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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » The monster as hero

   
Author Topic: The monster as hero
rcmann
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Writing one that has a gene spliced hybrid as a tragic hero. Part human dna/part animal. The MC/beast is not UN-likeable, but I'm not worried about inducing warm and fuzzies.

Not the typical Frankenstein story. Nor am I trying to re-tell Beowulf. The hybrid is the hero of the story, i.e. he is the one who is morally in the right and the one that I want the reader to identify with. There is nothing pitiful about this guy. He is smart, capable, and competent. He is also obsessed with payback for a particular event. Not for his own existence. He has no problem with who and what he is. He is ticked off about something else.

The thing is, he is not human. He thinks in some ways like a human. But in other ways, no. He does no personally identify with humans. he most emphatically does nto identify with animals. he identifies with his own kind, his own artificial species *only*. There is a small population of them in a government lab, and more being born all the time. They are his people. But he is not on a crusade, and this is not planet of the apes. My MC's quest is personal vengeance for a personal reason.

Any and all suggestions on how to accomplish this effectively would be welcome. All comments invited, pro, con, and neutral.

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Pyre Dynasty
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http://nnewts.com/page-14/

This is a comic about newts, read the blog post underneath it. (It's short.)

Another angle, I've just finished watching through Buffy: The Vampire Slayer tv show. One thing the show does is show us a fantastic monster and then it talks in the most natural voice and it suddenly becomes a person to us.

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axeminister
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Wolverine.
While he wasn't an animal, he was a mutant, and didn't seem to feel at home anywhere. Most notably in X-men 1.

If you take away his slice and dice, maybe part of what you're looking for is there?

Axe

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rcmann
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Close, but not quite where I am shooting.

The idea is that this guy is not human, and I don't want to present him as human. Not even a disaffected human who is burdened down with angst. I guess I am trying to look at humanity from the outside, while maintaining enough connection to make the viewpoint relevant.

There is already enough pain, blood, etc. to ground him in human commonality. And his motive is part of what makes the reader identify with him. Part of the theme is that his need for revenge comes from his human dna, not his animal half.

I'm stalling out on how to do this effectively without making it read like a human in fur suit.

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Robert Nowall
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If you can find a copy, try "The Monster" by Lester Del Rey.
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MattLeo
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I really think this is hardly worth worrying about. We're used to even *alien* heroes, who aren't *any* part human. Aliens in 1950s movies tended be monsters *because* they were alien. Aliens in the post *Star Trek* era are seldom monstrous (The *Alien* franchise being the exception). Movie Indians were viewed in the era up to John Wayne's *The Searchers* as monsters. Movie Indians post *Dances with Wolves* are never monsters. Bram Stoker's vampires are monsters. Stephanie Meyer's vampires are not monsters.

So what is a monster? A monster is a creature which hit is justifiable to destroy *simply because of what it is*.Monstrosity is in the eye of the beholder, and in our enlightened era we tend to give the foreign more benefit of the doubt, and there is a significant probability in stories that the evidently monstrous is just misunderstood.

So make your protagonist *foreign*, but not monstrous to the readers. We're so primed for foreign-but-misunderstood these days I wouldn't worry about it. Just write, see what the reaction is, then tweak as necessary.

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extrinsic
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A low-concept premise of Frankenstein's monster arises from the monster's motifs. He's made up of disparate parts of human bodies. Interpreted figuratively, the monster is made up of parts of the human psyche. Villager reactions to him are also portrayals of the human psyche. The monster is capable of human emotions, like sympathy and rage and hurt feelings from rejection, yet true to human nature a villain for his antisocial acts.

But I think your monster hero is intended as an antihero. What you're exploring might be how an outsider or dissenter is perceived by and reacts to and is treated by an in-group majority. A mass-culture majority rules society oppresses minorities and dissenters.

What value and what harm do outsiders and dissenters bring to society is going on in the public debate across the globe. An individual in society is the larger generic theme. Alienation is also on point. Focusing the theme I think would give you the finger on the pulse of the story treatment development.

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rcmann
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Not really.

My premise is that a military project is splicing human dna into animals to make sentient hybrids. Purpose being spies and suicide killers. Theme is that this is inherently evil.

First, because divine retribution is gonna fall on our collective asses for it (e.g. Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.).

Second, because if you put enough human dna into something to make it sentient, you are making it human enough to be uncontrollable(I know, planet of the apes. I have plans to divert that reaction in the reader.).

Third, a viable hybrid will exhibit characteristics different from anything we have seen before, and might very well be our nemesis, as we were the nemesis to neanderthal.

Problem is doing this without sounding preachy or gibbering.

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extrinsic
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Scholars speculate Homo sapiens neanderthalensis extinction was partly if not mostly a consequence of slow-moving megafauna extinctions. Larger build, more hirsute, and evolved to chase slow-moving, short-distance-spanning megaprey, neanderthalensis couldn't run swift prey to ground the way Homo sapiens could. Swift prey have a short flee, flight, or fight endurance span, maybe a couple miles or so. Homo sapiens hunters potentially have a much longer endurance span.

If your theme is also Promethean, an individual and the gods, one of these maybe:
"a. The god(s) are benevolent and will reward human beings for overcoming evil and temptation.
b. The gods mock the individual and torture him or her for presuming to be great.
c. The gods are jealous of and constantly thwart human aspiration to power and knowledge.
d. The gods are indifferent toward human beings and let them run their undetermined course.
e. There are no gods in whom people can place their faith or yearning for meaning in the universe" ("Common Themes in Literature" Web).

Narrowing the theme might help get past preaching or gibbering issues and into visionary or mystical transcendence. E.M. Forester covers those very topics quite persuasively in Aspects of the Novel, 1933, if that's not too dated for you. Also, a well-defined problem wanting satisfaction derived from or leading to uncovering a well-defined theme will go a long way toward getting past those issues.

Sounds to me like sympathy or empathy issues readers might have with the monster are also out front. Sympathy for the devil? Maybe a selfless, noble sacrifice or two are in order up front, maybe in between, and maybe at the back end.

From Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice; "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" Though a general theme there is an individual and society.

[ August 07, 2012, 02:19 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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