Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Tale of Two Vampires

Both CBS and Lifetime networks have vampire series on right now. They are similar in many ways, but they also have differences. Here's a comparison of their worldbuilding and how it affects their storytelling.


Mortal Beth Turner is an investigative reporter who becomes involved with vampire PI Mick St. John in various cases. They are attracted, but Beth lives with and loves DA Josh. Beth and Mick's cases usually involve mortals or vampires and don't delve into the darker side of the supernatural.

Mick was turned against his will in 1952 on his wedding night by his bride Coraline who had failed to tell him she was a vampire. He later killed Coraline to stop her from abducting a child (Beth).

He has always sought a cure, and he struggles to retain his humanity and his decency. He lives on blood bought from a morgue attendant.

The city has a large vampire community with loose rules mainly to prevent detection by mortals. Vampires can travel around during the day, but too long in the sun causes damage. They sleep in freezers or tubs full of ice cubes.

Mick's vampire best friend is Josef, who is powerful, wealthy, and hedonistic, as well as being totally unrepentant for what he is and what he does. He humors Mick's antivampire notions because they genuinely like each other.

BLOOD TIES (Lifetime)

PI mortal Vicki Nelson takes Henry Fitzroy, a 480 year old vampire and graphic novelist, as her partner after they share several supernatural cases together. They are attracted, but Vicki has an on-again, off-again relationship with her ex-police partner, Mike Celluci, and she has a very prickly personality.

Their cases usually involve the darker side of the supernatural including demons, shapeshifters, and other creatures.

Henry was turned willingly because he loved vampire Christina but soon discovered that vampires are fiercely territorial and solitary so they were forced apart. Later, they became enemies.

Henry is unapologetic about his life, but he follows a code of honor in taking victims and in his relationship with humans. He is fiercely against black magic.

So, essentially, both series are girl meets vampire, and they solve cases.

Since MOONLIGHT is billed as a paranormal romance, it has a softer view of the supernatural and the evil nature of vampires. BLOOD TIES is more fantasy-based with less reliance on romance and has much darker subject matter.

In the first few episodes, MOONLIGHT introduced the society of vampires and its rules. Vampire predators roam the night and take victims, some of whom die and are then disposed of by a vampire cleanup crew.

When a doctor is accidentally turned and goes rogue by killing indiscriminately and without hiding what he is, Mick stops him and cremates his body.

Josef is even more harsh about protecting vampire society, but he keeps beautiful mortal women around him all the time for snacks, and there is no implication that he murders these women to keep them silent.

Mick has remained in LA, kept the same name, and the same profession despite not having aged for 55 years, and no one seems to have noticed.

Problems like this and the sheer number of vampires are failures in worldbuilding because the more vampires there are and the more people who know about them, the less likely secrecy is possible.

After the first few episodes, the dark nature of vampires was no longer emphasized, and Josef and friends now come across as really sophisticated, rich guys with a slightly dark edge. With this softening came an emphasis on Beth and Mick's relationship.

BLOOD TIES is based on an urban fantasy series by Tanya Huff, and its rich detail and intricate worldbuilding show its origins. The world that Vicki and Henry inhabit is full of all kinds of dark beings, many of whom are more dangerous and evil than vampires, and the cost to the characters are higher.

Vicki is marked by a demon's brand at the beginning of the series, and this draws her deeper into the darkness. Surprisingly, it is Henry who has seen too much who is the light. He is willing to face the evil and stop it.

Interestingly, he also seems to be the only religious character in either series. He carries a crucifix and buddies around with priests.

Another ironic element of the worldbuilding is the solitary nature of vampires. They can't stand to live near each other because of their strong territorial natures. They even use humans to help them acquire territories and keep the peace.

Their inability to be around each other makes them less likely to be discovered from overhunting the local humans and less likely to sire more competition. Truly alone, they must socialize with their prey. This irony hasn't really been emphasized.

Both series have so much in common with current paranormal romances and urban fantasies with their worldbuilding that they are interesting case studies for a writer.

Speaking of worldbuilding, I will be giving an online course on worldbuilding next month for Outreach International. To learn more about this course, go to .

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