Probably the first thing that one should consider in writing vampires is what rule system you intend to follow. This is not a universal, as the Sims 4 Vampires pack knows. (Yes, I’m a Simmer!)

Some considerations:

What will be their relationship with religion?

  • In Russian folk beliefs, a vampire was a witch or otherwise rebelled against the Russian Orthodox church.
  • In medieval European Christian folk beliefs, a vampire was a mockery of Christian immortal life and therefore unholy.

These are probably the origin of the idea that vampires are repelled by crosses, can’t enter churches, can’t speak the word “God,” etc. This idea is probably awesome for Christian readers/viewers but is problematic for people of other (or no) religions because it implies Christianity is True [TM] and the reader/viewer’s belief system probably isn’t. Jim Butcher handles this concept in the Dresden Files by making it any religious symbol that the wielder believes in (Harry Dresden uses his pentacle). Anne Rice’s vampires have no issue with Catholic iconongraphy, or any other religious imagery. Cassandra Claire’s Jewish vampire thought he was about to die and found himself unable to say the Sh’ma, which Jews are supposed to say when they die. It also makes little sense for an atheist vampire to be any more repelled by religious iconography than any other atheist, IMHO, unless one is making a statement about atheism being non-factual.

Just… consider the vampire’s relationship with religion. Is the vampire unholy, or is it basically an odd medical condition (like The Hunger)? Is your vampire repelled by religious artifacts? Are they religious themselves?

What powers and weaknesses will your vampires have?

The Sims 4 has a vampire power menu as you level up, so you can make your vampires more like Dracula, or more like Louis and Lestat, or more like Edward Cullen as you prefer. They do have to “level up” before they gain access to the “better” powers, however, which is kind of a throwback to Anne Rice in addition to being a gameplay mechanic. But as you level up, you’re also required to take on vampire weaknesses. Weaknesses are also handy from a writing perspective, as it’s bad if your hero or villain has no weaknesses.

  • Many vampires in literature have a hypnotic gaze. Does your vampire have any kind of mind control powers? What are their extent?
  • Dracula can travel as a bat, a wolf, or mist. There are Jewish folklore creatures who are kind of vampire/werewolf creatures who can turn into wolves and drink blood. Can your vampire shapeshift?
  • Dracula is unharmed by the sun, but his powers are less effective. Edward Cullen sparkles in the sun but suffers no ill effects. The idea of sunlight being lethal to vampires originated in the movie Nosferatu. I know, right? Does the sun weaken them, kill them, or have no affect at all? Can they function at all during the day, or do they become unconscious and sleep the day away? Do they go to high school? (If so, are they being punished for their sins?)
  • Is your vampire beautiful or monstrous? If they’re beautiful, is it because vampirism makes them beautiful, or were they chosen for their beauty to be vampires?
  • Fangs or no fangs? Are they “retractable” fangs? If they don’t have fangs, what do they use to “eat” with?
  • Can your vampire eat food? Folklore vampires loved food, but more modern interpretations have favored the withered stomach that can’t handle solid food. If they eat food, is it just for pleasure? Has their sense of taste changed? The vampires in Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches eat food, but prefer raw/undercooked meat, nuts, berries, and wine. (Their need is more to hunt than for the blood, although they drink the blood of what they catch.)
  • Can your vampire sustain themselves without killing humans? Anne Rice’s vampires must be very old to develop the skill to stop drinking before the victim dies. Edward Cullen is famously “vegetarian.” Rice’s Louis struggles to get by on animal blood, but it weakens him. Harkness’ vampires can manage on animal blood fine.
  • Do your vampires have sex? Is it just for fun, or do they procreate? Do the offspring have any special powers or abilities? Are they baby vampires that drink blood, or do their powers manifest at a certain age? (Can you resist making vampire toddlers literal “ankle biters”?) Is your vampire oddly seductive? Is that a hypnotic power? Are vampires more likely to have a certain sexual orientation or gender identity, or do they keep the ones they had when they were mortal? (Rice’s vampires are almost exclusively pansexual and genderqueer.)
  • How are new vampires made? Are they born? Are they intentionally created through an exchange of body fluids? It’s unusual nowadays for people to write the story where God punishes heretics by turning them into vampires, but that was previously a common origin story. In Slavic folklore, I believe, vampires were created through a combination of being drunk from and “an unnatural death”—death by violence. Is being drunk from by a vampire “risky” beyond the risk a vampire will kill them? If so, how does one explain the relative rarity of vampires? Is it just a disease? Is there more than one way to create a vampire?
  • Is there a cure? Can a vampire go back to being a normal person? In the TTRPG Brinkwood, vampirism is a temporary condition that must be continuously renewed by drinking more blood. In the Sims 4, vampirism can be cured. If your vampire is dead, they probably cannot be cured. If they are cured, will they start aging normally from that point forward, or will they rapidly age to their “actual” age and die? This might be useful if you wanted a limited time window on a cure.
  • Are vampires dead? Are they “undead”? What does that mean? Do they have a heartbeat, circulation, brain activity? Folklore vampires were traditionally dead. If a vampire is born, are they “born dead”? How will you handle aging if a vampire is born rather than made? For that matter, do “made” vampires age?
  • What can kill/destroy your vampires? Sunlight? Wooden stakes? Decapitation? Holy water? Fire? Can your vampire catch a cold or a disease? What affect did COVID have on your vampire?
  • What do your vampires feed on? I know the obvious answer is “blood,” but Jim Butcher’s White Court vampires feed off intimacy (and sex), and What We Do in the Shadows’ Colin Robinson is a psychic vampire who feeds off the energy of others by boring or annoying them.
  • What is your vampire’s financial situation? The rich aristocrat vampire originated with Polidori’s The Vampyre and was loosely based on disaster bisexual Lord Byron. Most vampires have decades of compound interest at the very least, unless they’re very young or very profligate.
  • Is there a vampire society? Is it a hidden world, or are they open? How organized is it? Do they have laws? What happens to vampires who break the laws? If they don’t have an organized shadow government, do they tend to form groups or live alone?
  • Do humans know vampires exist? Do vampire hunters exist? Do vampires feel any pressure to keep their existence a secret?
  • Can your vampire cross water? Does your vampire suffer from arithmomania? Those are both traditional vampire weaknesses. It would be fun to see them used more often. (See Cherie Priest’s Bloodshot for her OCD flapper cat burglar vampire!) The mirror thing was invented by Stoker, but… does your vampire appear in mirrors? If not, how do they do their hair/makeup and brush their fangs?

Note that it’s historically common for people to portray marginalized people as vampires to malign them, from Jews during the Dreyfuss Affair to Black men during Reconstruction, so… be mindful of that. You don’t have to avoid it–bring on the sympathetic Black vampires!–but be aware so you don’t unintentionally use stereotypes and convey a meaning you don’t intend.

Suggested further reading:

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