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I'm trying to write a novel, which is supposed to be similar to the typical "gespenster krimi" genre.

But I don't like typical main protagonists of these novels - tall, strong, clever man with great car, interesting job and "the chosen one" status. The problem with these men is, that they are simply too great to fight anything "common" like ghouls, vampires, werewolves etc. Stories like that usually use some really silly plot-twists to justify hero's inability to kill the monster in the first few moments of the story.

So I decided to make my hero a little under-average man. He's a medium-tall, skinny guy from Sweden, who makes a living as an occasional translator (he's able to speak several world languages) and a correspondent to a local rag. He has no special abilities besides some contacts to his former schoolmates, while some of them are very successful (a politician, a judge etc.).

On the other hand, the monsters are usually people or animals who contracted a specific disease causing them to slowly mutate into the "monster" state. They get some special abilities coincidentally with some slight disadvantages (vampires can regenerate immensely fast because of their metabolism, but, on the other hand, they have to eat very often even when they're healthy) and they can be still killed in a "normal way" (shot, beaten to death...), but it's immensely difficult.

The world is the contemporary Earth, where people are not aware of monsters or they're just discovering them scientifically. Those people who know about them, call themselves "The ready ones" (mostly believe, that monsters are the next evolutionary branch) and they must usually cooperate greatly to capture or kill some monster.

Governments are afraid to take some radical steps like using an Army for bigger monsters, because they're afraid of panic and Idlers (people/animals who are not very mutated yet, so they still behave and look like healthy ones, but they've already noticed some slight changes), because they can be even among them. Because of the second reason there's a huge amount of distrust among politicians, so "The ready ones" usually only work in very small groups of relatives / close friends who trust each other, which simultaneously prevents them from doing any significant work.

My problem is - how could one "under-average" guy (or woman) proceed to capture/fight/get rid of monsters he knows about?


Preliminary ideas:

  1. He'll improve (training, gaining special knowledge...)
  2. He'll look for talented individuals to fight monsters.
  3. He'll try to persuade people globally (he's a journalist after all)

Problems with these ideas:

  1. Both of them could take incredible amount of time to realize (gaining muscles, learning to fight, persuading people who are scare or don't believe it at all).
  2. Both of them can turn out as unfeasible (not everybody has disposition to be physically superior even with training and not everybody is charismatic enough to persuade people to hunt monsters)
  3. When trying to make the problem public almost nobody will believe him and politicians will try to cover it (reasons above). He'll probably get kill either by secret services or by some Idlers who don't want to get caught, naturally.
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    $\begingroup$ Consider refining your definition of "under average." If an underaverage person can fight monsters, you can expect any average person to fight them. However, if Under Average Joe happens to have some silly quirk which turns out to be very effective against these particular monsters, not just monsters in general, he is no longer under-average. He is now superior. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 25 '15 at 0:39
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe avoid the journalistic approach. No one will publish "Monsters are real" as a headline without compelling evidence, like a big public ruckus involving obviously real monsters. It would be fair enough to take a gifted under-achiever (these people are real enough) and craft for him a defining moment in the fiction. $\endgroup$ – Sean Boddy Dec 25 '15 at 3:05
  • $\begingroup$ I suppose it's self-contradictory unless he's not really sub-average. He just hasn't found his calling yet, or needs some stimulation to bloom. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Dec 25 '15 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ If it's a humourous novel then maybe an implausibly amazing stroke of luck or profound stupidity on the part of the monster helps him win each battle... $\endgroup$ – colmde Jan 11 '16 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ Actually the only realistic way for such guy to fight monsters is to stalk them, video-record them and inform police whenever anything illegal was being done. Plus slowly expose them as journalist. Trying to make some "unfortunate accidents" or chaising them with a gun would be really risky. $\endgroup$ – Shadow1024 Apr 9 '17 at 7:32

14 Answers 14

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This actually sounds a bit like the setup of H.P. Lovecraft's mythos, where monsters from other dimensions can drive people insane from the mere knowledge that they actually exist. The other issue besides your slowly slipping grasp of sanity is that while it may not be illegal for someone to be the high priest of the "Cult of Starry Wisdom"; it is very much against the law for you to shoot them dead.

Your character isn't going to be able to persuade most people that monsters exist, and law enforcement is going to take a dim view of him running down the street with a 12 gauge and a Katana to deal with alleged monsters, so the usual tropes are out. Your character is going to have to become very cunning and "street smart" in the way of monsters in order to trap them.

His best bet would be to discover ways to lure monsters into exposing themselves (for positive identification; accidentally killing your next door neighbour or the mailman is going to have very severe consequences), and then get them into some sort of lethal or non lethal trap to neutralize them. Arranging a traffic accident, having a telephone pole with a high voltage line fall on the monster, having them engulfed in an industrial accident at their place of work or arrested by Homeland Security at the airport are all ways which an identified monster can be dealt with.

The main character will be spending most of their time lurking, conducting surveillance of suspected monsters. Once they have made a positive identification, they will have to translate the observations from surveillance into pattern and link analysis in order to determine if the monster is alone and where and when the best place to arrange an "accident" would be (does the monster stop in for coffee every morning at 0800h at the drive through before continuing to work? Who does the monster see on a regular basis? Who do they see after meeting the monster? and so on).

Finally, the main character is going to have to become experienced in subtle and sophisticated sabotage in order to arrange for plausible and fatal "accidents" to happen. Cutting through a telephone pole or a building support with a chain saw is going to be a bit noticeable, and certainly someone is going to come out and ask "Hey, you! What the hell are you doing?". Experimenting with chemical, explosive and incendiary agents in the basement, garden shed or garage is probably not a good idea either. I'll leave this part to you, since it is probably going to be the most interesting and intensive part of the book, and I don't want people reading this to start experimenting themselves.

I mean it! Just don't!. The real world is dangerous enough without people going out and doing more stupid stuff. Watch YouTube if you don't believe me.

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Closely related to Thucydides own answer, but as an extension to it, he should not fight at all.

From what I hear your character has to be somewhat intelligent, to know multiple languages and be successful at a school where important people have graduated, and he is likely at least somewhat persuasive to be a journalist. The problem is he is not a good fighter and the monsters are, taking them on in physical combat is ill advised. So take them on in a different competition.

Focus on revealing them one by one and manipulating them. Get them to fight within themselves would be a great approach, which his journalist status may help him with since he may be able to manipulate the news that filters to them. He is relatively unknown, and in that status he may be able to go and learn things safely.

I would create a second anonymous identity, using e-mail proxy and prepaid cell phones etc, who becomes known to the monster element, and use this proxy to manipulate things. He could learn secrets from one group and reveal them to another to cause the groups to fight. He could find blackmail material to use against one individual to make that monster use his monstrous abilities to serve his cause. All the while he can be working towards setting up an event where the monsters are revealed to the world fully.

Normal humans outnumber monsters significantly, and in any case modern weapons make the monster's gifts limited in usefulness in an all out fight, a vampire or werewolf still can't stop a normal human in a tank or fighter jet. If the humans learn about the monsters and the military ever sets upon them in earnest their superior numbers and weaponry mean they will win, quite well. You mentioned why the goverment doesn't attack all ready ones, but what if the goverment had an excuse. this group of ready ones is proven guilty of a crime that they can move against. That group is working as terrorist. Exposing small sects to be faught against and giving the goverment the excuse to act against them without setting off anything more sever could be his primary goal.

Of course your likely want some sort of combat, but my suggestion would be make it unplanned on your hero's part. He is working behind the scenes and never wants to fight, but fights show up anyways. When he is investigating an area where ready ones may have hung out a young werewolf who lost control of his powers is there and attacks him mindlessly. A vampire notices the protagonist is getting close to discovering the vampire's secrets, so the vampire tries to dispose of him etc. The fights are when he gets caught or can't hide his actions, and he tries to avoid them. I would make him win partially out of dumb luck at times, and always give him an advantage or the enemy a disadvantage going into a fight (the werewolf was young and having lost control of his "moon lust" isn't thinking sanely, the vampire can't risk exposing himself and thus is avoiding demonstrating his super human feats during the chase etc). Make the protagonist barely survive even when he had luck and planning on his side from a minor threat to demonstrate how out classed humans are, and yet he keeps going knowing he may very well lose the next time he is caught.

In terms of developing skill, I would go with a crazy-prepared attitude. When forced to fight the protagonist sets up the fight location, and prepares with some traps and equipment on his side. Have him use his smarts to come up with ways to arm himself for a fight. He can learn new strategies quickly, each time something nearly kills him he sits down and thinks about it and comes up with equipment or idea for how to avoid that problem next time. Because it takes only one experience and some thinking to develop new strategies he can be shown to develop as a fighter faster then if he had to put on muscle mass or train muscle memory. It also allows him to win fights without ever feeling too powerful, he was lucky because he had the right resources for this fight, but he was still out classed and if he isn't properly prepared for the next fight he will die fast etc.

Though, I have an obvious question for you, why is he fighting the monsters? They are sapient from what you said, and while stronger and faster this doesn't change their sapience or humanity. Just because someone becomes more powerful that does not make them evil or justify killing them. Is he really fighting all monsters, or only those who actually are acting breaking laws? Is he actually morally justified to fight, or just spiciest against monsters?

Usually you don't need to consider this sort of thing as much in series with monsters because the monsters attack the bad guy on sight. However, if your implying the military knows about monsters and doesn't immediately attack then they monsters likely aren't as Always Chaotic Evil. If the focus is on subtle working behind the scenes one needs to put more thought into the culture and lifestyle of those he is investigating, and thus their actions and moral justification.

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Even Joe Underaverage can get gun/handgun (buy it, maybe on black market, find one of his grandfather from II WWW, see how monster kill a hunter and run awya, trying to help the hunter, but the hunter will die anyway, then get the hunters weapon ... (he may discover the "monters existence" by this way - on vacation in hills, so he cannot just "call police" and stay ignorant ...)

Gun is able to kill monster as well (or nearly as well) as human. This is not problem or super power, anybody can do it a if he have some talent (is not totally inept), he can learn basic of shooting in one day on civilian shooting range for couple of dollars. (Just basic, but for killling somebody in close combat/proximity you do not need much more - just the will to do it).

On the other hand the monsters are not publically recognized and totally not as legitimate target, so Joe does not want shoot as long as he can go away without that (also getting ammo can be unconvenient), because of the following problems with police, public etc etc. You just cannot shoot somebody down and then say "it was monster, so what?" and go away in our world.

So he can opt to set traps as described in other answers, try to lure the monsters to hidden places and shoot they there, if he must, evade policy and army seeking for some mysterious mass murderer (= him under standing laws) and have all kinds of problems with that.

Say he try to lure werewolf to place in hills, but the wind gives his smell up to werewolf's nose so the werewolf attacks him from back. Joe have to drop the gun and try to get from werewolf attack, maybe stab him with knife repeatedly with little effect in wrestle, but then he finally is able to get to his handgun and shoot the werewolf. Once, twice, use ten bullets until the werewolf is finally dead and then try to dispose the body (as planned) and clean himself from lot of blood (unplanned for) and cure his own wounds still aware, that there "may be something" like disease which eventually can turn him to werewolf too - or not ... maybe his friend who is doctor now can help, but does he trust him enought to start talking about monsters and tell him, that he murderered some person recently? And if so, how to contact him while avoiding police (and army) both unaware (and seeing him as plain murderer or at least wanting explain his wounds) and aware (and so trying to put him out of way of "profesionals, who are only able to dispose such thread accordingly") of monster existence.

Lot of small problems, which even small Joe can solve somehow (sneak the patrol, travel covertly etc etc), but keeps him bussy and distracted (and prone to attacks from other monsters, not uncovbered yet and definitely not planned for address now). Your hero is not super-hero, he is only forced to do some hard things to survive and does now be fully successfull every time (or at all), just be able and lucky to somehow move few more steps again.

As for improving - just shooting 10 rounds, 100 rounds, 500 rounds is enought to improve shooting. If he later decide to train, the sky is the limit (suppose he have talent, money and time for that - but usually there is not much free time and being translator means he is not poor, but also not extra rich). Being forced to move still, he lose some weight, develope sense of danger, even if not muscular, he build some strenght over time just from working/movin/fighting ... still a way under average fitness client, but good enought to move along somehow.

Having lot of contacts (and their contacts too indirectly), he can find a lot of knowledge about monsters, and being good translator he can be good at remembering and connecting facts - he can build good knowledge base over time, he can contact skilled persons from the "hunters" (the knowledge helps him a lot, he have something to offer and just being around such facts draw him to their circles, so they start to notice him over time) and he can gain weapons/trinings/supporters/sources/financial help from that (as much or as little as you want him to get).

And being in this position, still endangered by monsters, he improve his abilities to detect them, avoid then, evade them or even fight them just by practicing, if not with help of others.

Depends on your plans, he can end as Rambo/Rocky/7 samurais super-hero, or he can be still underaverage mainly and unknown to many, but just wiser and little more skilled and equiped at the end. (Or just dead or monsterized ...)

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He believes in monsters after narrowly surviving a first encounter. Few others do. That means he will research monsters and prepare accordingly.

  • Making silver bullets is not easy, and certainly not at the spur of the moment. But it can be done. Guess who has some?
  • How about a paintball gun loaded with garlic and a super soaker with holy water? Keep the vampires at a distance.

When everybody panics, he keeps a calm head.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ever read the Harry Dresden books? The paintball gun loaded with garlic is remarkably effective. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Jan 11 '16 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ Making silver bullets actually is fairly easy. It's expensive (a few thousand $ setup cost, plus the material cost of the silver), but if you threw the cost of a used car at having silver bullets, you could have as many as you wanted within a week or two. $\endgroup$ – fectin Jan 30 '17 at 15:36
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He uses his wits! He's not strong enough to fight and defeat the monsters in the first chapter, but he may be smart enough to set traps (or have/make friends who are) or trick them in some way.

Of course it may take him some time to figure out that he needs to do this, and more time for the opportunity to spring the trap, hence he can't defeat them straight away...

Just be careful not to fall into the common trap where at the climax, to increase the tension, the monster doesn't get caught by his subterfuge and he ends up having to fight him mano-a-mano anyway and by a miracle manages to defeat the monster.... Which of course would undo all your work to show he was "under average"

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Here is how a guy with moderate talents can succeed. He can show up on time, every time. He can work really hard. He can pay attention. He can screw up and get it wrong, catch it, go back and try again. He can put in the hours. He can double check, and find out he is not done, and go back out.

I envision the hero, tie loosened, hair messy, blowing out his cheeks with fatigue, one shoe missing and pant leg torn, barstool held by a leg with left hand, getting his glasses out of his shirt pocket with the other.

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    $\begingroup$ I like that he is Swedish, by the way. His sidekick's main attribute should be the ability to make a good cup of coffee. $\endgroup$ – Willk Jan 17 '17 at 20:44
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So I decided to make my hero a little under-average man.

Audie Murphy was so short, skinny and under-aged that the US Marines and US Navy refused his attempt to enlist. Abandoned by his father and with a dead mother, the desperate Army only took him when his sister created documents which falsified his age.

Yet, he went on to be one of the most decorated US soldiers of WW2, winning every US medal, including the Medal of Honor.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audie_Murphy

Murphy received the Medal of Honor for valor that he demonstrated at the age of 19 for single-handedly holding off an entire company of German soldiers for an hour at the Colmar Pocket in France in January 1945, then leading a successful counterattack while wounded and out of ammunition. Murphy was born into a large family of sharecroppers in Hunt County, Texas.

That's the kind of guy who'll fight your monsters, and beat them.

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Building on what other people have said about him recording and exposing the monsters, what if he records the monsters being monsters and then has a risky confrontation with them where he gets them to tell him who else is a monster or he will expose there monster-ness to the world.

Then he slowly builds his records of who is a monster and evidence against them, until one day he releases all of the evidence against them to the world through a media outlet and the army has to come in and clean up the monsters. From then on, the people are paranoid about the monsters, which will take care of any monsters that he bribed for information.

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You say your average joe I a translator by profession say he discovers there is a subtle secret new language only the monsters respond to or are they communicating with each other? Only your hero is on to this but how can he learn more without endangering everyone and then how can he use this bit of information to turn the monsters on themselves,trick them,cure them,join them whatever it's your book....

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Well here are two ideas you could use:

  1. Turn him into a vampire or some other monster.

  2. Learn about the assassins(I'm referring to the sect that tried to assassinate Saladin and actually did assassinate a bunch of other people. They were feared throughout the Middle East during the crusader and pre crusader days). Have your main character, and anyone else who also knows about the monsters, become like the assassins and stealthily pick off the monsters one by one.

Note: Sending untrained people into combat situations is ridiculous. You're going to have to train your character(s) in order to have any sense of plausibility.

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An everyman character usually has to have a trump card when facing monsters, unless you want to go down the horror route (and sometimes even then!)

One potential is to give him an effective weapon - be it through family or similar - that is rare or unusual. That way, s/he is not the "special" one, his magical gun/sword/feather duster is. It need not even be a material weapon - Knowledge is power after all. Maybe he knows the weak spots or the secret word of power that unmakes the monsters.

Above all, make your character cunning, lucky, and snarky - these three things are often found in spades with your average "average joe" character.

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I don't think it's likely that your protagonist can win. Unless ...

The plot is that of a quest and/or chase. He is in posession of something that may be, or may lead to, the means to beat the monsters. They don't know of it. Yet. He may have only a part of a clue. He's smart enough not to tell the world but he has to tell someone....

Two of my all time best reads have this structure. "The Lord of the rings" and "a fire upon the deep", fantasy and SF. It's also at the centre of Le Carre's "George Smiley" spy novel sequence.

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Create a team.

In stories that focus on "one man against the world", that one needs to be extraordinary in some way or another, whether they are an exceptional fighter, extremely intelligent, or even have a seemingly useless skill that happens to be useful against this particular enemy. If you want your character to really be average (and not just use the seemed-average-but-was-really-extraordinary-deep-down trope) this sort of heroic fantasy will not work unless they manage to inexplicably scrape by on pure dumb luck, which will become less and less plausible as the story continues.

But under-average people can still manage to face overwhelming odds by banding together. Fortunately, there is no shortage of average people who are so keen to believe in a world of monsters that they will jump at the opportunity to fight even without real evidence. If you can prove to them that there really are monsters, it is possible to form a large, worldwide resistance network. The government might try to hide it or create disinformation campaigns, but who cares: some people will believe it anyway. And at least some of the people might have the skills needed to fight the monsters.

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So he's a Journalist. Anyone who thinks a journalist is powerless just needs to ask Woodward and Bernstein and will find out otherwise (they took down a president Nixon).

What does your not quite a hero need? A camera, a distribution channel, and an audience. Let's see, with a modern cell phone he has the first 2 and if he is a decent writer, he will rapidly gain the 3rd.

For survival reasons, he will probably also need a pistol of some sort. In Kansas, you can get some decent basic self defense training in a weekend. It's inexpensive, and all you need to do after that is to practice. Any sort of hand to hand weapon is going to require lots of intensive training, and would elevate your guy out of the realm of under average. Pistols don't require near as much training to be effective in the most basic sense.

Here is what he can do: Once he becomes aware of the monsters he works at gathering evidence. He tries to find out what he can about various kinds of monsters and he quietly (at first) gets photos or video of their activities. When a person is killed, he anonymously shares the video or photos with the police. He'll have to carefully scrub his data from the images and video, but this sort of thing isn't really all that hard. Eventually he may gain the trust of some cops who have to deal with the odd crap. That's when he starts getting stuff out to media outlets. All the while, he avoids direct contact with the monsters.

This is going to take time, but slow, steady exposure will eventually begin exposing the monsters for what they are. People, probably nut jobs at first, are going to start trying to hunt the monsters down.

There is another angle out of history that might help. Stetson Kennedy helped take down the Ku Klux Klan in the US by documenting and exposing, although he got a little help from Superman

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