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Romanticizing Monsters

March 12, 2012

I was watching a discussion not too long ago about what people are tired of in the books they read. One person said she was tired of vampires and elves not being the monsters they were originally made out to be in literature and myths. I’ve seen similar complaints, where readers thought such creatures should solely be represented as the monsters they were originally conceived as.

And this bothers me. It bothers me whenever I see readers saying certain archetypes or creatures should only be used in one way. Only one? Really? Authors should box themselves into only how an old myth—used to explain any number of naturally occurring events—was originally told? In my opinion, limiting an author’s bag of tricks is never a good thing. Yes, writing a vampire as an evil, undead creature that’s only thought is to drink blood is all fine and well, but the romance genre (which is what the conversation was discussing) doesn’t really lend itself to those sorts of irredeemable characters unless they’re the bad guy.

Yes, elves and vampires and werewolves and witches all have dark, negative pasts, all meant to keep young children and impressionable women in line. But, in this modern age, they can be transformed into good, sexy, alluring creatures that can be heroes or heroines, seductive and honorable all at once. A hint of the evil, a touch of the dark, but ultimately, the characters have a heart of gold that draws their love interest to them. There is nothing wrong with this, and to say that such paranormal characters should only be evil monsters is just… grr-inducing to me.

You remove all those characters, box them in the Evil Guys corner and don’t touch them unless they’re a villain, and then what’s left? What fantastical main characters can you use other than a historical or contemporary human being pitted against the forces of evil? Oh, those stories are fine and dandy to me, and when I’m in the mood to read one, I do, but I also love paranormal main characters, characters that have nothing to do with me or my world or anything I know in reality. It’s deep immersion in worlds and peoples that just can’t exist here and now, and they’re given a romanticized edge to fit the necessary genre restrictions.

Are the roots of these characters evil and cruel and dark and inhuman? Yes, no doubt about it. But it’s the job of the writer to take what is known and turn it into something new. A new story, a new angle, a new approach. Zombies, devils, demons, centaurs, everything is up for grabs, ready to meet the challenge of being turned into a romantic lead that a reader can root for, sympathize and fall in love with. If it isn’t your thing, you don’t have to read it, but saying these sorts of characters should never be used for anything but their original mythological purpose is disheartening and limiting.

I hope I’m not the only author/reader who thinks these things! I love having a wealth of material to pull from, to weave into my stories and the worlds I create. 😀 I may not be for everyone, or read everything that comes out, but I do love having lots of choice, and I am very against limiting anything that might add another layer to my writing and reading experiences.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Lizzie permalink
    March 12, 2012 9:18 am

    That’s like saying that all female characters should be meek, barefoot, and pregnant in the kitchen. There are certain basic facts about the characters that must hold true (for example, Vampires are NOT the same thing as ordinary humans. It makes them not-vampires if they don’t require sustenance from SOME life-force or other. It makes lycanthropes not-werewolves if they don’t actually change form in some way or another). That being said? If ya don’t like it, don’t read it *shrug*

    I enjoy being able to see things in a different light…

  2. March 16, 2012 5:56 pm

    Lizzie — It’s fiction, and it makes my heart weep when readers or reviewers comment about how a certain trope or archetype isn’t being done ‘right’. Dude, this is fiction, there is not right or wrong. There’s just stories. Passing judgment on a story because it’s a romanticized, beautiful Elf instead of an ugly, child-eating create is just… well… stupid. XD

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