Inspired by the Underworld setting where vampires slept in steampunk-styled sarcophagi, slowly deteriorating until they were woken and fed, I wrote a story about vampires as aliens who crash-landed on Earth in the twelfth century, holed up in the hills of Eastern Europe, and somehow survived.

In the opening of the story, the protagonist is sent to interview one of the prominent vampires by someone in the American government. It seems that world governments have known of the vampires for some time, and have had some interaction with them, but need "a full report" by the protagonist, who is an exo-biologist.

So he goes, and he sits down and does the interview. There's a little interspersing of the POV MC looking around the room, observing others, asking the occasional question, etc., but for the most part it's ~5500 words of one character telling the other character a history.

What are some ways I can make such a story "work" without it being a complete infodump? Also, one criticism of the story, in which a man interviews someone potentially dangerous, gets away without anything bad happening to him, writes his report, and turns it in, is that "nothing happens". I don't understand what to do with that.

Baird sat quietly waiting while death itself settled into the chair across from him. A servant delivered a snifter of brandy, which Baird took gratefully. He rolled the amber liquid around in the globe, watching the light from the fireplace as it flared in the glass, stalling for a moment lest he appear nervous as he poured the much-needed nerve fortifier down his throat. As he drank, a grim smile appeared on the lips of his companion. A voice, heavy with an accent that seemed as ancient as the hills, did its best to sound soothing. “I assure you, Mr. Baird, you have nothing to fear from me.”

Baird peered back at his host. Slowly lowering the glass from his lips, he held it in his lap momentarily, then set it on the stand next to his chair and picked up his notepad. “Thank you, sir, for that reassurance.I apologize if I seem… uncomfortable.”

“It is to be expected. You might be surprised to hear that I feel a certain bit of trepidation myself with regard to this… interview. Not for my own safety, which is not in question. It is because I have not told our story to anyone from the outside world. Well, at least not for a very, very long time..."

I'll take the "nothing happens" issue. Your writing style and tone are pleasant, maybe melancholy, but I don't see a conflict. I understand why Baird is there, but I don't understand why the vampire needs the government. If these two motives were at cross-currents or incompatible, we would have conflict. If the vampire needs to convince Baird of something he does not wish to believe, we have conflict. If Baird needs to appeal to the vampires "humanity" which an alien may or may not have, we have conflict.

I read two polite and respectful men being polite and respectful to each other – it is refreshing, but not exciting. In the short excerpt, I can't see any irony or subtext. The characterization is that one man is slightly uncomfortable, and the other has an accent. These are mild differences, and I assume there is more but this is the obvious stuff on the surface so unless the narrator is avoiding a 500lb gorilla in the room Baird is not in danger.

The scene recalls a similar vampire interview between Jonathan Harker and Count Dracula, which also starts with formal pleasantries but quickly leads to a very famous story. While I am interested to hear the old alien's history, I understand if some readers are letting you know the concept is comparably unexciting by vampire story standards.

Personally, I wonder what value you get from calling him a vampire. If he has murdered innocent victims and fed on humans for a thousand years, the scene is creating moral dissonance. If he has not been feeding on humans, maybe he is a very long-lived alien who is using humans to extend his lifespan (hence a kind of vampire) there is still a moral dissonance about this "villain" in the very short example.

  • I provided the first three paragraphs of the longer piece. I feel like I want it to be the first chapter to a longer story, though I can't say what the plot of the larger story would be. Baird listens to the old man's tale, which describes where vampire legends came from, what parts are true, and what is fabrication. Then there's a description of their family structure, which is different than ours. Baird muses that he'd love to go to that planet and spend his years cataloging life there, but realizes he can't. On his return, he gets offered a job that has "a significant travel component". – J.D. Ray Oct 23 at 21:58
  • Thank you, by the way. The larger picture, outside Baird's POV, is that there's an effort to send humans and some of the vampires back to the other planet. It's very different there, and a bit of Crocodile Dundee-esque exposition would describe the difficulty humans had living on the remote planet and integrating into society there. Melancholy, huh? – J.D. Ray Oct 23 at 22:02
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    @J.D.Ray, it does sound interesting to me. I am not "bored" by the excerpt. I would read more. – wetcircuit Oct 23 at 22:11
  • I second on the paragraph about conflict. – Liquid Oct 24 at 8:33

Firstly infodumps aren't always bad in of themselves. The issue tends to be that they slow the pace but in this right place this need not be a problem.

Having said that 5000k words is a big chunk of text and so it needs to function as a troy within a story and as such needs proper structure.

You would expect a Vampire to be able to deliver a fairly compelling narrative and as a writer you need to be able to deliver on that. My initial impression is that even the introduction it is tending towards the verbose side. Possibly vampires are naturally like this but maybe you need the interviewer to encourage them to get on with it.

For example you write

“It is to be expected. You might be surprised to hear that I feel a certain bit of trepidation myself with regard to this… interview. Not for my own safety, which is not in question. It is because I have not told our story to anyone from the outside world. Well, at least not for a very, very long time..."

vs

“I have not told our story to anyone from the outside world in living memory"

Same information 75% fewer words.

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