Tv Tropes link here. Sorry, not sorry.
I enjoy a good vampire story. And because of this fact, I have read a lot of vampires. Scary vampires and sexy vampires. Vampires that are humans with a condition. Vampires that aren’t called vampires but share all the characteristics of vampires. Vampyre with different names like strigoi and different spellings like umpyr. Just lots of vampires.
Yet there has been something I noticed over the past few years. There are certain tropes that everyone knows belong to vampires that are rarely, if ever, used. So this post is dedicated to the vampire tropes I never get to see.
Disclaimer: I read mostly urban fantasy, so this comes at things from an urban fantasy standpoint. Some of these tropes might be more common in the horror genre, movies, or in other places.
More often than not, I find that a lot of these tropes “exist”. If you count existing as the vampires in question scoffing at them having that trope at all. My personal theory is that authors don’t want to be seen as following a trend so they subvert it right into actually being a cliche.
The reality is a bit more complicated. I can see two major reasons why a lot of these tropes aren’t present. Some of these tropes don’t make sense when you think about them. Some of the rest are nearly impossible to implement well. These explanations is only carried so far, though. Some aren’t loved, others are seen as boring. Whatever the case, here are some vampire tropes to sink your teeth into.
Vampire Tropes Not Commonly Seen:
There are three “common” varieties of transformation. Mist form, bat form, and transformation into other animals like wolves, cats, and other predators. Of these, mist form is undoubtedly the coolest. It has so much potential, all spent on never existing! I’ve seen transformation into non-bat animals the most often, though. Probably due to my personal theory of outclicheing into the cliche.
Transformation is the one trope on here that I almost never see, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why. What do the authors have against transformation? What is so wrong about turning into a creature that can fly? Why not use the ability to drift through cracks to your advantage? They aren’t any bloodhounds to be found! There are so many possibilities, and it disappoints me I never get to see them. It is especially weird that they cannot transform, when so many stories are vampire vs. were.
Being sensitive or repelled by garlic is one of those tropes that everyone knows about vampires. It is a standard, expected vampirism trait. This one surprises me the most. It is very rare that I see it to the point when I do, it stands out because I wasn’t expecting it. I’m so used to the “Why would I be allergic to garlic?” “joke”. There is no real reason to not include it that I can think of, other than the author thinks it is ridiculous. Though, there isn’t really a benefit to including it except tradition, either. If true, one thing is to be sure: being a vampire in Italy must suck.
Contrasting garlic restrictions, it is easy to tell why I never seen Renfields in action. Renfields are those poor creatures that vampires control using thrall or through some other means. They don’t have much, if any, will of their own. It is easy to see why I hardly see them, especially in urban fantasy. I suspect that this is much more common in the horror genres. If the author wants the reader to like the vampires in their story, they have to make those vampires likable. It is a real pain in the neck to create a character you want your readers to love, only to have readers turned off when they ruin a human by making them into a Renfield.
There used to be a folk tale in the countryside that if you tossed a handful of seeds, rice, or other small objects in the path of a vampire, they would have to stop to count them. Over time that mas mutated slightly to include obsessions of all kinds. Often, I find that this trope has been transmuted even further into an obsession for power or money only, if you can even count that as the same trope. However, the original was an obsession with counting, which is where The Count from Sesame Street gets his personality. And remains, to this day, the only place I have ever seen this trope in action.
Personally, I think crafting a story with this trope would be very difficult. I understand why most stories don’t include this. In fact, most stories don’t even bring this up as a possibility to be discounted.
Can’t Cross Running Water
There is another old folk tale that says vampires cannot cross running water. This often inspires more questions than it answers. What exactly constitutes running water? Does a nearly stagnant stream count? How swiftly does it have to be moving to constitute being “running”? Can they use a bridge? Does rain cause them to melt? If rain doesn’t stop them, do the tiny streams that happen during rain runoff? Then there is the very real question of what indoor plumbing means as a source of running water. It would bite to be stopped every time someone had to use the restroom.
It is easy to see, with this many questions outstanding, why it isn’t used often. It introduces a lot of doubt to the reader, and can throw them out of the story. If the author sets it up a lot, it could work. Yet it can also throw the reader out if there is too much information if it isn’t handled well. The balance for this trope is difficult to manage.
Sleeping in Coffins
Another of those old school tropes that never see the light of day. A classic trope, vampires are supposed to sleep in coffins during the day. Yet this is incredibly rare. Many authors seem to question what the point even is to sleeping in coffins. When it does come up, it is treated as an eccentricity or safety concern. Clearly, it isn’t a requirement to being a vampire in the eyes of the many.
Dirt of the Homeland
Often paired with sleeping in coffins, vampires are supposed to have to sleep on the dirt of their homeland for “mystical reasons” or what have you. Another almost extinct trope. There just isn’t really much reason to include this trope, especially if you aren’t going to have your vampires sleep in coffins. Dirt is finicky and bloody heavy. You can’t travel easily with it. This is just an impractical and difficult to implement trope. Tradition is one of the only reasons to really have this in a story.
Unseen in Mirrors
Another old school trope that has been left behind. It is said that vampires cannot show up in mirrors. In recent years, this has changed to include photography and film. If you reflect on this, could you imagine the logistical nightmares of not being able to be seen in mirrors? Especially if you’re trying to keep the supernatural world a secret? Nevermind what it means to try and do your makeup!
What are some examples of these tropes in action?
What are your favourite vampire tropes?
Do your experiences mirror mine? Are they different?