Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Writing 101: How to Create a Monster

Halloween is coming, and all the spooky stuff is coming out. Want to write a scary book? Then you might just need to know how to create a monster. It's not so easy to do when all you've got is your words. 

It's Alive!

Some of the greatest monsters ever created come not from Hollywood, but from the page. When Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein and Bram Stoker penned Dracula, movies didn't exist. They had to use words to create terrifying creatures bent on destruction. And if they can create such iconic monsters so many centuries ago, you can definitely create a decently scary one right now. But even the best of writers use certain literary tricks to inspire fear. 

  • The unknown: This trick works so well, they even use it in the movies. Some of the scariest stuff is the stuff we can't really see. Think of Jason Voorhies hiding behind his hockey mask, or Jaws swimming around somewhere below the waves. Because we can't see it, we're terrified. 
  • The grotesque: If you want to create a monster, make it a really gross one. When things are oozing and features are out of place and fingernails are extra-long, it's pretty darned frightening. Pull out your ickiest adjectives, and go to work. Just remember when you create a monster that you need to visualize it very clearly. 
  • The normal: Some monsters don't look like monsters, and this is what makes them frightening. By some standards, serial killers like Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy are monsters. Yet they look like ordinary guys, rather clean-cut and plain. The idea that your average-looking next-door-neighbor might be a horrible killer should scare the verbs right out of you. Use it to fashion a chilling monster on the page.
  • The supernatural: If your monster is somehow otherworldly, this can be pretty frightening stuff. What if it can fly? Maybe it can't die. How does anyone fight such a beast! See, I'm already scared. 
  • The natural: Your monster doesn't have to be a humanoid creature. Sometimes, Mother Nature herself is the villain. A weather phenomenon, maybe a terrible disease -- these things can also be monsters in scary books. 
And the main rule of creating a monster on the page? Make sure it frightens you. If you aren't afraid of your monster, readers won't be, either.

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