Ciao, amici! I have a treat for you today. This week, I’m giving you not one, but two new-to-this-blog authors. On Tuesday, we spent some time in a soft and sweet genre. Now it’s time to bare our fangs and get down and dirty.
I’ve got Charles E. Yallowitz here today, and he’s excited (as am I) for the release of his latest novel, War of Nytefall: Rivalry. To whet your whistle a bit, he’s going to share his eight tips for writing multi-faceted monsters. No, that’s not a typo. I know the title said seven tips, but he generously gave us a bonus. Here’s a double bonus—not a sparkly vampire in sight.
Please help me give Charles a warm welcome.
A big thanks to Staci for inviting me to be a guest and helping to promote my newest book, War of Nytefall: Rivalry. This is the third volume of my fantasy action adventure series that follows the events of the Vampire Civil War of Windemere.
As you can probably guess, nearly every character is a vampire that belongs to either the old-world species or the newer, more powerful Dawn Fangs. By choosing to have a cast of monsters, I found myself in a difficult position because most people think of them as violent or seductive beasts. They’re always on the darker side of the emotional spectrum, but that doesn’t work when you need to have at least some of the vampires come off as heroic. This meant that I had to give my blood-suckers emotions and make the reader believe that they should have them. Turned out to be an uphill battle, but I figured out a few tricks.
Here are 7 that might help those who take on the same challenge:
- The most obvious thing for vampires and other ‘cursed’ beings is to make it clear that they were once human. It isn’t really a rule that they lose all of their humanity when they turn. You see many examples of vampires that show some aspects of humanity such as lust, rage, and loneliness. At times, it comes off that we forget that these are human traits as well. Adding the more positive ones to a vampire doesn’t really take anything away from them.
- Create a society or some type of social structure for the monster. This will relate a level of emotional connection to other beings. A loner species won’t have rules and cities, so you have already made it clear that these monsters desire relationships. It could be as simple as something based off a wolf pack with a hierarchy. It isn’t like animals in reality are devoid of emotions.
- Jumping off the animal hook there, you might think that emotions can only be given to monsters that can talk. Not true in the least. Did you know that it’s believed that only 7% of human communication is done through words? The other 93% is nonverbal such as voice tone and body language. Now, the numbers might differ by studies, but most of what we portray is through something other than words. For example, the way you greet someone can tell them your mood. This means that a monster or any character that lacks the ability to use words can still show it has emotions.
- One of the clearest ways to demonstrate any character’s emotions is to give them relationships. It doesn’t have to be romance since those tend to revolve around the same emotions or get chalked up to lust. Friendships and rivalries can demonstrate a greater range, especially when you work on character evolution. Many humanoid monsters are already open to these additions since they have a history of societies. Considering we’re now looking at these groups from the inside, it can appear very natural for them to have very human connections.
- Stop after the monster does something monstrous in order to consider the emotional impact. Do they feel guilt or shame about their actions? If not then you have to establish why without making the reader lose the connection. Claiming that it’s simply how they survive can only go so far before it feels empty. Perhaps it’s self-defense or protecting loved ones or induced by fear. On the other side, you have to be careful not to overdo these emotions. A monster shouldn’t hate what it is unless that’s part of the story and evolution.
- One thing that can emotionally define a person is what they enjoy. Give these monsters hobbies and interests that can range from the mundane to the exotic. They can have a job that they did before their story started and they talk about it. Maybe they decide to learn a new skill over the course of the adventure. The point is that you add something that any ‘normal’ human character would possess to give them flavor. For example, one of my vampires runs a business that is tavern, hotel, bakery, resort, and brothel. She is involved in so many activities that she openly enjoys that she is one of the most relatable of the cast.
- We’ve been sticking with the positive, but there is a negative that you can utilize to demonstrate emotions in monsters. Giving monsters a fear that isn’t one of their traditional weaknesses can reveal a level of humanity. Sure, a vampire would be scared of a stake and a werewolf would recoil from silver. What happens if you have a vampire that has a phobia about socks? Maybe she tried to live among mortals and they found her strange, so they beat her with rock-filled socks. Even immortal creatures can suffer emotional trauma and it might even be worse since they don’t always have a clear concept of time.
- Bonus: Treat your monster characters like any other hero or villain. They might have more facets than a human, but it’s the ones they share with the reader that you should put extra attention to.
There you have it. A fun list of tips if you want to put more emotional meat on your monsters. It can be frustrating at times, but the pay off is definitely worth it. Check out War of Nytefall: Rivalry for a taste of monsters with emotions. Thanks and enjoy the adventure.
About War of Nytefall: Rivalry:
Seeking the pleasure of revenge, an ancient rumor will reveal herself to be a deadly legend.
Lurking within the shadows for centuries, the Vampire Queen has been drawn to the conflict that surrounds Clyde. Only whispers have been spread about this elusive figure, who has amassed a kingdom that can rival Nyte and Nytefall. All that she is missing is the strongest vampire to crown as her king. In one fell swoop, she has taken the most powerful of her kind, including Clyde and Xavier Tempest. Hosting a tournament where the rules seem to change at her whim, the Vampire Queen threatens to shatter the already strained world that lurks beneath Windemere’s surface. Yet, there is more to her desires, which seep from a soul that is pulsing with fury. For her kingdom can never be complete until she holds the head of the one who wronged her centuries ago.
Can Mab stand against her ancient rival and save her beloved partner?
About the Author:
Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn’t working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. Truthfully, his tales of adventure are much more interesting than his real life, so skip the bio and dive into the action
I loved having Charles here today, and I love the tips he shared with us. I haven’t yet written a vampire, but I have dabbled in urban fantasy and can tell you his advice is spot-on. More to the point, he’s got a fabulous series with a new release that I’m sure will be a rousing success.
Let’s all use those like and share buttons, then leave him a wish for good luck or a thought about how you might make a monster more than a stereotypical villain or swoon-worthy heart throb. Looking forward to a rousing discussion.