Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Writing Tip #10

I'm blogging when I should be working on my webzine and/or sleeping for work later. Oh well. Let's get right to the point here.

Tip #10: Humanize your monsters.

I'm doing something interesting in The Devil's Blade - I'm making the Grim Reaper, who is often portrayed as a skeleton, someone who was once an ordinary human and who, aside from being deathly pale, looks like an ordinary human.

A lot of stories take the Beauty and the Beast approach, arguing that it takes a really good-hearted character to fall in love with a monster. I'm blatantly ignoring that. It's not that I think it's a bad concept; I just think that we tend to see monsters as these scary things because we fear them, when maybe, if we looked just a little closer, we'd find they aren't that scary at all.

Valdius keeps his face hidden until a few chapters into the book. He's shrouded in mystery, and people are generally very afraid of him. It's much more terrifying to see a hooded figure with a scythe than it is to see some random pale guy with a scythe. When he finally chooses to reveal his face, it's a very important moment for his character. It shows that there is someone he likes enough to be human with, rather than the monstrous facade he keeps up.

Similarly, I have an imp character Zirk who is a friend to Valdius. Despite being a demon, he's essentially a good character. While certainly not human in appearance, he's not scary, either. Valdius himself perhaps describes him the best:

He looks like a carved gargoyle and only comes to my knees. He has little horns and red eyes, but he's not very intimidating. 

I know a lot of people, myself included, that would even go as far as to think he was sort of cute, in that cute-little-gargoyle sort of way. He needs to be a likeable character. Making him some kind of horrifying monster would push a reader away from him and make him lose that cute factor. As it is, he's relatively easy to picture, and also looks pretty small and harmless. He doesn't come across as being evil just by his appearance.

Of course, like all things in writing, humanizing your demons (literal demons, in this case) won't always work, but for this story, I think it's the way to go. 

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