Common Plotholes In Vampire Fiction

Throughout our forays into fantasy fiction, DML and I have noticed that wide, gaping plotholes tend to surround vampires - so we've collaborated to call them out so that future fantasy writers can account for and avoid them.

Table of Contents

The implications of not showing up in mirrors, photographs, or on video.

A question that’s occasionally been asked before - if vampires don’t cast reflections, how do they style their hair so well or shave without cutting themselves? The question is usually asked light-heartedly, but it’s worth taking into consideration.

In some works, vampires don’t only not cast reflections - they also don’t show up in films or photographs. For vampires trying to live among humans undercover, this could pose a serious problem - how would they obtain their driver’s licenses - or any form of photo ID, for that matter? And with no driver’s license or photo ID, how would they work in jobs or utilize services that require one? Not only would your vampires not be able to (legally) drive a car, but they wouldn’t even be able to open a bank account. Without something as rudimentary as that, it’s impossible to justify how a vampire could make tons of long-term investments, own corporations, or get rich playing the stock market on Wall Street.

The numbers of bodies left behind should attract more attention.

In Twilight, vampires can go approximately 1-2 weeks between meals. Now, for 3.5 books the Cullen clan comprises of seven members. So, that adds up to 175-350 exsanguinated animal bodies left behind per year - something which the US forest service would find highly alarming. Similarly, the Volturi with its seven members would be leaving behind that many human bodies. While the locals of Volterra may not necessarily notice that tourists were going missing, the friends and families of the tourists certainly would, and it wouldn’t be long before Volterra developed a reputation as a literal tourist trap.

"Okay, but that's Twilight," you might say. "Surely other books are better?" Not necessarily. Sometimes it's even worse. In Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, some vampires take out as many as 2-3 people a night if they can. So this means that a band of three vampires could be taking out 2190-3204 people per year. Let’s ramp that up to a hundred vampires, and that’s anywhere between 73000-109500 people gone per year. For comparison, the upper limit there is seven times the death toll of the UK's armed forces in North Korea during a three-year war, and almost twice as many US soldiers died over the nineteen-year Vietnam War. Even if only a small fraction of these bodies were actually found (let's say one percent), that's hundreds to thousands of bodies turning up exsanguinated with puncture wounds in their bodies every year. It would be impossible for the muggles/humans not to notice something strange was going on.

"Okay, but lots of people go missing every year, and nobody notices!" you might say. True! Every year, countless refugees and migrants vanish, whether because they died or were murdered, or far more commonly, were forced into human trafficking. Homeless people and runaways can suffer the same fate. Bigoted police forces are often too happy to overlook missing or dead members of minority groups or drug addicts. Soldiers in war zones can also vanish and never be found. However, we still have a few problems. The deaths that these vampires are responsible for would take place in addition to these disappearances that already exist, and many vampires don't limit themselves to people who won't be missed by anyone who matters. (Anne Rice's Lestat is explicitly stated to have snobby tastes.) Also, the number of people who end up in living in slavery far exceeds the number of people who vanish and die (the population would start dropping fast if they were all dying at the rate people are trafficked), and unlike dead bodies, living slaves can be hidden in plain sight.

How about people in missing persons reports? There are a lot of those, right? The thing is, most of these cases are not matters of people just up and vanishing without a trace. Far from it, in fact. Out of the hundreds of thousands reported missing in the United States, only a small fraction of them involve an adult being abducted by a complete stranger. Most abductees are children (out of 840,279 missing person cases in 2001, only 50,000 were over the age of eighteen), and most of them are kidnapped by relatives, usually a parent. Out of the 800,000 or so missing children every year, about 99% of them are found - leaving about 8000-10000 unaccounted for. As far as adult disappearances go, there are plenty of mundane reasons for those: psychiatric problems (such as elderly persons suffering from dementia wandering off), drugs and alcoholism, and even natural disasters.

It's a good idea do the math in your story and work out if your numbers hold up to scrutiny - do the numbers of victims your vampires leave behind greatly exceed the number of missing persons every year? Do a suspiciously high number of people disappear in a given area, yet no on seems to notice or react? And what are the vampires doing with the bodies? Sure, soft tissues will usually decompose in a few months or years depending on temperature and humidity, but bones can last for decades and evidence can often be pieced together from them. Burning the body is no easy feat, either - you've got a mass that's 80% water. (Try putting a kettle on the stove and see how long that takes to boil off - and then keep in mind that you've got it right next to a heat source controlled for better efficiency.) Now try and imagine all the gasoline and time necessary to make several times that amount of water boil away - and remember that a fire like that would send up a plume of visible and smelly smoke.

Moving around lots of money attracts lots of attention.

Many works depict vampires as extremely wealthy for some reason or another. The problem with this is that getting and moving around that much money without somebody with clout noticing is next to impossible. Eventually, somebody important is going to start taking a look into what's going on with all that money, and vampires are going to get discovered.

The thing is, banks and other financial institutions are heavily audited by the IRS so they can keep tabs on the taxpayers. Trying to say that they the IRS doesn't notice because of "corrupt banks" is laughable. This is the IRS we're talking about. Large amounts of money being moved around anonymously just screams "Look at me, I'm a money-laundering scheme! Come and bust me for the hundreds of thousands of tax dollars I owe!"

How about tax loopholes and offshore profits? Well, these run into massive, complicated messes of law, sovereignty, and economics that entire corporate divisions work around the clocks to game - and even then, they still sometimes get caught and investigated over it. Short of using Bitcoins (which aren't stable, nor qualify as legal tender), one possible way around this problem is to just outright ship large amounts of cash around. However, this can attract other types of attention. Crossing a border with more than about $5000 dollars' worth of currency on hand can make border agents suspicious, and just getting the cash from Point A to Point B can pose some pretty big logistical challenges. So in the end, the mental gymnastics needed to justify a filthy rich vampire often create more questions than they actually answer.

The amount of blood they consume vs. how the human body works.

There are often strange disparities between how much blood vampires consume vs. how the human body actually works - whether that would be their own bodies, or the bodies of their victims.

The first issue is vampires who consume too much blood per what their bodies ought to be able to process. Most vampires were at some point human, and as a result have the same basic body plan as a human. Now, the human stomach can generally only hold up to about a liter, though what with it being fairly stretchy it can hold up to four liters - so, think approximately a gallon of milk, or twenty-four standard-sized soft drink cans, or two large bottles of soda. So take a moment, if you will, to imagine how long it would take to drink down that much liquid and how you'd feel afterward. A vampire might be able to chug all that down, but would afterward be completely stuffed and had probably better be wearing some stretchy clothing.

The second issue is vampires who drink maybe a mouthful of blood out of a victim, who immediately dies. In reality, this is nowhere near a lethal amount of blood to lose. It's even less than the pint of blood that blood donors typically give, let alone what might be drawn for medical testing! In reality, the human body really starts running into trouble when it loses about three to four pints.

Blood packs don't come cheap.

At first, blood banks seem like an easy way for "good" vampires to get a guilt-free meal... until you take into account that a single blood pack meal is going to run into the triple digits. While US law prohibits human blood from actually being sold, a handling fee is often imposed - which as of 2006, was $200, and has almost certainly gone up since then.

Nightclubs aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Handsome vampires hunting in nightclubs is a pretty well-known trope these days, and many people just take it for granted that a nightclub would be a choice hunting ground. All those people there getting drunk and looking for a good time ought to make for easy pickings, right? Well, not quite. Lots of guys who thought they could easily find somebody at a nightclub out the hard way that they aren't exactly all fiction made them out to be. Let's take a look at how nightclubs in fiction compare to real nightclubs:

In fiction: You always get into a nightclub immediately.
In reality: Nightclubs are often crowded places. If you want in, you’ll probably have to wait in line for very long periods of time. If the place is especially crowded, you might not get in at all.

In fiction: It's easy to socialize with strangers looking for a good time.
In fact: Music in nightclubs is typically so loud that it can be heard clear out on the streets, making conversation next to impossible. People (especially women) are often on guard against creeps. Patrons might also be drunk, rowdy, violent, and sometimes even sick. Finally, people tend to visit clubs with friends, and aren't looking to meet anyone new.

In fiction: Men and women go to nightclubs for sex and hookups, making it relatively easy for a vampire to get someone up for a one-night stand.
In fact: Since patrons tend to be on guard against creeps, they're going to be pretty cautious about who they let close. And again, lots of people aren't actually looking for a hookup at all.

The bottom line: Whoever figures vampires have it easy in nightclubs has obviously never been to one. Now, there are some people who demonstrate the confidence, wittiness, humor, and social skills to be able to seduce people at these places despite all the drawbacks, but how common are these people, compared to the rest of the population that still experiences sexual frustration, relationship issues and difficulty finding love? Consider this: if it’s rare for people to exude that kind of natural charisma, considering that your population of vampires will be far, far, far smaller, how much rarer would it be for a vampire to?

Some people might rationalize nightclub hunting by giving their vampires the ability to mesmerize their prey. While this does certainly solves the immediate problem, it creates even another: why is the vampire using it on people who are likely to be missed, in a place where people are likely to be on guard? If the idea here is to explore themes of date rape and sexual predators being everywhere, why not expand to other locations where predators are just as likely to be found? Depending on the time and place your story is set in, schools, community centers, shopping malls, and even workplaces could do just fine. There's a big fear factor in the idea that anywhere you go (including places you can't avoid) could potentially be a monster's hunting ground. There's an even bigger fear factor in it being a place you'd never considered before.

Also, check out:

Tips & Ideas To Write More Believable Masquerades
Alexis Feynman's Guide To Writing Better Vampire Fiction
Tips For Writing Better Immortal & Long-Lived Characters
Common Werewolf Tropes You Should Think Twice Before Using

Things About Death, Dying, & Murder Writers Need To Know
Tips For Writing & Maintaining A Horror Atmosphere
More Tips For Horror
Pointlessly Edgy Tropes To Reconsider Using

External Resources/Works Referenced

America's Missing (Page 2)
Five Myths About Missing Children
Missing Children Myths
Volume of a Human Stomach
Volume of Blood in a Human
The Price of a Gallon

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