“When I lecture on the creation of the World of Darkness, Vampire and the rest, or on world building, I like to talk about the 5 stages of monsters: the evolution that they go through from PURE monster, to something else entirely.
This is something near and dear to my heart because I have spent so much of my life being an active part of this process, not just for Vampire, but for Zombies, Werewolves, Dark Fay, and Ghosts. Indeed, I’m rather proud of making so many monsters more human, recasting them as poetic metaphors for us and our sad, squalid but strangely beautiful lives.
Note: these stages are not rigid, but in my analysis of the history of monsters, EVERY one of them does through stages very similar to these:
Stage One: PURE MONSTER – Most people don’t realize this, but the original Vampire myth was about a unthinking undead monster, risen from the grave. It resembled a Zombie more than it does the modern day conception of the Vampire for it was without a mind, and it had no feelings or thoughts other than KILL… and it no relevant past to speak of.
Stage Two: TRAGIC FIGURE – The monster is still a monster, but now it has a past. A back story which does not mitigate its monstrosity, but does explain it, and allows a silver of compassion for it. The evil woman Vampire was once a beautiful young maiden who was betrayed by her suitor and brutally murdered, she now haunts young men who lure into her woods.
Stage Three: ROMANTIC EVIL – The monster is still horrible and dangerous, but it has also gained a sensuality and seductiveness. We are scared of it, but we are also drawn to it. It stands in for that which we fear, but that which we are also enraptured by, against our will. It represents the seduction of evil.
Stage Four: OH SO HUMAN – The monster has become more Human than Human. The monster has become one of us, an expression of the difficulty it is in being human. The monster can choose to be either good or evil, and that choice is a dramatization of the choices we must make, day to day.
Stage Five: SEMI-DIVINE – the monster has now become a savior, a celestial presence, a golden god. Twilight is the best modern example of this, once a monster becomes sparkly in sunlight, is has clearly reached stage Five. Usually after a monster reaches this point, its at the end of its run, and to reboot and then jumpstart the myth you have to go back to an earlier stage. Which is what culture is in the middle of doing… right now.
So never let someone tell you that the story has already been written on a particular monster. Monsters are part of our heart and soul, they will always be with us, and they will also be remade and reinvented. We can all be part of that process, our stories empower the myth.