Article by Robert P. Ottone

How do you kill a vampire?

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Stake through the heart. Wooden or silver, whatever, right? Garlic? Sunlight? All of the above?

Right. Well, you can kill a vampire however the hell you want because they don’t exist.

Let that sink in. Like the sharpened fangs of your vampire. On that note, which teeth actually are the fangs? The lateral incisors like in Lost Boys or the canines like in Fright Night?

Now, I see this all the time. Everywhere. In every writing group. On Reddit. On Facebook. In various Instagram stories, all over the damn place. I see people worrying about the concepts surrounding the various mythologies of creatures of the night, or cosmic nightmares.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone discuss the subtle difference between a goblin and a gremlin, I’d have like, three dollars.
That said, it’s important to remember the following: None of these things exist. It’s all nonsense. It’s all fiction.

Maybe that’s too harsh. Maybe I’m being a rain cloud on a sunny day, and for that, I’m sorry, that’s not my intention. Believe me, I know how boring our world is. It is a world filled with working a job that one might not like, going home to a partner who’s just as exhausted and bored with life as you are. A life filled with the escape and allure of terrible reality television, candy-coloured and formulaic superhero movies, and unfulfilling true crime documentaries (spoilers: they either catch them or they don’t, there’s only one of two endings, folks).

Nothing would make me happier than to know, without a double, that ghosts exist and they abide by legitimate rules of some form of thermodynamics or physics. I’d love to know that Bigfoot is real. I believe in the concept of believing in all of these things.

But, as of this writing: None of them actually exist.

That means, there are no rules on how to write them.

Everyone likes to throw shade at Stephanie Meyer for having vampires sparkle in the sunlight. I’ve never read Twilight, but I can tell you right now that that’s a brilliant concept for the following reasons:

A) It lets your vampires roam around in the daytime without having to make them “special” like Blade, an aberration within its own species of vampire. There are too many “chosen one” stories as it is.

B) It provides a potential “reason” or “theory” to the concept of why an individual might interpret their glittering or glistening in the daylight as “bursting into flames.” What might appear as blindingly-sharp sparkling to one person might appear a ball of fire to the next. As always, context is key.

C) It’s different.

Whether you agree with me or not doesn’t matter. What matters is the message and the message is this: do not be bound by the rules of the authors who came before you. If you want to write about witches that climb walls like Spider-Man instead of flying on broomsticks, do it. You want to write about werewolves who are in full control of themselves when in “wolf mode,” do it. You want to tell me a story about vampires who live in the sunlight, but burn up when doused in the rays of the moon, do it.

The point is, none of these things are real. Play in the sandbox of those who came before you, use their toys, watch how they play the game.
Then play the game your own way.

When I was a kid, I used to play with my X-Men figures and have them go to war against my GI Joes. It didn’t matter that the figures were different sizes. It didn’t matter that Green Lantern wasn’t an X-Man, he knew that the mutants were in the right, and thus, he went to war alongside them. It didn’t matter that the GI Joes weren’t the bad guys on the cartoon or in the comic books, in my eight-year-old universe, they were the military arm of a corrupt government, and only the X-Men (with Green Lantern and sometimes Boba Fett) could stop them.

Do not be bound by rules that you didn’t invent.
Your universe lives and breathes a certain way. It doesn’t have to be Lovecraft’s way. It doesn’t have to Stoker’s. It doesn’t have to be anyone’s. It just has to be yours.

Once you establish those rules for yourself, then you can stick to them, if they’re that important to you. Personally, the rules I’ve established for the creatures that have popped up in my stories, should I write about them again, will follow those ascribed rules, because if I start playing jazz with the things I’ve created, we’ll end up with what I call the Superman Scenario: characters that have such a deep well of powers and abilities that they’d be unstoppable, narratively.

Authors do this all the time. New authors, especially. Not every character is The Punisher mixed with a vampire. Not every character is a supernatural spirit whose abilities can get him or her out of every possible scenario.
That’s boring. And it limits your narrative potential.

Play jazz. Create your own rules. Stick to them, once you do.
If someone tells you your vampires can’t be killed by moonlight, then that someone doesn’t get the essence of creativity.

When I had the myth of, well, myth, shattered for me by legendary filmmaker John Landis (who apparently used to tell his son, screenwriter Max Landis, this same piece of advice), it was remarkably freeing. I could do whatever I wanted to with whatever I wanted. If I wanted to write a story that saw my favourite superhero go over the edge, I could do it. If I wanted to write a story about Godzilla becoming a retiree, I could do it. I wasn’t bound by petty rules any longer.

All I had was the limit of my own imagination.
Writing is meant to be the ultimate creative exercise of one’s pure imagination. You don’t need to ask another author’s advice on how to kill a certain type of creature because creatures simply do not exist.

So, let me ask you again:

How do you kill a vampire?


Robert P. Ottone is an author, teacher, and cigar enthusiast from East Islip, NY. He delights in the creepy. His collections Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares and People: A Horror Anthology about Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Amazon.

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