There’s always a temptation to push a monster character to the edge and let them dance around there. How violent can they be before the audience feels that they have gone too far? What about going in the opposite direction where their monster side is almost superficial? As I’ve stated before, a lot of this comes down to balancing the two sides of the character. You also need to factor in genre because a lot of gore can work in action or horror, but not really in romance or children books. So, let’s examine the two extremes since that’s where the risk is:
Too Much Monster
This is one that I worry about when it comes to Clyde in War of Nytefall. I need to keep him close to the edge because he has the monstrous rage, which the other Dawn Fangs didn’t inherit. There are times I need him to be violent and cut loose to remind the audience that he is a monster. The gore comes into play here since he’s hand-to-hand and tears people apart. Clyde can tear through an army if he decides that he doesn’t want to use any self-control. He doesn’t go into a blind frenzy, but he releases enough that he can be terrifying without losing the one thing that keeps him ‘human’.
And that’s the key. There’s a cap on Clyde because he wants a challenge from his fights, so he won’t really cut loose. His outbursts are rare and fairly controlled after the initial charge, which prevents him from going full monster. If he did then it would be difficult to draw the audience back into believing that he can work with humans or even his own kind. That idea of the monster being able to hold back their worst instincts is necessary to maintaining interest in their story. Once they go over that edge, it’s really hard to bring them back. Even if you do, people will always be waiting for it to happen again and that creates distance between the character and the readers.
Too Little Monster
Sometimes an author might focus so much on the human side of a hero that they’ll almost completely eliminate the monster side. This isn’t as jarring and violent as having them be an agent of destruction, but it brings up some interesting questions. For example, why bother having them be a monster in the first place if they have no problem interacting with humans? This can be undone by having them be an outcast and including members of their species who are monstrous. Yet, people might wonder how this hero even fits into their birth world since they’re far too human. You really do need some kind of dangerous edge to these characters or it feels like a barely thought out gimmick.
Another issue that can stem from this is if you have some ‘monster hater’ characters turn up. These are the ones who refuse to believe the hero isn’t out to eat humans and go out of their way to be antagonistic. If the hero is acting so human that you forget their a monster then you would start to wonder why these other characters are so suspicious. The whole subplot can feel forced because there is too much evidence to prove that this monster isn’t a threat to people.
Honestly, the only reason I did this section was because I didn’t want people thinking I was continuing the last one. All of this comes down to what you want as an author and what works for the story. You’re always going to have people that think you didn’t go far enough or went too far. It’s the nature of the beast in regards to working with beasts as heroes. These characters have a lot of pre-existing lore and preconceived notions to break through, so they won’t always hit their marks. Even Dracula has his haters who say he isn’t a good example of a vampire. So, just do your best and stay true to the character you’re creating.