Daniel was my first attempt at a vampire character, and I readily admit that he was really appalling when he first started out. Bear in mind that this was high school, and it wasn’t until much later that I discovered that the vampire-who-hates-being-a-vampire concept wasn’t exactly original. Fortunately, he’s gotten over much of his angst and settled nicely into moral ambiguity, where he can safely go on occasional binges of vigilante justice and use his nature as a convenient excuse for over-the-top brutality. No one really takes him seriously when he mopes about being a monster, because, well, y’know, he did just rip that guy’s rib cage out.
In my mind, though, he needed a foil – someone who isn’t human and is pretty much okay with that, except for a few inconvenient practical considerations.
There was a darn lot of research involved in this. I spent hours and days poring over the Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, looking for something hugely badass and with the potential for either malevolence or beneficence (This character, of course, would be a good guy, because I like good guys and because I was already hip-deep in the moral ambiguity thing and wanted a change. I would tackle a bad guy later.) I scrolled through thousands of pages of internet. I dove into the library and didn’t come back out except for more caffeine. I even considered making something up, but ultimately decided that was a bad idea.
Of course, after a couple of weeks of this, I realized two things:
1) Badass would not serve my purposes. I started on this quest for the purpose of building a foil for Daniel, someone that plays off all of his key characteristics by being pretty much exactly the opposite. Daniel may be a cantankerous boffinpire, but he can also be pretty terrifying if he feels like it, and while he would object strenuously to the word “badass,” it does happen to describe him pretty well. (That is to say, in my head. Others may draw what conclusions they will.) Anyway, the point is that since Daniel got the brains and the brawn and a handful of cool supernatural advantages, the new guy’s strength had to come from inside. He had to be the one with heart. Arguably the worst superpower ever, if that kid from Captain Planet is any indication – the one who always ended up the hostage or the bait in the trap. But since I wasn’t going for badass anymore, I figured I may as well pull a total one-eighty and go for hostage instead.
2) Once I got past my fixation on power and buttkicking ability, I realized I already had exactly the character I wanted sitting quietly in the depths of my backstory, waiting for me to turn his heart-wrenching death scene into an unlikely escape so he could do interesting things.
Lenny started out as a random victim used to highlight just how bad one of my villains can be, and over the course of long role-playing, became my own personal Woobie. I ran him through the Mary Sue Litmus Test recently, and while he doesn’t have much going for him in the way of powers or romance or fun skills, his score skyrocketed when I got to the bad-stuff-happening section. The de-suifiers brought him back down, but still. Of course, I can’t speak for how everyone else will respond to him, but writing the poor guy occasionally makes me cringe, and sometimes I have to write terrible fluff (which will never see the light of day) to recover.
The problem was that turning Lenny into my new quasi-hero negated those weeks of research on fun creatures. He’s a vampire, too.
Only he’s not just a vampire.
And that sounds like an introduction to a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? I’m aware of that, and I hate having to say it that way, because if there’s one paranormal fiction deathtrap I can’t stand, it’s the convoluted genetics that goes into a wolf-vampire-faerie-hobbit-oompaloompa-goddess-dragon-angel-phoenix-dolphin-capybara-archaeopteryx-Madonna hybrid. It burns.
I hope I’ve avoided that. I really do.
The thing is, Lenny is a vampire medium. He’s not the offspring of some forbidden love, or anything. He just happens to have a dual nature, and unfortunately, the two sides of that nature don’t work together very well. A medium is, by definition, both alive and dead, a bridge between this world and the next; he cannot influence the processes of life, which means he can’t take one intentionally. A vampire is, by definition, somewhere between alive and dead but not really either, and exists pretty much to suck the life out of everything it touches. Medium turns vampire, and suddenly, nothing works quite right any more.
Lenny is a failpire. Where Daniel hates himself and angsts endlessly about being a killing machine, Lenny just wishes he could be cool and scary like the vampires on late-night television, even though he knows he’d never use it. Being a vampire, he doesn’t get a whole lot of points for his mad physics skills or awesome knitting, and especially not for his ability to make friends. He can’t kill. He isn’t anywhere near as strong as the others his age. He can hypnotize people, but only about as effectively as a really boring infomercial. He can’t shapeshift or control weather or read minds, or any of that fun stuff. His worst sin of all, though, is being perfectly willing to sit quietly and be good, teach physics, love people, and act normal. He likes who he is.
Clearly, this cannot be allowed to continue. Read an excerpt of my current project, the story in which I destroy him: (Working Title) The Sparrow’s Fall
And don’t worry; he eventually learns how to put up a fight. That’ll have to wait for the next book, though.