Like writers everywhere, I’ve been trying to figure out an angle on how to cash in on the craze for vampire stories: novel, magazine article, movie script, comic book; it doesn’t matter what form; vampires are HOT and there’s gold in them thar fangs. Vampire stories have been with us a long time (Polidori’s The Vampyre in 1819 was arguably the progenitor of the genre), and vampires quickly became a staple of films, too, once that medium emerged. Certainly good ol’ Dracula was omnipresent when I was a kid, since every Saturday afternoon for my entire childhood, television consisted mostly of reruns of the same ten or twelve Dracula vs. Frankenstein vs. Wolf-Man vs. Invisible Man vs. Soupy Sales and Abbot and Costello movies. It never occurred to me that those movies were actually made at least a generation before I was born, but I was a stupid kid, and never questioned anything. (Some time soon I’m going to write about our good friends Tom and Huck, and how I first got to know them in a movie made in 1930.)
Many of us assumed that the vampire mania had more or less peaked during the fever over the Anne Rice “Vampire Chronicles,” and would necessarily subside, but, nay-nay! The Stephenie Meyer “Twilight” series debuted in about 2005, and left Ms. Rice in the dust, both book sales- and movie-wise. Now, you can’t pick up a writing guidebook, attend a writing conference or log into an online writers’ resource without encountering articles about vampires, as well as the newly-resussitated genres of werewolf and zombie fiction and films. Ubiquitous is too weak a word. Omnipresent doesn’t convey it. Vampires are Bodacious; there’s no other word for it. Of course, all those articles in the mags and blogs, the panels at conferences advise the same thing: “Lay off, they’re overdone, the string is played out, they’re tired, outre, overworked.” The fact that most of those articles are written by authors who’re making THEIR pile by hopping on the Vam-Wolf-Zom bandwagon, though, makes the advice suspect and opens it to questions of restraint of trade.
I do NOT know a writer who hasn’t considered the prospect, and I know SEVERAL (you know who you are out there!) currently working on the early, middle or final stages of a vampire- (or werewolf- or zombie-) driven work, whether it is a new made-to-order piece or the revision of an existing non-vampire work. “After all,” the canny writer thinks, “How hard can it be to take my EXCELLENT story, which already possesses a fiery plot, commanding characters and a dynamite setting, toss in a coupl’a vampires, and VOILA! I’ll be buying the place just next door to J.K. Rowling’s.” If you don’t think that the writing biz is driven by the same sorts of market forces and follow-the-market urges that make all cars (more or less) look the same and the food at all fast-food joints taste exactly the same, then wake up! Spend ten minutes in the “business” section of your bookstore, and I’ll rest my case. (I’ve just been made aware of a Web site titled, “Jesus Was a Zombie,” t-shirts and all.)
I actually suspect that J. K. Rowling was sitting on that train trying to come up with a vampire story when, much to her surprise, the entirety (sez she) of the Harry Potter series leapt into her mind all-at-once. There IS a werewolf or two in there, and those Death-Eaters seem suspiciously vampirian. It’s possible to imagine that she was just trying to get into the annual literary trapshoot competition hoping to nail enough birds to come out in the money, but, incredibly, ran off 75 straight with no misses, and made a googillion dollars doing it. Will she go on to publish Hermione Meets the Vampire? or Harry Potter and the Vampire’s Curse? What else is she going to do? Give the Queen financial advice?
I’m sure you’re ‘way ahead of me by now and you know what’s coming. I do, indeed, want to try out a few ideas on you. Despite the potentially self-interested advice of the writing rags, I think there is still endless grist to grind from the vampire harvest, and that we have barely bitten the surface. Remember that vampire fiction is escapist fiction of the purest, most extreme kind, and when one considers what’s on offer from television, radio, politics and culture, escapism may be our only hope.
One of the oft-cited (I dare not say “rules,” for that’s too weak a word) commandments for writers trying to crack a new market is to read, read, read the current stuff that’s out there, mastering the genre, understanding what works and what doesn’t (meaning what sells and does not). Uh, no. I’ve never read a vampire book (not even any of Sarah Palin’s) nor seen a vampire movie since those Saturday afternoons fifty years ago, and don’t intend to. One of the benefits of our always-on, always-present popular culture is that I’ve imbibed enough movie trailers, book reviews, book blurbs and general references to all this doodah. I get it. Plus, I did see all of George Romero’s “Living Dead” movies.
First, since I earn my daily bread forging timeless, gold-plated prose that elucidates the superiority of my firm over all its incompetent, bumbling competitors, AND because I stand at the pinnacle of my career, with a lofty title and enough years of accomplishment and experience to be considered a DEAN of my profession (I’m going to put that on my business card: “Dean of His Profession”), I believe I am in a perfect position to inculcate vampirism into corporate marketing and promotion. Hence:
Your bloodthirsty competitors are surrounding your lair. The clueless townsfolk — your shareholders — are at your door, demanding more MORE MORE return on investment. Despite your enormous efforts to maximize your market share, and to bite the necks of all who oppose you, you know — as do we — that the SILVER BULLET is waiting for you.
Take heart! Wolfbane Corp. is your refuge! With centuries of successful resistance to the forces of darkness that surround us, Wolfbane is your never-failing, never dying partner!
Well, you get the idea. You can take it from there. I’m available to consult with you at very attractive rates, with discounts for organizations that might see a full-time opportunity on the horizon. Permanent, immortal contract terms available upon request!
As for books, the Young Reader and Adolescent Fiction markets do seem to be saturated with vampires (I probably should get regular readers, the two Librarian Michaels, to weigh in on how many requests for vampire books they get!), but this is where the canny marketeer simply looks for untouched niches. I don’t sense that Infant Read-Along and Picture Books have even been touched yet –except for the classic Bunnicula series (told by a dog about a vampire rabbit that vampirizes vegetables). It’s an obvious play, ESPECIALLY when you think of all the pre-teen brothers and sisters of toddlers who are asked to read to their infant siblings, and ESPECIALLY those Young Teen baby-sitters — already avid consumers of the Twilight books — who are out there and weary of “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” or “Goodnight, Moon.” Here, then is, “Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies Lurk” (you’ll have to imagine the artwork: editors are responsible for finding the illustrator; I’m just the writer. Not everyone can be Chris Van Allsburg!).
A is for Afraid, because Zombies lurk at the end of the alphabet. B is for Beware, because Werewolves lurk at the end of the alphabet. C is for “be Careful,” because Vampires are vamping at the end of the alphabet. D is for Dread as you reach the end of the alphabet.
Well, you see how this is going to play out. Half a million little pre-teens are wriggling with excitement as their infant charges are trembling with terror, poised with tension (that’s “T”!) until …
And “V” is for “VAMPIRE” and he’s SUCKING YOUR BLOOD! the little reader cries, grabbing hold of little Baby Bodaddus, inciting a screaming fit. A big hit, I’m certain.
But now, in the spirit of generosity and sharing that infuses every syllable of this blog, I am going to give away my BIG IDEA. I am telling you, friends, the first author who can get this idea through a phalanx of agents and editors and publishers to find someone with an operational frontal lobe is going to succeed and CASH IN on this idea to the degree that they’ll buy J. K. Rowling’s castle and toss her into the street, though offering her a job as his or her gardener. Ready? Here’s the synopsis.
William is a vampire. He lives in one of those New England towns where the sun never shines (except on those frosty, snow-bedecked election days when the TV trucks show up early to watch the politicians). No one ever thought to plant a flower or paint a building in William’s town any color other than gray. All they have is cypress trees and gray buildings, and it’s always Autumn. His is a lonely existence, since everyone he’s attracted to inevitably ends up becoming one of his victims, and, with those sorts of social skills, all you have are a lot of Undead yet Unlively friends.
Then, Champ enters his life. Champ is a happy-go-lucky golden retriever who lives with Charmaine, the attractive young receptionist in the office of Dr. Deedham, the local dentist. William, of course, notices Charmaine on his frequent visits to Deedham’s office. The inevitable happens: the chance encounter between William and Charmaine at the church social; the quiet dinner at the local cafe that’s not really a date, but more than just dinner; the long moonlit walk along The Pier (we’ve never seen the ocean until now, but somehow there’s always a Pier). Champ is bounding along the Pier beside Charmaine, and trying, unsuccessfully, to make friends with William. He’s unsuccessful primarily because every time he gets close to William, and William puts out his hand, Champ senses something, and bares his teeth and backs away.
“Why, Champ! Whatever is the matter with you?” Charmaine demands, holding the dog’s head in her hands. Now, you be nice to William! After all, he’s MY friend, and he’ll be your friend, too.”
Ok, OK, you’re a smart crowd and you’re way ahead of me here. Yes, William bites Charmaine’s neck (after luring Champ into the basement with some questionable bit of bribery that no reasonable dog would go for in real life) and, dang, if he now doesn’t have one more very attractive but very undead friend. But, in the critical third act, as Champ realizes that both Charmaine and William have entered a realm into which he cannot follow, William takes pity on him, and bites him, too! He is now The Champire! In the fourth act, William and Champ — bonded now in a totally new spin on the ol’ human-canine connection — have fantastic adventures fighting Werewolves and Zombies and bad-guy vampires (these apparently exist, though, since I haven’t read any of the books, I really don’t get the distinction between good vampires and bad ones — you’ll have to sort that one out yourself). Finally, after ages of meeting people, biting them, and then losing interest in them after they’re undead, William has found true friendship.
In the climactic scene in the fifth act, William is chased out onto the Pier by the Townspeople, who, incredibly — this being 2010 or so — are carrying torches and pitchforks instead of the AK-47s and grenade launchers most good Americans have stockpiled in their basements. As the Sheriff steps forward, confronting the cornered William, he raises his chrome-plated Colt .45 (which our backstory tells us his dad took off a captured asthmatic Romanian conscript into the Wehrmacht in WWII named Vlad The Inhaler) with the fateful silver bullet in the chamber!
***Here you have a decision to make. Are you writing ONE book, or are William and Champ going to continue through as many adventures in as many lands and undead-ridden ages as you can milk them for? I’m going to give you the condensed version. If you want them to go on, you’ll have to figure out how to get them out of this pickle by yourself.***
Champ leaps toward the Sheriff, taking the bullet full-on, and falls, dead, on the planks of the pier!
There’s a moment of sudden, terrible realization: the Townspeople, horrified that this innocent little doggie, transported to the dark realm, still possesses that undying loyalty for which his breed is famous; and William’s agony at the loss of his poochie pal — his compensation for the loss of all those former friend-victims — rises to an unbearable pitch! However, the Sheriff, in an act of hubris, had loaded only ONE silver bullet into the Colt, and William escapes, leaving room for the sequels.
There you have it! The ultimate amalgam of Vampire and Faithful Dog story. Friends, if this is not Old Yeller Meets The Vampire, if this does not create a NEW GENRE of DOG VAMPIRE books and movies, I am no professional writer. You heard it here first!
Another service of Under Western Skies, the Working Writer’s Friend!
If you make a million with this idea, stop by the Pier some day and drop a fiver in my guitar case. I don’t really want to write it. If I want to be frightened, I’ll flip on Fox News.