Feb 16 2011 9:00am

Why Vampire Diaries Kicks Twilight Butt

The Vampire Diaries

I'm Laurel McKee, and I have a confession to make. I’m a 30-something with a writing career, a mortgage, and a car payment; a responsible, somewhat mature woman—and I am completely obsessed with The Vampire Diaries. It’s not my first relationship with a CW show—I’m also quite fond of Gossip Girl, with its gorgeous clothes and rich, skanky teens. But it’s nothing like my love of Vampire Diaries.


At first I didn’t really want to try it, despite my love of All Things Vampire. I’ve been burned by shows that looked promising before. I’d been pulled in by Twilight too, which looked so fun and juicy at the beginning, only to find it was some kind of wimpy abstinence allegory. Didn’t want to do that again, and the Diaries previews had all the earmarks of a Twilight knock-off. Then I had a quiet Thursday night between Netflix movies and decided to give it a try.

Vampire Diaries

O.M.G. I was drawn in right away, and haven’t been able to get out since. It’s true love. At least until it jumps the shark. Or until Damon leaves the show, God forbid. (Sigh. Damon).

Okay, if you’re a Vampire Diaries newbie, here’s a (very) brief rundown. I don’t have the space here to do justice to all its complexities. At the center is a classic love triangle. Human Elena lives in Mystic Falls, Virginia, one of those weird little towns that attracts all sorts of paranormal stuff. She encounters the vampire Salvatore brothers, who were turned in Mystic Falls in 1864—the “good” Stefan (who is also very bad when he’s been drinking human blood) and the “bad” Damon (who can also be good when we glimpse his hidden vulnerability—until he turns around and rips someone’s heart out, literally). Elena loves Stefan, who loves Elena back, but Elena is also drawn to Damon (natch). Their drama is surrounded by all kinds of angst and passion, both paranormal and human. My friend and fellow Diaries obsessive, author Alicia Dean, says, “It all works together to make an enjoyable show filled with enough surprises and spine-tingling, heart-wrenching moments to make you want to keep watching.”

So, here are just a few of the things I love about the show (aka, Why Vampire Diaries Is So Much Better Than Twilight):

The heroine. In a setup like this, the central heroine is essential to the success of the story. Elena is young, but her life has been shadowed by tragedy (her parents died in a car crash, leaving her and her brother alone), and she doesn’t shy away from the dark side of life. She’s strong and independent, and will do anything to protect the people she loves. She never whines, or sits around waiting for Stefan to turn her into a vampire (this isn’t even an issue—yet).

The setting. I’ve long been a sucker for those “small, weird town” stories, the mystery and mysticism surrounding a place, and Mystic Falls is a good one. Despite the fact that no one at all has a Southern accent in this small Virginia town, it’s a Gothic-y place full of vamps, witches, and werewolves, complete with a sinister Council among the founding families. I even enjoy the Civil War flashbacks, despite my inner history geek screaming in agony at the blatant historical inaccuracies! (I forget them when the villainess vamp Katherine swans onscreen in a fab hoopskirt—I’m easily distracted by fashion.)

Speaking of fashion—there are lots and lots of party scenes. Masked balls, Founders Day balls, charity benefits, etc., all full of great clothes. (I actually ran out and bought a cute BCBG cocktail dress after Bonnie wore it in the “Masquerade” episode.) Parties never end well in Mystic Falls, alas. Someone always ends up attacked in the woods, such a bummer . . .

The vamps are real vamps, even ones who fight against their nature, like Stefan. They can be vicious and dangerous, they kill people, they look ugly when angered. They’re unpredictable to the max.

And along those same lines, there’s also sex. A lot of it. And no whining about it. (Also—shirtless men. There’s lots of gorgeous eye candy in Mystic Falls besides the Salvatore brothers, and all of them end up stripping down for one reason or another on a regular basis.)

Witty writing. As a writer, I deeply appreciate this. Dialogue sounds natural and different for each character, the plotting is twisty and unpredictable as well as tragic and complex (anyone could die at any time, and anything can happen), and each new character is integrated into the show to make a real impact. The casting is spot-on for each part. The pacing is also impeccable—important things happen in every episode, sometimes many things, and events build on each other so no episode can be skipped. They also end on great cliffhangers. I’ve learned so much about plotting from The Vampire Diaries. (See, it’s Important Research for work! Not just ogling men.)

I mentioned the heroine, Elena, but now we come to the (real) number one reason I love Vampire Diariesthe heroes. Namely, Damon. Don’t get me wrong, Stefan is yummy indeed, and there’s much to be said for Matt, Tyler, Alaric, etc., but I confess I’m a Damon fangirl. I think it comes from my teenage addiction to All Things Bronte, but I do love me a dark, brooding, tortured, unpredictable anti-hero. Ian Somerhalder, with his otherworldly good looks and blue-blue eyes, his bad-boy smile and flashes of real violence, embodies the character perfectly. His hidden love for Elena is agonizing, but as Alicia Dean says (and I totally agree), it would be wrong for him to really get together with her. “He should always be a free, lonely, tortured soul. I love Damon’s angst in wanting the woman he can’t have. I also like that I know, deep down, Elena wants Damon too.”

I also asked my friend Lana Clary what she loves about Vampire Diaries (to get the 20-something perspective!), and she answered, “What’s not to love? Gorgeous guys and girls, great acting, memorable quotes, surprising twists and turns, edge of your seat story lines. And all things Damon.”

It’s now halfway through Season 2. Season 1 is out on DVD, and I highly recommend getting a copy ASAP. Warning—you might end up like me, totally addicted! But it hurts so good . . .

Laurel McKee writes historical romance for Grand Central Publishing, writes as Amanda McCabe for Harlequin Historical, and can be found at the Risky Regencies every Tuesday, and on Twitter as @amandalaurel1 whenever she’s procrastinating.

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Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
Laurel bears all the blame for my getting addicted to this series now. Just received disc 4 of Season 1 from Netflix.
amanda mccabe
2. amanda mccabe
Ahhhh, my work here is done then. One Vampire Diaries fan at a time :)
amanda mccabe
3. Alicia Dean
Yes, the show is quite addictive, but it's not the kind of addiction you'd ever want to cure. As Laurel says, 'hurts so good.' evil, so sexy, so irresistable. Damon alone is worth tuning into the show for. Most of the witty dialogue is delivered by him and it's a big part of his diabolical charm.
amanda mccabe
4. Alicia Dean
Oh yeah...also meant to add...great post, Laurel. You said it all perfectly!
amanda mccabe
5. Lana Clary
Amazing, awesome, truthful, perfect blog!!! I love it so much I'm tweeting it to Ian Somerhalder (Damon Salvatore), Nina Dobrev (Elena Gilbert), Kevin Williamson & Julie Plec (writers/creators of the show) =) I'm responsible for getting several people I know addicted....& they thank me for their addiction every day!! I am going to the Eyecon Vampire Diaries convention in March...& I cannot wait!!
amanda mccabe
7. Keira Soleore
Laurel, you've as usual hit it out of the park with this blog post. Good overview!
Aliza Mann
8. AlizaMann
I agree. I am a Vampire-Hag and I usually don't have any qualms with loving-up-on a Vampire regardless of clan or lifemate... but... something about Bella and little Eddie Cullen is a bit offputting. I am very disturbed at her virgin queen antics... She's just a very weak protagonist for my taste... and now baby makes three (spoiler).
I expect hatemail at any moment now...
Although, the Poppa Cullen is yummy!
amanda mccabe
9. amanda mccabe
LOL Lana! I actually did go look at the convention website, but decided not to try and go when I saw you-know-who was not going to be there :)

Keira, I was never more than an occasional Buffy viewer, so of course I love TVD the best. I'd love to hear what Buffy fans have to say....

AlizaMann, I am soooo with you on that one! I think Bella just ended up annoying me far too much in the end (even though I did read the books to the bitter end!)
amanda mccabe
10. Lana Clary
Actually - it's been rumored he WILL be there!! He lives there AND films there, he has been at every other convention they have had, even in Australia...PLUS he is the biggest star of the show, so I am sure they will wait until the last second to announce his appearance! We are also going on the tour of Mystic Falls..the actual set of the show! And Jessica, the founder of Mystic Falls tours, told me he comes to the tours often & most likely he will be there bc it's the weekend of the convention. Not trying to create false hope for myself or make you jealous or anything...LOL. Just saying it's a possiblility..& that was enough for me! =) I have been forwarding your blog to everyone I know! They all love it! =)
Julie Hayes
11. JulieLHayes
I have watched every episode of Vampire Diaries, and for one reason only - Ian Somerhalder's Damon Salvatore. He is the perfect Damon, there could be no other, and he makes the series for me. Having said that, though, I have to say that the first season was disappointing and sophomoric, and the writing which started out well became a trite overworked travesty which was rapidly heading downhill. The second season is recovering that, but isn't perfect.

Also, what they've done to the books is inexplicable - no rhyme or reason to what they did to the characters. Elena was supposed to be a blonde blue-eyed beauty queen, popular girl of the school. Bonnie was a Celtic witch. Elena has no brother, she has a younger sister. Jenna isn't supposed to be almost Elena's age. Etc. There is a lot of good source material in the books which is being neglected. Katherine herself gets tiring really quickly, and the current subplot with martyr Elena and the original vamp needs to wind up and move on - I'm very tired of her I'd rather die mentality.

Honestly, Damon truly makes the entire series. Stick with what's good and give that boy lots of screen time. The more you break his heart, the more chance he has to emote and break ours - and keep us watching!
12. Nerwen76
I have to agree. I love Vampire Diaries, the show. I read the books and was turned off by the end. it just got too "out there" for me. I do not mind the differences between the book and show, I actually think it's better. If the show goes the way of the books, I have a feeling I won't be watching anymore.
amanda mccabe
13. MarieI
Great blog!

I guess I'm the opposite of most everyone here, because Buffy is and will always be my favorite show, but I'm finding it really hard to work up any excitement for The Vampire Diaries. Most of my friends love the show, but I really don't care what happens in the show even though I've watched most of the episodes.

I know it's supposed to be romantic and thrilling, but I just don't care. I don't really care who lives or dies, or who ends up with whom. Julie mentioned that she watches the show only for Damon. I agree Ian is very good looking, but his way of playing Damon just makes him feel more like a parody. That's just my opinion. I know others who love him as Damon, and I mean no offense to them.

And to be even more the opposite of most of the comments here ;-) I fall into the category of people who actually loved Twilight (even though I didn't really love Edward), and it made me feel much more for the characters than The Vampire Diaries have ever done. Although, I haven't read the VD books, so I can't say how I feel about them, but they seem very different.
amanda mccabe
14. amanda mccabe
@JulieLHayes Julie, I never read the books so have nothing to compare the show to (my brother's girlfriend, though, says she can't watch the show because she liked the books! I am trying to change her mind...) I do agree that this season has a weird "treading water" quality, as if they're not sure exactly what direction to take. There are also too many plotlines cluttering things up. But I am a girl with simple tastes--if they keep giving me scenes like the "Damon in the shower" one a couple weeks ago, I will keep watching :)

@Lane Clary OK, Lana, now I AM jealous!!! I may have to go to this conference after all....

Lee Hyat
15. leehyat
Great post! Loved it as I love all things Damon! He's the reason I'm so addicted to Vampire Diaries!
amanda mccabe
16. Romy Sommer
Hi, my name is Romy and I am a Vampire Diaries-addict. I loved Twilight, too, but Edward just cannot compare to the Salvatore brothers.

I'm also with Nerwyn on the books. The TV series lifted the story to a whole new level that the books just didn't reach, as far as I'm concerned.

Over at I'm currently running a series of posts about what writers can learn from The Vampire Diaries. Moi, obsessed?
amanda mccabe
17. Jessica Peter
I had a heavy duty obsession with the books growing up, rivalling any Twihard of today (I can't even count how many times I read the first three Vampire Diaries). I still have yet to start the series, because I've seen in previews and such what changes have been made! That said. . . this might help convince me.
amanda mccabe
18. Cheisa
Cool Vampires whines and writes diary?? Come on!!!
This thing is as worse as fang-less vampires.

Buffy still had the best vampires of all!!
Rachel Hyland
19. RachelHyland
@ Laurel (AKA Amanda)

Lovely, passionate post! You mention a -- completely understandable -- love of the CW's Gossip Girl, but make no mention of Supernatural. Can it be you've never given the Winchester boys a shot? Because trust me, soon Dean will rival Damon in your affections. Sure, it's more bromance than romance on that show, but it is still totally worth your time.

@ 6. Keira

Comparing The Vampire Diaries to Buffy the Vampire Slayer is like comparing a Snickers with Godiva. The former is awesome, often exactly what you crave, and can be immensely satisfying, but the latter is smoother, richer and less common, making it a much more unique and luxuriant experience. Both are great in their own ways, but (to employ a different metaphor) Buffy is couture, whereas TVD is more high street.

@ 11. JulieLHayes

Yes, dammit, enough Katherine is enough! Also, much as I can see Nina Dobrev is doing her absolute best, she's not quite pulling off the dual role, and it's annoying me.

@ 17. Jessica Peter

Massive changes made, to the point of even renaming the town. But on the other hand, Ian Somerhalder! Just grit your teeth, try to think of it as an alternate universe reimagining of the original, and enjoy.

@ 18. Cheisa

You mean you think Angel never whined? Come on! (I agree with you that Buffy vampires remain the best ever created, but still.) Plus, the diary in question belongs to Elena, not the vamps. Just sayin'.
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