A vampire walks into a bar

Anyone who reads slush at a magazine can often tell when there has been a call for submissions for a themed anthology. Recently, we’ve been pummelled with vampire stories. Why? Because of Ticonderoga Publications’ Dead Red Heart anthology.

Those stories didn’t make it into the anthology, and the ones I’ve seen so far won’t be making the cut into the magazine either.

Why? Because they’re ‘A vampire feeds’ type of stories, stories that rehash tired plots. Everyone says that it’s OK to write about tired tropes, as long as you bring something new but very few people attempt to quantify what ‘something new’ means other than ‘I’ll know it when I see it.’

Here is my take on ‘something new’. If there was an anthology covering a tired trope, such as vampires, such as zombies, such as elves, such as, indeed, first contact, I’d make sure that the discovery of the subject matter was never the plot point.

What do I mean? Consider the following two (lame) love story plotlines

Storyline 1:
Mary meets Jack and likes him, but as she becomes more familiar with him, she notices that he never seems to eat. After some poking around, Mary discovers that OMG he’s a vampire! But aaawww, she likes him anyway and that doesn’t matter.

Storyline 2:
Mary likes Jack and knows he likes her, but she knows he’s a vampire, and she doesn’t know if he’s good or bad. Then the zombies attack, and people are dying. Mary realises that hey, vampires are undead, too, so they can drive away the zombies. Jack does this and wins her over. Aaaawwww!

In the first one, the fact that Jack is a vampire is the point of the story. Having read one or two of these stories (already published), I can see the ending coming from miles off. It brings nothing new. In storyline 2, the fact that Jack is a vampire is a given, and is used to resolve the plot. Vampires attacking zombies is fairly lame, but this is where the writer can think of new ideas. How do you use a trope to resolve the plot?

That is the way I would deal with writing a story about a tired trope.

5 comments on “A vampire walks into a bar

  1. Ha! I have one of those rejected stories! Mine’s going to be tricky to place because it’s a police procedural/vampire story and I need to rework it completely to bash it into being the kind of story ASIM or Aurealis would even consider! I had also assumed both mags would be inundated, so I’ll sit on mine for a while. Because it’s set I’m Hobart and has a federal copper protag, I reckon intl markets won’t be as responsive as those here in Aus. But I want to make sure it’s ‘ready’ before I submit it anywhere! (It’s currently in the crit queue at Critters and getting lots of very useful feedback!)

    Timely and unsurprising post, Patty!

    • I would re-work it so that ‘character X discovers that character Y is a vampire’ is no longer the main plot point.

      When you’re done, why stick to ASIM or Aurealis? Aurealis doesn’t have an editor at the moment. You could try ASIM, but in general we’re not overly fond of tropes unless they bring something new as per Patrick Tomlinson’s zombie story Dig Up The Vote in issue 47. If you haven’t read it: it’s about digging up the dead so that they can vote. It’s hilarious. Go read!

      Sometimes, you can trace a sudden rush of a certain theme back to an athology, but sometimes it seems to be sheer coincidence. Lately, I’ve also seen a lot of 2012 stories, as in stories about the Mayan prediction that the world will end. I don’t know where that comes from.

      • Thanks Patty – that wasn’t the plot point; the discovery of X as a vampire was kind of incidental to the mystery…but I still have to rebalance the plot. And digging up people to vote – hehehe!

        And now you know about the 2012 antho, all those subs will make sense!

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