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Character Design Brainstorming: The Monster Among Us

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Oct. 10, 2020

We live in a world of routine, predictability, and pedestrian problems. (2020 doesn't count. Much.)

Magic doesn't really seem to exist in our world.

Or does it?

Perhaps we live above a very thin surface, like floating on a tranquil lake, and just underneath it there are ghouls, and vampires, and monsters of all kinds that live among us.

Some may be threats we are not even aware of until they become the last thing we see. Others live in parallel and just want to live and let live. Still others are there to make sure the world stays stable as we know it, either as guardians or as policing agents or even as puppet masters of the mortals that live without being aware of them.

The thrill of this premise has fueled many legends and stories and myths- and it isn't likely to stop.

Usually when designing such monsters, the supernatural element revolves around the creature's powers and his/her/its capacity to shapeshift/morph/glamour itself as human so they can exist and interact within human society.

That means that the design of the monster will inadvertedly go hand in hand with the design of the setting and the lore: the rules you design for your world will be pivotal in how your monster is also designed.

Are they loners, outliers that roam the world and are suprirsed if they ever get to meet one similar to them, even more so if it's their own kind?

Or are they a society within a society, like a secret cult that has meeting places and rules of their own in place for how they will conduct themselves within the world of the humans?

Usually, the design is derived, one way or the other, from legends and myths- from vampires and werewolves to nine-tailed foxes and goblins and even the old pantheons of gods.

And therein lies the challenge and the risk, if you will: if you make the monsters too powerful, it becomes hard to ‘sell’ the reason why they keep themselves secret rather than rising above human society, making the humans the ones that have to hide and pretend (unless they are part of the cosmos in a more existential way like Charon or the Grim Reaper). If you make them too weak, they lose the ‘coolness’ factor and it's hard to make them alluring or awe-inspiring, let alone threats and possibly superior to human capacities.

So what you need to do is basically walk a tightrope where the monster is powerful and deadly, but the human can stand a (relatively good) chance to outwit/outsmart/outfight/overpower the monster if the human is aware of the monster's existence- hence the need for secrecy but without reducing the awe and the dread.

What that means is that, regardless the legend you're drawing from, you must consistently give weaknesses that make sense for your monster while also giving them their strengths. Perhaps the moonlight enhances their senses and their strength, but the sunlight makes them weak (or within human range). Perhaps they are powerful and nearly indestructible, but if you manage to steal a magic possession, or cut off a tail, or hair, or use a specific type of weapon, they become especially vulnerable.

Or perhaps you must find out their real name, or steal their skin, or strike a deal that magically binds them to you.

Whatever it is, it has to be attainable by humans, even if it is very hard to do.

Have you ever created monsters that walk among us?

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Banes at 7:55AM, Oct. 11, 2020

I've been poking at a dark fantasy/horror series and this stuff is a big part of what I'm wrestling with. Gotta figure out that Masquerade and the levels of power!

cdmalcolm1 at 2:18PM, Oct. 10, 2020

This is like a MIB or Like HellBoy. they are there, just looks like everyday persons and things. This just might explain why some ppl are serial killers or worst. some might even be Gods living with us like the movie Hancock. Some ppl are very, gifted in a number of things. who knows. lol, i mean, some of our usernames here on the duck could very well mean what the person is. (that last statement is so a play on this article.)

PaulEberhardt at 7:31AM, Oct. 10, 2020

Some supernatural monsters just might be so detached from humans that they don't care for taking over the world. In that type of story the heroes don't overcome them as such but rather watch them go away when they're tired of dealing with the anthill they've stepped in (from the monster's perspective). With less supernatural monsters like, say, a former SS doctor living undercover in Paraguay there may be reasons like times having changed or even a feeling of guilt that has developed over the years in exile. It's basically the same situation as a werewolf waging an internal war with his last shreds of humanity. The monster within makes for interesting characters, to be sure.

Kou the Mad at 3:36AM, Oct. 10, 2020

I'm not wholly unconvinced they don't exist truth be told.

Gunwallace at 1:09AM, Oct. 10, 2020

Monsters do live among us. They are called neo-liberals.

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