6 Ways To Make A Compelling Heroic Vampire
As I have said in my last two articles on vampires, the heroic vampire is not my favorite kind of vampire. I definitely prefer the dark and evil vampire simply because they make far more sense to me than the heroic. There are some very good examples of them being done quite well. To me the best examples come from Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. There are several things that Joss Whedon does quite well with his heroic characters. They are not the only way to do a heroic vampire though. The author’s creativity should abound when making such a character, yet there are certain guidelines I consider useful. In this article, I will discuss them. To this end, I will use examples from shows, but these will be relegated to the sidebars. If one has not watched Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Angel but plans to, they should not read the sidebars.
Thomas Raith from The Dresden Files is a fine example of a compelling vampire that feeds on the willing. Though not your typical blood drinking vampire, he still exhibits the characteristics of a vampire. The main individual, he feeds on is willing because the emotional feeding keeps her insanity at bay and then because she loves him.
I. Blood Drinking
This is of course the biggest problem with making an heroic vampire. When one gets right down to it, vampires are parasitical creatures somewhat akin to leeches. There are a few ways around this though. Joss Whedon uses the idea that it does not have to be human blood and has Angel drink pig’s blood. Another solution would be that vampires do not necessarily need to drink blood. This solution is used in The Vampire Diaries. In this case, blood is not essential, but it does increase the vampire’s power. There would then be a strong temptation to increase one’s power by the drinking of blood. A third option could be that the vampires feed only on the willing. This still has some nastiness to it, but it could be used effectively by the right author to make a compelling but heroic vampire.
A good example of this despair can be seen in the ending scene of episode 11 of season 5 of Joss Whedon’s Angel. In this scene Angel points out to Spike that no matter what they do, they cannot restore the lives of those they have killed.
II. Guilt Or Mercy
Connected to the idea of blood drinking would be the entire idea of the vampire psyche, which I shall now explore. This will all depend on how one chooses to do the vampiric race and the heroic vampire. Perhaps, the heroic vampire is like Joss Whedon’s Angel. He was once one of the most diabolic and dark vampires, yet in the series, he is a champion of goodness. He feels guilt for his previous actions and is seeking redemption. Guilt can thus be a driving force in the vampire’s psyche. It can consume him and drive him to do good instead of the evil he once did. This guilt can lead to deep despair.
However, as a Christian, the idea of mercy is one that has always appealed to me. Mercy can be another driving force behind an heroic vampire’s deeds. Like Angel, it can know that it deserves death for its previous actions, but because it has been given mercy, it seeks to do good. It does not do this to set right the past, which it cannot set right, but rather because of the mercy extended to it. This will change what the quest is about though. The vampire is no longer on a quest for redemption but rather on a quest of thanksgiving. For more on this idea I would suggest reading Titus 3:3-8 and Ephesians 2:1-10
The First Thomas Raith Book
Touching on the blood drinking once more, the power that it holds over the vampire can easily lead to an exploration of the idea of temptation. The vampire can be assailed every day by the temptation to drink blood and to destroy life. If it is to be heroic, it must resist this temptation. It must sacrifice its own comfort in order to serve others. The path taken to avoid temptation can vary. If the vampire is driven by guilt, he will constantly remind himself of what he has done. If on the other hand the vampire is driven by mercy, he will constantly remind himself of the great gift that he has been given in receiving mercy, which he did not deserve. This temptation should be easily understood by humans as we face temptation every day of our lives.
IV. Beastliness Versus Humanity
As the vampire is both human and beast in one body, he must strive against his beastly animal nature. As an animal, he is driven by his strong instinct to survive, which requires him to feed to gain either sustenance or power. His human nature therefore must override his animal instinct so that he can rise above it to protect others. The vampire must reclaim his humanity and nobility.
Vampire Antagonist: Darla
An example of this would be Darla from Joss Whedon’s Angel. She often tries to use Angel’s vampire nature to get him to return her. She once even points out that since the cross still burns him, God does not want him but she does.
Hunter Antagonist: Holtz
A good example of this would be Holtz from Joss Whedon’s Angel. He seeks to destroy Angel because of a past wrong that Angel did to him.
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VI. The Adversary
All great heroes must have a great adversary or great adversaries. The adversary must be someone or something that tests them and refines them or breaks them. This depends on which way one will go with their vampire hero. Is the tale to be a tragedy or a comedy in the old meaning of the word? The vampire’s adversaries can be seen on three levels. One adversary would be his own self in the form of temptation. He must strive with his own darkness. A second level would be his own social circle. Strain can be put on him by keeping his nature secret from or by revealing his nature to them. Do they know his past? If so, might they not draw back from him in horror? The third level would be in the form of something greater than the vampire. Perhaps, it is a more powerful or more cunning vampire, who will use the other two forces of antagonism to break the heroic vampire. Still another could be a wily vampire hunter bent on vengeance against the heroic vampire personally or against vampires in general.
VII. The Resolution
This then is the final matter of the story. Does the vampire stand triumphant over his foes and temptation? Does he fall and return to darkness? Or perhaps, he simply continues the good fight? Each of these endings have their own depth to them, and an author must of course prepare for what ending he wants. Is he telling a tale of redemption or a tale of corruption or a tale of striving?
In conclusion, it is quite possible to make a good heroic vampire. They can be quite compelling in their own right, and they should not be shied away from. On the other hand, they should not be done just to be done. In other words, if the story does not need the character, the character should not exist.
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