How True Blood Creates Characters People Want to Be With

In Orson Scott Card’s book Character & Viewpoint, he points out that while we like characters who are similar to us, “we also tend to be a little bored with them. It’s strangeness, not familiarity, that excites our curiosity” (79). In True Blood there is a hierarchy of characters although each of the characters are simultaneous familiar and strange enough that any character could be the protagonist, even though “only one character is” (Woloch).

What works so well for True Blood is that it has alternate plots and alternate main characters. It is part of the nature of serial narrative that since the story is ongoing, the other characters can make something of the narrative space they are given. Even so, the narrative space certain characters are given depend on how much other characters rely on that main character’s plot line for unity.

At the top of the hierarchy is Sookie Stackhouse and we know this because so many of the other character’s plot threads connect back to her somehow. Everybody wants her: Bill wants her; Eric wants her; Sam wants her; Maryann, the maenad, wants her; and the Queen of Louisiana wants her. Each season begins and ends with Sookie and if she died there would no longer be a story. She needs to stay alive so that everybody can keep wanting her. The part of Sookie which is unfamiliar is her telepathic ability. This adds enough spice to keep everyone interested in her.

Next on the hierarchy of characters are Sookie’s supernatural love interests: Bill Compton, Eric Northman, and Sam Merlotte, in that order. These love interests are passionate, sensitive, a dangerous, and they seem to have plenty of money. Sex, death, love, and money are key ingredients to any object of desire—male, female, or other—and if you add mystery into the mix you have described every major love affair from Jane Eyre’s Edward Rochester to the Jay Gatsy to Edward Cullin in Twilight. Bill Compton is the frontrunner for Sookies affections because he embodies “a new combination of undead chum and unnaturally attentive lover, a sort of guardian angel with fangs” (Tyree 32). His courtliness toward Sookie and his respect for human life makes him unique among the vampires, and thus, special.

The rest of the major characters—Tara, Sam, Jason, Lafayette, Jessica, and Hoyt—are interesting enough that they could each be protagonists of their own show. Most of those characters long for intimacy yet have major handicaps they must overcome. Tara is handicapped by her relationship with her alcoholic mother and that she just can’t seem to get it together with men. Sam is handicapped by his abandonment as a child. Jason is handicapped by his stupidity. Hoyt is handicapped by his overbearing mother. Jessica is handicapped by how much she doesn’t know about being a vampire. Lafayette is the most self-realized in that he doesn’t hide who he is, “an unpredictable, impressible, and impish figure, a short-order cook, male prostitute, and drug dealer,” but unfortunately who he is makes him a target for many other people (Tyree 34).

They each have a lot to lose and each of their struggles puts them up against their Achilles heal, and “the more helpless the character and more terrible the danger, the more importance the audience will attach to the character” and the bigger the payoff promises to be at the end (Card 70).

  •  Card, Orson Scott. Elements of Fiction: Character & Viewpoint. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest books, 1988.
  • Tyree, J.M. “Warm-Blooded: True Blood and Let the Right One In.” Film Quarterly, Vol 6, No 2. pps 31-37. 2009.
  • Woloch, Alex. The One vs. The Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel. 2003. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.
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About E.S.O. Martin

E.S.O. Martin is a writer, a California native, and a graduate of SF State's Creative Writing MFA program.
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