Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesday Reads: Vampires

When do we know when we have gone one vampire too many?  I cannot answer that (not without revealing my bitter and cynical true self), but the last time I was at Barnes and Noble, I took a look.  One vampire, two vampire, three vampire, snore!!!

Today's post is everything VAMPIRE.  Well, at least to the extent of my knowledge, which, thankfully, isn't all that extensive.  Let's start with my favorite vampire novels.  I'll give a brief description and go through the basics: first line, first paragraph, if it reads strong throughout, if it has a satisfying ending, and why I love/hate them.

Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward starts with Dark Lover.  These lean towards the Romantic genre, but are all in all a really good read.  Plus you get some zombie-like creatures that the vampire-assassin group has to kill to protect the rest of their kind.  If you need a book to study on how to create a unique vampire world without getting too crazy, I highly recommend it.  First line: "Darius looked around the club, taking in the teeming, half-naked bodies on the dance floor."  Intriguing, but not to the extent it stands out in a line up of first lines.  It's the second line that really sets the mood and tone of the whole book: "Screamer's was packed tonight, full of women wearing leather and men who looked like they had advance degrees in violent crime."  Each book in the series follows a different "brother", and not one disappoints.  Endings of course are satisfying (they are romance after all).

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith (author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, one of my favorite books of all time).  Didn't think you'd see this one on my list?  I do think people have gotten a little overboard with the paranormal-classic twist, but Smith delivers every time he puts pen to page.  Perhaps it isn't the best book in the entire world, but I have a strange fascination with President Lincoln and the idea that he was a Vampire Hunter had me laughing from page one.  Written with conviction, if you aren't careful you could believing that this president actually was a vampire hunter.  First line: "I was still bleeding... my hands shaking."  From axes to Confederates to Edgar Allan Poe, this one is a laugh out loud thrill ride you won't want to put down.

Dead Until Dark, a Sookie Stackhouse novel by Charlaine Harris.  I have not watched True Blood.  That said, I'll concentrate on the first book in the series without outside influence.  First line: "I'd been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar."  Intriguing.  Harris has a funny voice and we learn who the main character is straight off.  She dives right into the story head first.  It was a fun read, but not filling and super satisfying.  Like cotton candy.  The ending is satisfying enough but leaves it open for book two (and three and four).

Twilight by Stephanie Meyers.  Groaning?  Rolling your eyes?  Sorry, I have to.  I'll keep it brief; this topic has been beaten like a dead horse all ready.  At the PNWA conference, Andrea Hurst held a seminar on "Crafting Fiction that Sells in Today's Marketplace."  She read an anonymous first line and nearly every person in the room (over 100) agreed that they would keep reading from that line alone.  First line: "I'd never given much thought to how I would die--though I'd had reason enough in the last few months--but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this."  Well?  Good first line?  I had read the book, professed to hating it, but I didn't recognize the line when Andrea read it, and said I would keep reading.  I groaned aloud.  It is an excellent first line.  And the entire book keeps the tension (sexual tension, life and death tension, new tenuous friendship tension), and is extremely satisfying at the end.  Those elements alone ensure something good.  Meyer also had great timing and a lot of luck.

I'd like to back track for a moment though.  One mortal girl finds herself amidst vampires.  Add in a werewolf and telepathy.  What do you get?  Actually, you get both Harris and Meyer's books.  So what makes them so different?  And why did Meyer's hit off better than Harris's book alone (not counting the TV series), which, in fact, was published many years before Meyer's?

I'd like to know your input on the Vampire phenomenon.  Has it played itself out yet?  How can you, as a writer, capitalize on it?  Is there any way to write another vampire book while keeping it fresh and orignial?  What is going to be the next big fad?

Happy writing (and reading!) everyone.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I've asked myself these same questions. I'll admit to a near obsessive first reading of the books. Going back to them as a writer there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth - why are these so beloved? My answer is that Meyers completely captures the hormonal, obsessive thrill ride that is first love gave it fangs and made it last forever. It's what young girls want and what many women remember with a sigh but with bite. Harris' characters while well-drawn lack that universal appeal. By creating a more generalized story, Meyer actually achieved greater success. This is obviously not a formula that works for everyone.