Friday, November 12, 2010

building the monster

Vampire diaries is doing something really interesting right now. They are building the myth of a super vamp, and creating a monster, all without showing us the actual monster.
The first thing they did was have other vamps talk about the super vamp with fear and awe. A super vamp that even the big bad from the previous season is terrified of.
They introduced the concept that the super vamp is the original vampire and therefore older than anyone else.
Because they did this, we believe that he could have extra powers, without them having to explain why.
Then they introduced the super vamps foot soldier, a vamp that could easily beat any other vamp.
So now, without ever seeing this character, there is no doubt that the heroes of the show are in serious trouble.
They've done a pretty good job of building the monster, but now they have to follow through and when they do present the super vamp, he has to live up to expectations. He has to be the scariest creature they've ever presented on this show.

The opposite of this is what Stephen King did with IT. An amazing book, right up to the end. Because seriously, what's scarier than a monster clown? He created the question and then answered it with a giant spider. To me it felt like a huge let down. Sure, giant spiders are terrifying, but he needed to come up with something that could trump the homocidal clown and a spider didn't.

It's a tricky balance, building the monster in a way that satisfies the audience and also allows the hero to vanquish them.


Eileen said...

That is totally a knife's edge to walk. You've got to make the situation terrible, but you also have to be able to resolve it. So, yeah, gotta make the Super Vamp, but you better be able to give the characters a way to kill it, too. But the way to kill it can't be too easy or too obvious. WAit . . . oh, this is making me think about my WIP. There's no actual "monster," but I need to give my heroine the tools she needs to fight the situation along the way. Great post!

Molly O'Keefe said...

You know I totally forgot what the big bad was in IT. I remember the clown, and I remember them fighting something in the sewer, right? But frankly, IT was all about those kids and the horror in thier heads and homes. But he did take his time, he always does - and though I haven't watched Vampire Diaries - it sounds like they are taking their time, too.

Maureen McGowan said...

Great post, Sinead. They pace things so well. And the escalation of terror. Having shown us what this new guy can do, it's terrifying enough, and hard to believe the characters will survive him never mind his boss, who we haven't seen.
Also masterful that we've seen the heroes take down the foot soldier once, even if it wasn't permanent.

Maureen McGowan said...

PS. Love when Catherine said she was happy to stay trapped in the vault. Perfect reversal and really showed how frightened everyone should be.

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