1. WritingInTheDark

    WritingInTheDark Member

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    Why does my protagonist's hometown have absolutely no supernatural presence whatsoever except her?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by WritingInTheDark, Sep 25, 2021.

    Got a bit of an awkward situation where I have something that's narratively convenient but makes little logical sense as-is, and I need a way to justify it.

    I have a story about supernatural humanoids (think vampires, werewolves, elves, dwarves, etc.) living in secret amongst the human race in late 1990s America, and I want the protagonist to, aside from her own supernatural nature, be almost completely ignorant of the wider secret world of the supernatural. She's a phantom-like being who has a combination of ghost powers and involuntary memory manipulation that turns her into a self-keeping secret nobody can remember for longer than 60 seconds after she leaves their presence. She's lived an extremely isolated life since becoming like this, spending the last 5 years in a small Idaho town called Serpent's Yard. She mostly keeps to herself and steals what she needs to survive and amuse herself, but she also has become very familiar with the town's people and workings, to the point that if there were any supernatural beings other than her in the town, she'd know. But ironically, despite the town being named after a Loch-Ness-Monster-type cryptid who allegedly roams the nearby lake, she's literally the only thing genuinely supernatural about this town at all.

    But the way my setting works is that, aside from one single group enforcing one single rule (don't let the humans find out about you), there is no truly stable authority governing the immortal beings of this world. It's full of rival clans fighting for territory behind the scenes. A town with no immortals in it would be prime real estate for a couple of immortals to set up shop, whether to have their own territory or to simply exist un-harrassed by hostile immortal clans or rules they don't agree with. So the idea that a town would have absolutely no immortals in it, except one nobody is capable of realizing exists, feels like a situation that couldn't persist for five years... not without something else going on.

    Any advice for what I could do with this?
     
  2. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    A number of thoughts occur here.

    First, if there are supernatural beings living in secret among humans, it doesn't sound like she's the only one with supernatural abilities. Nor can you really say she's the only human with them, because it doesn't sound like she's really fully human.

    It's almost axiomatic that the hero needs to have at least some splinter of whatever it is that makes the monsters monsters, in order to be able to understand them and stand against their evil. So, like Blade, or like Hellboy, or countless other semi-monster humans who defend humans against their kind (Loki almost fits here, but he's not a hero most of the time) the hero is often a foundling (orphan) who's half monster but seems human on the surface (sometimes, Hellboy didn't exactly fit in).

    And usually the semi-monster human, the hero, is the only one of his or her kind. Like Buffy.

    It's often used as a device to show that the character doesn't fit in, they're different, somewhat of an outcast, and that's simply to make people (readers) feel better, because we all feel that way. It's why when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created Marvel comics the decided their heroes would be teenagers (mostly) and like all teenagers would have problems fitting into society and think of themselves as freaks defending the normal people from the worse freaks, the evil villains and the monsters that only they can fight (because they're part monster themselves).

    This was really emphasized in The X Men, where they were literally mutants, fighting to save humanity from evil mutants while being themselves persecuted for being different.

    And it's around the age of adolescence that people begin to feel different, like outcasts. The funny thing is, just about everybody feels that way. It's just that you can't see how alienated anyone else feels. Everybody hides it as well as they can, plus it simply isn't visible from the outside. So the concept of the freak fighting freaks while trying to fit in as a human (while often not feeling like one) is one of the biggest tropes there is.

    Another idea that occurs—if her power involves everyone forgetting her, and the town seems to have forgotten the origins of it's own name, that sounds like you have a nice little theme developing there about people forgetting. Maybe she feels forgotten (many many people do), the archetype of the orphan. The one left behind, not noticed by anybody. This would set up a very interesting dynamic, she wants to fit in but at the same time she also feels forgotten, ignored by everybody, just a lost face in the crowd. Most people also feel this (as strange as it sounds in conjunction with also feeling like a freak who stands out). We do much of what we do in an effort to fit in, to be loved, to be recognized as a special individual, as someone worthy of love or friendship.

    But I've wandered off track. I was talking about a theme of being forgotten or left behind or lost in a crowd. Isn't that something many of the monsters have as part of their ability as well? Since they hide among the humans (your own words) it means they can blend in in some way, they use camouflage. Well, isn't that what she also does? And isn't it what makes her feel like she might have more in common with the monsters than the humans she protects? I would definitely develop that as a theme. Don't force it at all, let it simmer and let it subconsciously direct your choices. Don't use it heavy-handedly, it must be subtle to work as a theme, and it should reflect psychology, something most people feel deep inside that makes us human.

    So I would allow it to be a subtle part of the story, an ability the monsters all have, it's why they can exist among people without being discovered. Maybe it takes time for the protagonist to realize this, and of course when she does it has a strange electrifying effect on her, because it means she's like the monsters, but it also means she's not alone as she's felt all along. But now she goes through a period where she think she has more in common with the monsters than the humans she protects. Of course by the end she realizes this isn't true, and largely because what makes people human isn't the shape of their bodies or any purely physical traits, but their humanity, the kindness and love they have for each other, even the freaks among them. In fact it's the defining trait, it's exactly what separates human from monster, because some of the worst monsters are totally human physically. So you'd need to keep this idea in mind as your main theme and let it shape everything at a subterranean level.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2021
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  3. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Oh sorry, I never got to my actual point. I was building up to saying that, if the monsters have something about them that makes people forget about them, then maybe they do live in her town, or did, and people just don't know it. I mean, she lives there, and nobody knows...
     
  4. sarkalark

    sarkalark Member

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    Just curious why you think this? A good story doesn't have to make sense all of the time. If it did it might get boring. You could leave out some parts and your story would still be understood.

    How important is territory to these supernatural humanoids? The main character seems to be taking something from the town; food? energy? memories? 1990s America was a very optimistic place. It was the end of the American century (which ended with 9/11) and the end of one Communist superpower which would soon be replaced by another. China quietly was welcomed into the World Trade Organization just at the turn of the millennium and now has the largest economy in the world. I don't really understand your description of the governing authority. You'll need to establish what your main character knows and what you want the audience to know. Clearly there's a good reason she's the only one of her kind in this town. As said, is it because she can't detect the others, or because they are somehow prohibited from being there? Think of the exclusion zone at Chernobyl. I've heard it said people always underestimate the impact Chernobyl had on the fall of the USSR. They flew in helicopter pilots from Afghanistan to dump sand. Most of those pilots didn't survive.

    Why do they want their own territory? If Satan is divided against Satan, how can his kingdom stand?

    I hope this is clear. :)
     
  5. Joe_Hall

    Joe_Hall Active Member

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    There are a number of ways to explain why no other supernatural creatures are in the town:

    1. A rural town in Idaho might just be so insignificant of a territory supernatural gangs don't see it as an important territory. Unless of course, they are into corn and potatoes. Personally, I would imagine they would be more into larger city centers where they can make money and gain influence over mortals.

    2. Going along with 1, for the few immortals who don't want to be in a battling gang and seek a quiet life, there are probably hundreds if not thousands of little insignificant "fly over" towns. The one I grew up in in the 1980's had 150 people in it. And that is just one little town in Michigan. Unless your secretive super immortals rival the mortals in population, there would be plenty of these little towns to hide in. Not having another one choose the particular one she is in wouldn't be particularly surprising.

    3. America is much older than most people realize. Some recent findings suggest human presence as far back as 23,000 years. Maybe the town is built over an ancient mound or something containing an artifact that can repel supernatural creatures. If she is unique to her abilities or has immunity to it, it would explain why no other creatures can come there. The fact that the town is named after a cryptid could also play into it having some sort of supernatural protection charm...perhaps it's a power that also keeps the cryptid alive?

    Those are just the first three things that popped into my head.
     

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