rice’s Lestat or Louis tend to be moody, introspective, and capable of great heroics in the service of someone for whom they share an obsessive form of love.

Take, for example, Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He starts out as this adverse character, much like Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice except for being demonstrably evil in nature within the world of the show. However, as we move through Spike’s arc, the brooding person who doesn’t care about anything but the things he cares about… well, doesn’t change exactly. Let’s say that he evolves. From a semi-Byronic character to a full-blown Byronic character.

Spike is ruled by his own moral code that is, in part, fueled by his obsessive need to defeat Buffy, the show’s titular character, and later his love for her. Even going so far as to sacrifice his life to save hers and the entire world in an act of redemption after sexually assaulting her in an earlier season of the show. Keep in mind that I’m not endorsing his actions. Rape and attempted rape are heinous crimes that far too many have experienced in their lives and there can be no excuse, and, in my opinion, no redemption for what Spike did.

However, that he did this heinous thing, was tortured by what he did, and was able to be redeemed in the narrative afterward are all the hallmarks of a Byronic character. Particularly when combined with his street smarts, attractiveness, broodiness, general darkness and other Byronic traits.

A less disturbing use of what I’ve come to think of as the Byronic Vampire may be Louise. His death is caused by Lestat’s need for him, but also by his guilt for feeling responsible for the death of his brother. And later his guilt after feeding on a young girl, when he had previously confined himself to rats and other vermin, which culminates in Lestat turning her in order to keep Louis with him and Louis developing a profound and obsessive, in my opinion, familial love for Claudia, the child who was turned.

Lestat himself is Byronic in his own right, but to explain that would require an entire essay of its own. I hope that this post has helped you to understand vampires as Byronic characters.

You’ve probably notice that I didn’t cover Edward Cullen from Twilight, who is, in fact, a Byronic Hero. I don’t like Twilight and find Edward to be both Byronic and highly abusive in nature. Which may seem weird as I included Spike in this post, but Spike started off as an evil character that did an unforgivable thing and was redeemed. And I feel that the narrative of Twilight, due to being Bella’s point of view, glosses over Edwards Byronic failings.

I like my reprehensible Byronic Vampires to be viewed as such instead of as perfectly normal.

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Don’t forget to join me on Wednesday! I’ve got some exciting things planned for February and that is when I will tell you about them.