The character in this story is a human-demon hybrid. He is good natured on a normal day, but because of the demon genes and blood coursing through him, as struggled with certain urges his entire life. Demons are chaotic creatures that revel in destruction and enjoy causing pain simply for the sake of it. He has desires that are difficult to control, and must constantly battle them lest they take over. Thoughts of committing murder, torture, and other evil acts are whispered into his mind by this demonic side, which manifests as an alter ego that seeks to take control over him. The two beings in one body maintain a dialogue, with the demon wanting to be let out and pushing him toward evil. This human sometimes obliges the demon in order to gain use of its powers. However, it finds it increasingly difficult to gain back control and lock the demon back up.

I want to showcase the struggle of these two beings with each other who reside in the same body. How can I do this realistically while the human tries to go on with his life as normal and have regular relationships with people?

  • 6
    This feels really close to "what should I write?" because you're not asking for help with the mechanics of story telling, at least not as it's phrased. Further, it's hard to help you here because its not clear what stage you're at and what choices you'd like to make. Would like to see at minimum these elements you're trying to work within (if you have no limitations, that's good to know too): POV, Narration Style, medium (assuming written, not tv/play), target audience.
    – Kirk
    Mar 4, 2019 at 19:00
  • 1
    Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde... but it was't a very good book / story. Venom.. Not sure how well that (plot weak) movie would have worked as just a book without pictures or moving pictures.
    – ashleylee
    Mar 6, 2019 at 15:10
  • 1
    @ashleylee what was wrong with the book?
    – Incognito
    Mar 6, 2019 at 15:25
  • 3
    @ashleylee Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, not wildly popular? Really? The number of adaptations disagrees. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – s.anne.w
    Mar 7, 2019 at 1:19
  • 3
    @ashleylee not to mention that many works of literature/games/etc with some form of split personality take some inspiration from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. So much so that 'Jekyll and Hyde' is a trope in its own right.
    – s.anne.w
    Mar 7, 2019 at 1:22

7 Answers 7


I assume your character has no visible physical signs of demonic heritage - that would make the people around him wary of him and create more problems, isolating him from those he seeks to cultivate.

Internal dialogue can be very effective. He has been brought up to identify as human - possibly because he couldn’t be accepted by the demons as his human blood makes him weak. The alter ego will have a name and complete identity - who he might have been in this other society had his mother, for example, not been human.

While he wants the strength of his demon self, he maintains control in what he might see as an extreme case of an id. He must remain in control, but the reins of Plato’s horseman will slip on occasion.

I would choose to make the severity of the slip make regaining control initially more difficult, but once regained he will be in control that much longer. He has let the demon out to play and it is satisfied.

One problem he might encounter, since he liked having this power, he might start enjoying the ride. No control over his actions can be freeing, though the demon has wrought evil, he has not. He gets to be the angel on the demon’s shoulder, telling him enough is enough - time to relinquish control.

I had a mare who used to bolt every time I rode her - until I galloped her first. I would choose when and she became content to wait, confident that the fun was coming. Her reward was the equine equivalent of flight.

Your character can negotiate with his darker self some such compromise. The dichotomy will exist until death and he can persuade this intelligent other that as long as they are perceived to be him and a normal human, both human and demon are safe. Should the demon self go too far and reveal this dual nature to others and they survive (reminding the demon that massacres are messy and noticeable) that their own survival can be cast in doubt.

Robert sat in the restaurant, his lunch half forgotten, surrounded by people like him - almost. He enjoyed this quiet time alone but not alone. Never alone. Returning his attention to his meal, he felt Shrateg stir and focus on the blonde two tables away. Her skin was perfect, but how his darker self ached to change that.

‘Not a good time. Remember our agreement? Nothing that can be witnessed. Nothing that will put us both in danger.’ He thought, waiting for the response.

‘Never a good time. You only agree to an hour - not enough. You are weak. We are not you, we are me.’

‘We’ll go to the park later. Beautiful day. People will be there. Just no kids this time. Nothing to get us hunted.’

‘You fear them - I do not. They are weak, I am strong. I will keep you alive if you follow me.’

The waitress approached with the bill, which he paid - gave her a decent tip, nothing she would remember.

‘That woman smells of fear - I can take now and you can share the fun. I know you like parts of it. I feel you as you feel me. You are no innocent.’

He couldn’t deny that some aspects of Shrateg were wonderful. He loved the sheer power of his darker self, his confidence and the clear superiority he felt. Shrateg made him more than these others, much as he craved their company.

He felt Shrateg’s joy and saw the blonde was approaching him, seemed to want to join him. Hell, why not? He nodded greeting and she sat opposite him.

“The food here is pretty good. I see you didn’t finish. Would you mind donating that to the homeless?”

“That is a wonderful idea. I’m Bob.” Leave this to me, okay? Nice girls are reported missing and should return home.

“Mary. Who’s your friend?”

Edit - It has been years since I last read Plato, so pardon any slips.

Plato describes the human personality as being composed of two main parts. Being a poet by nature, he used the metaphor of the horse to encapsulate passions, fears, desires, urges and needs. The rider, Plato’s horseman, is logic, reason and impulse control. The rider is the higher self, but is weak without the horse. One must not completely overshadow the other, but work in harmony.

  • 1
    Plato's Horseman?
    – Incognito
    Mar 1, 2019 at 14:47
  • 2
    Plato’s Horseman is reason - self control - the higher self
    – Rasdashan
    Mar 1, 2019 at 17:16

If you want something realistic, look up real life situations of people who have Dissociative Identity Disorder.

People who hear voices (auditory hallucinations) tend to hear those voices as being spoken by people next to them (or further away), but people with DID hear the voices inside of them. Those voices can have a distinct sound and accent. Some of those voices can 'start speaking' because of something that happens in real life. The voices can be comforting (if the person is feeling scared, they may try to calm the person) or cause anxiety (they can accuse the person of doing something wrong).

At times, people with DID can feel as if they are puppets doing what these other people inside them want them to do. Other times, they simply have memory blanks when another personality came to the fore.

Keep in mind that, in real life, DID is caused by deep trauma, usually at young ages. Sometimes, people can have one alternate personality or more than twenty.

Still, if you want to know what it's like to live with a different personality inside of you, read some real life accounts.


As @Kirk mentioned in the comment, mental illnesses are real and painful.

Learning about the pain and difficulties someone with a mental illness faces should first and foremost help us to develop respect for everyone with that difficulty. That does not mean we cannot learn from them and become better writers (and perhaps better people, too).

Understanding our difficulties and problems makes a writer able to create more humane characters. Understanding the difficulties and problems of others can do the same.

But there must be respect.

And respect means admitting that, unless one has personal contact with a mental illness for long enough (personally, professionally or through a loved one), one cannot fully grasp all its intrincancies. One can simply glimpse in and get a feeling for what it's like.

And sometimes, even when you honestly want to understand, you simply fail to do so. And that's ok. For as long as you don't claim to know the answers, that is.

  • 2
    Be aware that this is a space where a lot of writers write the wrong thing and if you're one of those people that believes writing is more than just entertainment you can cause real harm to those who need to live with or deal with DID. If you're writing about demons, its not the same thing; but if you're reading this and thinking "I'm going to write about DID" just be aware its possible to hurt people with your writing. Not directed at you Sara; but I think its a worthy addendum of things to consider when thinking about DID or other mental illnesses.
    – Kirk
    Mar 5, 2019 at 21:58
  • 1
    @Kirk: You're right, and thank you for the addendum. I mentioned that DID is caused by trauma precisely to remind people that DID is not a joke, but perhaps I should have been clearer. Mar 5, 2019 at 23:35

Any answer involving demonic mumbo jumbo isn't useful to others, so I'm not going to bother with it. It's also not super relevant; take the lessons below and extend them as you need to.

Vanilla Answer - conflict

Put your characters into positions where primary desires that define who they are in conflict with each other. All you need to do to show that your character is in conflict is to make sure the stakes are high enough and understood by the reader; that the reader understands there is a dilemma, cares about the result, and is not certain what the outcome will be.

Vanilla Answer - internal struggle

The only way for a reader to understand struggle exists is to have enough time with a character to understand there's a struggle. That means there needs to be a story telling element that elucidates a moment where that character struggled to make a choice and ultimately made one and then perhaps didn't like the outcome. This is basically a try-fail cycle where even victories are failures. Did they get what they want? Yes, but ; no and . Core story building stuff.

This becomes easier the closer the point of view moves to the character. 1st person, your character is your narrator they will just tell us when they are struggling to decide what to do; at that point its merely a plotting move to put them into position where their primary motivations and moral facets come into conflict with each other. You'll also have more opportunities for the conflict to matter because if it's omnipresent it might affect even mundane decisions. This is the space where this kind of character excels. And if they are doing the narration you can really show it off by making them lie in ways that the reader knows are lies. Untrusty narrators are cool, but hard to write; the kind of person you are writing about is likely to dissemble and lie to himself, and also a reader, about who and what he is.

As you move out towards 3rd person limited, it becomes harder because you distance the reader from the character. This lessens the sympathy readers will feel (if you don't really step up your narration and focus on the little minute details that make people people; these foibles come out naturally in 1st). Out here, you need explicit examples; scenes where the internal conflict is the point; and if it's not the primary character you may need to resort to "the conversation" where you directly confront the character or they are left with no choice but to spill the beans. Or someone exposits what they believe is going on and maybe that's what's going on or it's just like their opinion, man. In this space, we're less sure of things.

And then you get to 3rd person omnicient, which is hardest to write but gives you the ability to characterize everyone. Here, you'd literally just (with great skill) spell out the conflicts like you would in first person, but it might be disassociative for the reader or slow down the pace more than you'd like.

Internal struggle formula

Character wants A

Character wants B

C happens, character can't have both A & B

Reader understands the costs of choosing A/B (Stakes exist!)

Character chooses something A, B or D and lives with the consequences (generally they escalate)

Repeat until you conclude and character has picked the thing the story needed them to pick once and for all.

If your story literally makes all of these points, stakes, & results clear and a reader feels them, then you've succeeded. How to write them is as varied as the number of successful works of literature. What is something you need to figure out.


Others have said Internal Dialogue, and I second that. But let me also offer an alternative. If the "demon" is a sufficiently separate entity that the character can talk to it, negotiate with it, argue with it, that's easy. The demon is then like another character, it just happens to reside in the first character's head.

But what if things are not so cut-and-dry? What if, instead, the "demon" is no more a separate entity than your 'ego' is separate from your 'id'? You don't talk to your id, do you? Then, every time your character acts, there's this doubt - is it his action, or has it been suggested by the "demon"? He himself doubts, and examines and re-examines his own actions. And maybe, at some point, he is sure he is acting on his own choices, and it is a friend who notices and tells him he is not quite himself, that an action is "out of character" for him.

If that is the way you choose to go, your character would be going through a process of developing a heightened awareness of his own thinking process, meta-thinking, if you wish. Over time, he would have to learn to recognise what thoughts come from him, and what thoughts do not.

A characteristic of such a structure is an "othering" of some of the character's urges. His struggle is with himself, with something that is part of him. He doesn't like that part, he works to overpower it, he defines it as "this is not me - that is demon", when he could have chosen otherwise. This "othering" is his tool towards being better than he could have been. Compare this to the little voice that suggests "just another ten minutes of procrastination". You accept it, and allow yourself to procrastinate. Or you don't accept it, you "other" it, and do something useful instead. Only for your character, the struggle is on a grander scale.

An interesting wrench in the system would be if the "demon" needs to be "fed", or else both the character and his "demon" would die, and the "demon" would of course act to survive. As a simple example, consider a vampire: he needs blood to survive. He can get by on animal blood. But if he's hungry enough, he would no longer be able to control himself, and take an blood available. If you choose to build your character along this structure, one of his constant concerns would be keeping the "demon" sufficiently fed.

I recommend you read Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series; throughout the series, Butcher explores several different forms of "internal demons". You might find the varied examples helpful.


Just because your character is a human-demon, it doesn't have to struggle. He might just be a human with an increased appetite for drinking blood, dismembering people or what ever else you consider demonic in your world.

The struggle comes from a conflict of his moral codex (e.g. "Treat others the way you want to be treated") with his instincts ("I'd really like to see this person's head decorate my living room.").

You can write your character like a vegetarian who is tempted to eat meat. Or someone who isn't allowed to eat pork "but it is so good". What thoughts will go through his head, when he is tempted?


Perhaps there is a 'visual' representation for this struggle? Since it is all in his mind you could have him imagine two separate individuals talking in a room or playing a game of chess. You could lay on a lot of symbolism here as well since this is imagined.


You have a really good start. You want to create a battle between a man and his demon. You could use this to resemble life some. You could have him try to both fight it and hide it, just like a man who has depression. It would be very interesting for you to write it tht way.

Well, just give him deep though and give them both differing personalities. If they are two entities in the same body, you want to show them that way. Give them different ways of talking and accents. They should be completely, or mostly, different in their identities from each other. The man sometimes gives in, which could show that he may have a weakness when it comes to fighting off the demon. He may try to fight it, but at some points he has to give in.

Just look at it from different angles and give them life. Make sure that they seem real. A story can't be good if the characters aren't.

Good luck on your story!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.