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D. B. Reynolds | Writing a Dark Hero

December 6, 2010

DB REYNOLDSRAJUMNDI liked complicated men. They tend to be a bit (okay, a lot) more high maintenance, but they’re also a lot more intense, which means life with them is more passionate. And I like that. When it comes to writing my heroes, of course, I tend to go with what I like in real life. Not always. But usually.

One of the first full-length manuscripts I ever wrote was an epic fantasy. This story had its origins in the idea that even a villain can have someone who loves him. My evil sorcerer started out life as a truly good guy who was corrupted by magic and turned evil almost against his will. I hoped to build empathy for him as a young man, so that when the magic twisted him, the reader would see the tragedy of his transformation and continue to view him sympathetically. While writing this story, I had the great good fortune to have the input of a very experienced Science Fiction/Fantasy editor who had spent twenty years at some of the biggest houses in the genre. She read the first draft of the manuscript and said of my villain’s trauma… I don’t care. Which meant I hadn’t succeeded in making him enough of a sympathetic character that readers would care about him despite his ultimate evil. I’ll get back to that manuscript someday. I haven’t given up yet. But I learned my lesson.

In the meantime, I began writing my Vampires in America series, which focuses on eight very powerful vampires who rule all of North American vampire society. My idea going in was to create a different sort of vampire than what we were seeing in most popular fiction today. I didn’t want vampires who hated what they were, who drank blood only because they were forced to, and who were really just nice guys in a bad situation. I wanted the vampires of old, vampires who were violent and bloodthirsty, who reveled in the power their vampire natures gave them and who considered themselves a cut above ordinary humans—the top of the food chain, the most dangerous thing on the planet and proud of it.

But how to make my vampire heroes apologetically vampire, and at the same time appealing to readers? How to avoid an editor saying, I don’t care? First, I gave each of them the qualities of all great heroes. They’re loyal, courageous, smart and charming. And they’re devastatingly handsome, because this is fiction, after all. They are also completely devoted to their respective mates, unyielding in defense of her and viciously possessive when it comes to her affections. And, yes, they are violent, but only when betrayed by those they trusted, when those they are sworn to defend are endangered, or when someone dares to threaten the woman they love. They are bloodthirsty, but they control that thirst. Instead of roaming the streets, killing at random, they have clubs and parties where willing donors line up to donate blood from the vein, in exchange for the sexual high of having a vamp tap in. They are adamantly territorial, but they deal with that by having a rigid political structure which deals with their more violent urges and generally maintains the peace. They are vampire, but they are smart enough to take advantage of modern society instead of fighting against it. And when it comes to vampire affairs, they don’t give a damn what humans think.

In the final analysis, my vampire lords are the ultimate bad boys. They are powerful, rebellious and beautiful. And the love of a good woman brings out the best in them. To read more about my vampires, please visit my website where I post free short stories and the latest news on forthcoming books.

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