The Monster As Hero

Hey everyone, I’m here with some sad news and then a fun post. Over the past couple of months my life has gotten really busy, and slowly but surely my motivation for writing these posts has dwindled down to almost nothing. Because of this, I’m afraid this is going to be my last post. I have too many other things occupying my time that I feel like I am not able to dedicate the time and energy these posts, and you as the readers, deserve. That being said, I want to go out with a bang so I’m writing one last post on a particular dynamic within stories that I find especially interesting: The Monster as Hero. I know I’ve written many times on how I am fascinated with villain psychology and understand the perspectives of a variety of characters. In fact, I recently wrote a series of posts about archetypal heroes and one such hero that I discussed was the tragic hero. In many ways, I think, the tragic hero and the monster as hero can be very similar archetypes. However, before we get to that, let’s begin by discussing what we mean by the monster.

1377527950_rorschachTo me, there are two types of monsters. Monsters by form and monsters by actions. Both of these can be heroic characters and both of them bring a unique spin on stories in their wake. Monsters by form would be similar to The Thing or The Hulk. They are typically your more classical monsters but they act in heroic ways for whatever reason. In the case of the Thing and the Hulk they are both human underneath the monster and it is this humanity that guides their actions to some extent. What I really want to spend my time dissecting is the monster by action. These are people who do monstrous, sometimes heinous things (at least from an objective perspective) and yet these characters, too, can be heroic. I think particularly of Rorschach from Watchmen for this archetype. They are the characters that have good motives but have forsaken the moralistic ideology typically seen from classical heroes. They are willing to kill or murder for the sake of the greater good. They are willing to waste a few lives here or there to save millions. Why? Because what is 10 or 20 lives in the grand scheme of things. We all insignificant mites floating around on a piece of dust in the middle of nowhere. Why should we (or they for that matter) value our lives simply because we are alive. If this seems fatalistic to you, good. You’re paying attention. These heroic characters are monsters because they view existence as unimportant. But this is also what makes them heroic. Their existence, in the grand scheme of things, is no more important than ours, and they realize this fact to the very core of their being. They recognize two distinct facts about themselves: 1) their own existence is worthless, and 2) they want their existence to have worth. They are heroic because they WANT to be heroic; they want to be remembered; they want to be significant. Because of this fatalistic desire they essentially will themselves to be heroes, or in the case of Rorschach, to continue being a hero. This is why I am fascinated with this dynamic of the Monster as Hero–the same ideology that makes them a monster in our eyes, is also what makes them a hero. This duality of existence is fascinating to me as a writer and a reader, because I don’t know how to process these characters. I want to think of them as heroes but I can’t because they do monstrous things along the way. I cannot overlook one in favor of the other and so I am left at in impasse, caught between my own ideology and that of the character I am reading.


Tobias here! First of all I want to say a hearty goodbye and thanks for all the fish to Neal. If you know what I mean, then you know what I mean. Neal’s been writing on this blog for a while now, and he’s going to be missed.

I believe that, as individuals, as friends, and as writers, each person who has contributed to this blog is irreplacable, and each is special to me in some way. That being said, having lost both Abbie and Neal to the vagaries of school and life, I find myself in need of writers to fill those positions. So, I am looking for two good writers who are capable of being, and wish to be, regular contributors to the blog. One would be posting on Thursdays only and would be alternating with me, and the other would be a floating author posting less regularly on Thursdays, Tuesdays, and possibly Sundays. I’m also looking for a philosophically minded individual to help me with the Saturday Challenges. If you are interested in any of these duties, please email me at with a brief introduction, bio, and writing sample. If you have any previous blogging experience that would also be good to mention :).

Philosophical Story Challenge

MV5BMTM4NjUzNjQwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDQ4MTUyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_AL_Hello everyone, welcome to Saturday. It’s the weekend which means it’s time for a philosophical story challenge. For this week’s challenge I want us to consider a relatively old children’s movie called “The Swan Princess.” This movie was a big part of my childhood and there is a particular scene from it which stands out in my mind. In this scene one of the characters in the movie is warning the hero that a monster “is not what it seems.” This was important to the story because the monster was in fact a villainous sorcerer, however, I think it also held a deeper symbolism. To those of you who are also familiar with the Disney classic “Sleeping Beauty” and the modern retelling of “Maleficent” I think you may understand the connection I see. I think all of these movies have a theme of characters being vilified because the other characters don’t understand them. That’s not to say that the sorcerer in “The Swan Princess” was not really a villain, but that I think he became a villain because he was misunderstood. The monster was not what it seemed, it was a sorcerer; likewise, the sorcerer might also not have been everything he seemed. Simply put: appearances are deceiving. Your challenge this week is to write a story which portrays this theme.

Philosophical Story Challenge

ethics-and-complianceHey everyone, Saturday is finally here again, and with it comes another philosophical story challenge. This week I want to keep it pretty short and simple since the last two challenges have been pretty in-depth stuff. You guys deserve a little bit of a break too! So I’ve decided to shift our focus this week towards ethics. Throughout philosophy ethics has always been a bit of a hot topic. On the one hand you have theistic philosophers who propose that any true and objective ethical system must find its basis in a deity (or in at least in some sort of entity that exists outside of humanity), and on the other hand you have naturalistic philosophers who more or less believe that ethics and morality are mere societal constructions created in the process of social evolution as mankind advanced into social beings. A lot of these philosophers have had mixed success in their attempts to establish effective and coherent ethical systems. For your challenge this week I want you to write a story involving an ethical system that falls outside of what we commonly experience in our lives. That is, most ethical rely on a concept of right and wrong. I want you to write a story where the concept of right and wrong is not based in either theistic morality or societal benefit. As always, please keep your story under 1,000 words if you want to post it on here, but feel free to write more!

Authenticity in Writing

Prestige_posterHey everyone, once again this is a late post and I must apologize for that. There was some confusion on my end as to whether or not it was my week to write a post. Anyway, I want to talk to you all about the importance of authenticity within your stories. For me personally, what grabs my attention in a story is not just having interesting characters, but also an authentic setting. There are the obvious things like types of transportation that are relatively easy to adhere to, and then there are the tiny details which I think make a story real even though (and possibly because) they escape casual attention. I think a great example of what I mean is the movie The Prestige. This movie is brilliantly put together, in my opinion, and is a must watch. If you haven’t seen this movie then I’m sorry, but I’m about to spoil a major plot device in order to make my point. One of the main characters, Borden, is actually two people. They are identical twins and they have spent their lives being one person, taking turns between which one got to be Borden and which one got to wear a disguise. This is where the authenticity of the movie plays such a huge role! Christian Bale plays both twins but depending on which twin is being Borden at any given time, portrays the character of Borden slightly differently. He walks a little differently, he talks a little differently, he even responds differently to certain situations. What is fascinating is that during the first watch it is almost impossible to discern this, and yet after this fact is revealed if you re-watch the movie it becomes obvious when the different brothers are being Borden. This is authenticity at its finest, and also incredible acting by Christian Bale!

Of course, there is more to authenticity than just having authentic characters. Authentic settings are also vitally important. If your character comes to a village that lives in a heavily wooded area you might want to think about what types of trees are in those woods and what sort of life those people would live with the resources they have available to them. Authenticity is about having coherency between what is seen in the story and what would actually be plausible given the setting of the story. Even if some of the elements of this coherency are not explicitly given in the story it is important for you, the writer, to think them through. A grandiose example of what I mean by this would be the relationship of The Silmarillion to the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. The Silmarillion gives life and authenticity to the world of Middle Earth and its rich history. Obviously, I don’t expect you to create a Silmarillion-esque work for every story you write, but the idea that you should have details in your mind which influence the story even if they aren’t presented within it remains true.

So I guess the takeaway is that when you are writing characters and worlds, part of what makes them believable and relatable is the authenticity of the world with its history and the characters within their respective settings.

Philosophical Story Challenge

football-team-and-coachGood everyone! I apologize for the lateness of this post, but it is Saturday once again and as such it is time for another Philosophical Story Challenge. For this week’s challenge I want us to focus a bit on social groups. I’ve written a lot on personal identity and the philosophical aspects of that, but I want to step forward a bit and look at societal identity and the varying ways that it influences our thinking. It seems to be a theme of history that different groups of people have always created some form of social group divisions. What is, perhaps, even more interesting, is that historically these divisions were generally based on family or belief and pertained to survival. People took care of their own and often fought with people of different groups to protect their land or their resources. Yet, in America today (and really in most all of western culture), we see these same divisions when there appears to be no real need for them. Think of sports teams and alma maters. Why do we create such a fierce, dividing, loyalty to these things? Why do we divide ourselves into social groups when those groups serve no practical purpose? Your challenge this week is to write a story in which there are social groups of a nature similar to sports teams, alma maters, religions, political beliefs, etc. but these social groups exist to fill some tangible, societal need instead of just a desire for societal identity. As always, please keep your stories under 1,000 words if you want to post them on here, but feel free to write more!

Philosophical Story Challenge

human_nature_by_molicious-d4x4992Hey everyone! Time for another philosophical story challenge. I’ve really enjoyed reading the responses to the last few that I posted, so keep up the good work everyone! For this week’s challenge I want to look at the idea of human nature. In the world today we chalk a lot of things up to “human nature” but if you’ve ever sat down and tried to pin-point characteristics of human nature it can be difficult, to say the least. Sure, it’s easy to say things like love and friendship are part of human nature–and they certainly are–but then we have to confront the elephant in the room: hatred. It seems hatred is as much a part of human nature as love and the desire for societal connection. I mean, if we just look at the history of the world it is filled with violence, and perhaps even more intriguing to me is the fact that most of this violence is justified by love of different things. In fact, I think it can honestly be said that sometimes both parties in a conflict can desire the same thing, but because of differences in religion or culture this common goal is never achieved. It’s tragic, really. So for your challenge this week I want you to write a story where there is some form of conflict and both sides ultimately want the same thing, but due to fear and hatred or discrimination it cannot be attained.

Philosophical Story Challenge

ARISTOTLE-VS-PLATOHey everyone, I apologize for the late post but I was really tired last night so I decided to wait until this morning to post. Anyway, Saturday has rolled around again so its time for another Philosophical Story Challenge. This week’s topic goes all the way back to the days of Plato and Aristotle: identity. What makes you who you are? What makes anything that particular thing. How can we look at a horse and know that it is a horse even if it’s missing a leg or has some deformation? Where does identity really lie? Plato’s view, or at least the view that has been derived from Plato’s works, is that identity is entirely within the soul. To him, there is a level of distrust of the physical world because our senses are so clearly fallible. On the other hand we have Aristotle who argued that all of our knowledge and experience comes from the physical, observable world. It is important to note that Aristotle is not denying the existence or importance of the soul, but rather denying that our identity could be so completely contained within it. In his view, your identity is as much a part of your body as it is your soul. If your soul were removed from your body we would no longer say that your body was you, and Aristotle would also argue that your soul isn’t you either. A human is a body and a soul; take away one and while the other may remain it is not that person in their entirety. Conversely, Plato would argue that your body, because it is physical, is a hindrance; your real being is that of your soul unshackled to your body. Your challenge this week is to write a story that explains identity like Plato or like Aristotle. As always, please keep your stories under 1,000 words if you want to post them on here, but feel free to write more!

Philosophical Story Challenge

36802921925119186z8V0x9dvcHey guys, hope you’ve had a happy 4th of July!  It’s Saturday again so I’m here to bring you another philosophical story challenge. This week I want to focus on perception versus reality. I think it’s a common theme throughout life that everyone views the world through their own lens of perception which is crafted by their own experiences and biases. How can we come to a true understanding of what we see and experience if everything we see and experience is interpreted by a brain which overlays all of past experiences onto it; how can there be any objectivity at all? It’s easy to say that we should only deal with facts and empirically tested ideas but even these are in question–how can we trust an empirical test when it relies on our senses to interpret the data that it yields? It seems as though we just have to accept that at some level we have to trust our senses, even though we know how fallible they can be. The problem is that this leaves some room for differences between “reality” and our perceptions. 200 years ago if you had told someone about our atomic theory they would have laughed; they didn’t have the tools we have to measure the things that we can measure to verify this data. It is both the beauty and the weakness of science; it can tell you the most accurate information that you can observe, but that doesn’t make it true–it just makes it the most accurate information available. Your challenge this week is to write a story where perceptions and reality are different from each other. I’m leaving it up to you to decide how you want to portray this theme; but, as always, if you want to post on here please keep it under 1,000 words. Otherwise, feel free to write more! Have fun.

Possible Series Introduction: Perspectives

joker-hd-wallpapersHey everyone, I’m tossing around a few ideas for what to focus on in my next Thursday post series; right now the only real suggestion has been to write about character perspectives and how to write them. I guess you could consider this a trial post to see if it’s something I think I can explore and explain adequately. Anyway, without further ado let’s begin.

I’d like to preface this post by saying that character perspectives have always fascinated me. I love exploring people’s motives and figuring out what makes people tick. It is because of this that I often find myself gravitating towards villainous characters (it’s not my fault, they’re just more interesting!). They often have more abundant and complex emotional desires than their heroic counterparts, and it is because of this that I become absorbed with ‘figuring them out’, if you will. The simple truth is that I am drawn to them because they are so completely different from me; they have an entirely distinct perspective from my own and that just fascinates me.

This separation can be off-putting for some readers, though, because it can be difficult to get attached to a character you cannot possibly understand if you do not have a propensity for studying them as I do. This purpose of this post and ultimately this potential series is to help you, should you find yourself in a position like this, to gain an understanding and an appreciation of these types of characters; in whatever form they present themselves.

Whenever I am faced with an idea or belief that is radically different from my own I always take some time to stop and put myself in the shoes of the other person. It doesn’t matter if they are a fictional character or your nextdoor neighbor. The first step to gaining some perspective is to humble yourself and think “if I had lived their life, I would think and act exactly like them.” When you do this, it doesn’t matter if you’re a fifteen-year-old honor student, you can suddenly relate to a mass murderer. You’ve gained the ability to put yourself in their shoes and withdraw any character judgment. You don’t have to agree with what they do or how they think, but you come to realize that understanding and enjoying a well written character, despite overwhelming differences, is one of the keys to being a better writer yourself.

Sunday Picture Post

Hey everyone, I’m filling in for Tobias this week as he is really busy with moving and stuff. You all know that we like to take Sunday’s off and provide you with a picture post, so that’s what I’ve done. I’ve always been a fan of fractals and I think you should be too.

A fractal snow leopard by minimoo64