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So, one of my story ideas involved werewolves. In the setting, they were a minority, much like most non-human races.

Now, of these werewolves, turned (as in a human who became a werewolf) ones only go through the transformation once, later generations (werewolves can reproduce) are born as werewolves. The whole beast-side-aking-over thing is only true for the duration of the full moon.

Werewolves have more keen senses (especially their smell) and stronger and slightly more agile bodies, but it matters little in a world where the existence of artifacts easily levels these differences. After all, an explosive arrow can still kill them in a single hit, so...

Werewolves usually live in tribes (don't tend to move) or families (tend to move).

The story itself takes place during and the day after the full-moon festival. Simply put it's a social event with some eating and drinking towards the end, the food is spiced up with some anesthetics and the festival is geared towards calming down their beast-side by satisfying its needs beforehand. It works pretty well.

Now, the bad guys are a human terror group, the monster hunters, who are dead set on eliminating creatures like werewolves as they are "perversions of humanity". They're depicted as cruel, illogical, cowardly, and plain repulsive people with no redeeming qualities. They're basically the protagonists of the book The Camp of the Saints, but in a story that isn't grounded in paranoia.

You guessed, they attack the tribe when they're snoozing.

Sure, humans aren't depicted as monsters either. The nearby city which is very liberal by the setting's standards sends out guards to protect werewolves during the night of the festival, as the city regularly trades with them, plus the city council isn't a bunch of douchebags. The guards also get attacked by monster hunters, as they are "race traitors", and aren't reluctant to fight back.

As far as other elements go, we do hear about segregation (of most non-humans) and suppression of information on monster hunters by authorities to maintain a false sense of peace.

The monster hunters might look like caricatures, but the truth is that I'm having a hard time viewing these types of groups as anything more. If you've read The Turner Diaries or the aforementioned The Camp of the Saints, you know what I'm talking about.

Okay, simply put: they either enjoy killing those they consider inferior (the worst type) or live in a false dichotomy (something similar to the white genocide conspiracy), where it's either kill or be killed, something that can easily be disproven.

In paper, there is a werewolf group that does terrible things too, like biting people on purpose, killing innocent humans, etc... The problem is that in the story we only hear about them from the main character (a werewolf who is sympathetic to their cause) when he's having a quarrel with his grandfather over his views.

Now, his grandfather is described as a kind and intelligent person, but lore-wise, his daughter, (almost) his grandson, and a few of his tribe had died because of monster hunters. So it makes little sense for him to be so adamantly pacifistic, and the events make his ideology look dangerous. Sure, they're ultimately the right call, but that only becomes apparent in hindsight.

Still, it feels disingenuous to throw in a werewolf terror group to explain some of the racism, yet the only time they "show up" is when the mc talks about them, and even then, the most harm, he causes with it, is making his granddad cry, which is awful (gramps IS his only living relative) but he does feel bad about it.

I planned on throwing in an arc for the mc where he's injured and has to put his trust into a group of humans, but an individual's journey does little when the werewoof terror group is still out there.

So, is there any way to make a conflict seem more two-sided, even though one of these sides is almost completely irrelevant/inconsequential in the plot?

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    "one of these sides is almost completely irrelevant/inconsequential" - is there any way you could make that side actually be more relevant, instead of just making the conflict "seem" more two-sided? In other words, why does your story have to be one-sided? – DM_with_secrets May 30 at 22:17
  • @DM_with_secrets Mainly because of the scope of the story. There's just no place or time for them to show up, the story's scope is the span of a few days. – Mephistopheles May 30 at 22:28
  • Could you change that, if it would make for a better story? Not saying you should, but I always like to think about this sort of thing – DM_with_secrets May 31 at 7:13
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    @Mephistopheles Why is that an issue? Consider - each of the "Batman: Arkham {location}" games takes place over one or two nights, yet you have dozens of well fleshed-out sides to the conflict(s). Dragon Ball managed plenty of characterisation and of the 4 sides in the 1-day Namek saga (Z-fighter / Namekians / Freiza force / Vegeta) If nothing else, you can use flashbacks to expand the time frame, or have the Monster Hunters arrive because they're chasing an "evil werewolf" who tries to shelter with the family. – Chronocidal Jun 1 at 10:02
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I can see several problems here. One is that your conflict is utterly one-sided. Your monster-hunter group has no redeeming features whatsoever, no deeper motivation to their actions beyond hatred of the other, and overall comes off like a faceless adversary with no personality. They show no complexity to their behavior beyond "kill the werewolves and anyone even associated with them". They aren't so much a character as a plot device. You could literally replace them with a faceless movie monster and there would be no change whatsoever to your plot.

I mean, normally in these kinds of stories you would have some POV of one of the werewolf hunter characters to show their thought process. Usually what you get is the characters mentioning they were radicalized into being a werewolf hunter due to personal tragedy of losing loved ones to the werewolf terror group, which is usually a commentary on the cycle of violence and how violent retribution on groups someone deems as the "other" usually only ends up creating hatred where previously there was none. Even though the reader may not agree with the werewolf hunters' motivations of killing all the werewolves, they understand why they feel this way. You don't even need to have a direct POV for them, I'm reminded of a story along similar lines where the characters have the exchange

"They've killed hundreds of us"

"And we've killed thousands of them"

to show the conflict wasn't black-and-white.

How did the conflict even originate? Usually in these kinds of things both sides have some grievance that initializes the conflict. Even in real-world cases of one group performing pogroms and genocide against another group, there are usually long-standing animosities that caused them to happen in the first place. The Rwanda Genocide was precipitated because of long-standing social disparities between the Hutu and the Tutsi. The Nazis wanted a scapegoat to unite Germany and merely capitalized on against already-existing prejudice against Jews, communists, and others, which went back decades or even centuries. People don't wake up one day and go "oh boy, here I go genociding again". As some social scholars have said, wars of genocide are not a normal expression of bigotry, but the end result when dehumanization of one group gets so extreme people in the other go "well why don't we just kill all of them?" The fact that you have the werewolf hunters seemingly jump straight to genocide is a bit odd and makes them look one-dimensional.

It seems like you have the same problem as Attack on Titan:

In Attack on Titan, despite the author trying to frame the main character's genocidal retaliation on all of humanity (not just their actual oppressers) as morally unjust and horrifying (i.e., "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind"), this utterly fails because the author pretty much fails to show anyone from outside Paradis as being sympathetic. Most of the people from Marley are sympathetic are Eldians who live in Marleyan ghettoes, which in your case would be equivalent to werewolves being held captive by werewolf hunters to kill other werewolves. Almost none of the actual Marleyans (I can think of maybe two exceptions) come across as sympathetic human beings that have just been brainwashed by propaganda and cultural stereotypes, but instead come across as cartoonishly evil stereotypes whose only reason for existing is torturing Eldians. This is why currently in the Attack on Titan fandom the entire fandom is split between people shrieking for blood and saying everyone must die and if you don't agree you're a race traitor (seriously, the Attack on Titan fandom is a messed up place) and people saying "wait, how can every human being on Earth act like this?"; the Marleyans are so dehumanized they come off as Tolkien-style orcs more than human beings.

As a result, the author's seemingly intended message falls flat.

[B]ut lore-wise, his daughter, (almost) his grandson, and a few of his tribe had died because of monster hunters. So it makes little sense for him to be so adamantly pacifistic, and the events make his ideology look dangerous.

Yeah, honestly this makes no sense. The only details you've given about the character make him sound more like he would be interested in revenge (or at the very least really hate the monster hunters), and make him look like a strawman for the sake of the plot.

I planned on throwing in an arc for the mc where he's injured and has to put his trust into a group of humans, but an individual's journey does little when the werewoof terror group is still out there.

But why though? Why does the fact that an individual goes through character development and learns to trust humans invalidate the plot? Not every story ends with the protagonists defeating the CEO of racism and reforming society for the better.

Honestly, from your description it sounds less like you have a war between humans and werewolves, and more that you have a mixed society of humans and werewolves with two extremist terrorist groups of radicalized werewolves and humans, respectively, disliked by cause they ruin things for everyone else. I'm sure there have to be some historical examples of this where you have two dueling terrorist or insurgent groups ruining society for more moderate people.

So, is there any way to make a conflict seem more two-sided, even though one of these sides is almost completely irrelevant/inconsequential in the plot?

I think part of the problem is despite wanting to appear two-sided you have to call a spade a spade with regards to the plot: the conflict is, as currently written, one-sided. It's not even clear why you want the conflict to be two-sided. There are plenty of examples in fiction where the conflict is one-sided (Blood and Chocolate is a good example of this within werewolf fiction, as is the general YA urban fantasy trope where the protagonist is a friendly monster just minding their own business and the antagonists are a murky, faceless group of monster hunters who only exist to stoke conflict). Do you really want the conflict to be two-sided or do you just want it to superficially look complex because murky morality is the big thing in fiction now?

If you need the conflict to be two-sided for the sake of themes and plot (e.g., cycle of violence, bigotry is bad, etc.) you are going to have to adjust your plot to show more sides of the conflict (or at least show the viewpoint character exposed to them in some way) because if you have a war with multiple sides that are meant to be seen as morally complex you need multiple viewpoints. Basically, you can't "dress up" a one-sided conflict to make it look two-sided, you have to actively change the plot and information conveyed to the reader to make it come across as two-sided. If you try to "dress up" a one-sided conflict you get humans versus Na'vi in Avatar. If you're so attached to the plot as currently stands you don't want to change events in order to examine the elements of your setting in more detail, you're going to have to accept that your conflict is one-sided.

It's also not clear what the intended themes of your novel are supposed to be. From your description it sounds like you have events in your plot just happening with little regard for whether they tie into or further the themes of the novel. For example, your werewolf terrorist group is just an offhand mention that doesn't impact the plot at all, and the human guards that protect the werewolves during the full moon feel like a shoehorned attempt to show "see, humans aren't all bad". My suggestion is figure out the broader subtext of what you want to say and then outline and structure your plot around that, cutting or adding as necessary.

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  • Well, if it feels shoehorned I can add the extra details, but the question will be even longer. – Mephistopheles May 31 at 22:24
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    @Mephistopheles You've added a lot of detail from when I posted my answer, but the question remains as to why you want the conflict to seem two-sided in the first place. As you state, the monster hunters are one-dimensional caricatures with no positive traits and you've explicitly stripped the one understandable, though not justifiable motivation (paranoia) that was present in their parent inspiration. Why do you want readers to think the conflict is two-sided when you've set things up to be black-and-white? Or is the conflict not between werewolves and monster hunters and its something else? – user2352714 Jun 1 at 3:43
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G.K. Chesterton said:

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.

Two things are apparent from your question:

  1. You want to avoid writing a "bad" novel with a one-sided plot and two-dimensional villains.
  2. You, the author, don't particularly like, understand, nor empathize with your villains, the werewolf hunters.

Therefore, if you want to improve the plot, you must improve your relationship with the unsavory characters in your novel. Why do they hate werewolves so much? I suspect that their hatred, like much bigotry, is based in fear. Fear that the "others" will take over and ruin life for the "good people". "There goes the neighborhood," and all that. If you can connect with that fear, you can humanize them, even if you don't support their morals, actions, or decisions.

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