With just over a month to NaNoWriMo, some of you may remember how I started a dark vampire novel and then spectacularly failed to get my 50,000 words finished. That' doesn’t mean that particular story has been discarded. Every now and then I make notes on scenes and characters. I’ve brought it up to almost 40,000 words over the year. It’s on my writing schedule to finish next year.
The vampires in that novel are predators, they feed on human blood. As part of my research I did quite a bit of thinking on the digestion system of vampires. Basically what goes in must come out. Inspired by an answer I gave to another writer, this is basically what I came up with before deciding on the physiology of my vampires.
To start with, Vampires would have to have some form of digestive system in order for the blood to process through their system. They would most likely have to at least pee at some point, otherwise have some other system for fluid and waste removal from the body, ie. evaporation through the pores by sweating.
It really depends on the vampires. Are they dead or turned? Are they genetic abnormalities born as vampires and so not strictly speaking the living dead? Is vampirism a disease that brings the human to the brink of death and transforms their cells into something else?
It's all very well to say classic vampire, but is there really such a thing? Different countries have different vampire legends. Here in Ireland we have a place said to contain the body of the original Irish vampire. He was described more as a demon and so was never human, it makes sense his body never functioned as human and didn't require human digestion, and so he possibly didn't have the ability to consume human food. The place is said to be cursed to this day. Did you know Bad in Irish is droch and blood is fola, sound familiar? In other countries vampirism spread like a disease through all walks of life including royalty. A princess who died of a blood disease was said to have lived a secluded life while raising wolves. So it may be unclear if she lived as a vampire before her death or became a vampire after when her body was disposed of under unusual circumstances.
Throwing up the human food later is what the vamps in Twilight do. It sits in their stomach and is never digested. I've seen the same process used in several other books. I think if a body was once human at any point and still requires the ability to digest liquid in the form of blood it isn't a stretch to say the vampire would have the ability to process food, even though it would have no nutritional value. Since their senses are heightened, if they live among humans, they may even enjoy certain foods and the experience of eating, textures, smells... or it could go another way, food is abhorrent to them because of the same heightened senses.
Their predator nature could also influence digestion, but this could go both ways too. As a predator living among their human prey, they may want to blend as a way of hunting. An ability to consume human food without the need to get rid of it later could be helpful. Otherwise they may train their body not to reject the food. Although as a creature higher up on the food chain, would they need to circulate among prey to hunt or simply snatch their food from the shadowy recess of a dark alley or street?
Alcohol would most likely prove no difficulty in it's purest forms, gin, vodka. The higher the alcohol level the better since it would absorb into the blood stream and be removed with the rest of the liquid. Vampires could go to a bar and drink happily I think.
The important thing to remember when writing vampires is to remain consistent in the universe created for them. Because vampires aren’t real, no one can say what a vampire will or won’t do, how they live or act. They can say a writer isn’t abiding by the mythology but as I’ve already explained, the mythology covers a lot more than vampires being the soulless living dead and surviving on on blood.
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