More than a beast

Question: In my story, one of the central characters is one who is supposed to be symbolic of humanity's more bestial side (as humans are, after all, just one more animal), so I gave him a number of animal-like qualities; examples include high senses, unusually pointed teeth, a relatively amoral standing and strong instincts. Though he can assume a more beastly form, I didn't include full shape-shifting in his character, as I found it too cliched. Anyway, my problem is portraying him as I want to: A symbol of mankind's more primal side, which they mostly attempt to deny, and the fact that that primal side is more than just gnawing bones and generally behaving like a senseless brute. One example I can give you is when he is introduced to the infant child of his best friend and, despite having no prior experince with kids (or even any real liking for them), he successfully entertains the baby on his first attempt through rolling and pawing and other things often seen in the play behavior of big cats; he is repeatedly compared to a lion in the course of the story. So my question is this: Can you give me any advice about portraying this person so as to get my point across of him representing humans' animal nature, but help me avoid being cliched or one-dimensional? Thanks in advance!


Answer: I think you're off to a good start by making his animal nature well-rounded - with gentle as well as fierce aspects. I would make two suggestions.

1. If his animal nature is based on lions, you might do some reading on lion behaviour, to see if there are other aspects worth incorporting.

2. You might try pairing him with a human (or non-human) whose animal side is as suppressed as this guy's is developed - someone who represents the opposite principle. Things always appear clearer in contrast.

For that matter, you might consider having a character who works well with this guy's animal nature, and/or a character who provokes him to exhibit his lionish behaviour. The baby is one example, but you can have others.

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