A monster is a creation that embodies our darkest fears and wildest nightmares. The monster reeks terror on our emotions, representing danger, foreboding, and heart-thumping unrest. Just the thought of a monster can raise the hackles on our necks. So if you’re thinking about crafting a meaningful story, realize that fertile ideas to write about include monsters, creatures, entities, ghosts, and others.
Here’s another take on what makes monsters so terrifying:
In order to keep your reader invested in your story, make sure you know what type of monster you are crafting. Take steps to ensure your reader will feel alone and terrified if you want to write a successful tale.
How did monsters or beasts or creatures get their start in society? They certainly have a long history of being with us, and it’s likely they will be around for eternity. Actually, the monster can be traced back to ancient civilizations, and look how they’ve steadily accompanied us to the present day.
Folklore is found in differing cultures throughout history. The invention of monsters may have been based on the theory of keeping people in line. If they didn’t adhere to society’s norms, if they wandered off on their own, a creature could carry them off never to be seen again. Fertile ideas to write about include monsters, vampires, dragons, hairy beasts, ghosts, and, you name it.
There are many creatures borne out of folklore. Here are just three of them:
Medusa. Medusa’s origin springs from Greek mythology where she was cursed by the goddess Athena who transformed her into a creature with snakes for hair. When anyone met her eyes, they would turn to stone. Medusa died by being beheaded by Perseus.
Yeti. The Yeti’s origin hails from the remote mountainous Himalayan region. The Yeti, a.k.a. the Abominable Snowman, is said to be a sizable ape-like creature. While Yeti sightings have been reported for centuries, there has been no physical evidence to prove it exists.
Chupacabra. The Chupacabra legend originated in Puerto Rico in the mid-1990s. This elusive creature is said to attack livestock and drain their blood. Some describe it as resembling a reptile or dog. Some theories believe the Chupacabra is a result of mass hysteria or misidentification of other animals.
Human Monsters or their likeness
Monsters can be human, too, or represent humanity. What is the origin of human monsters? Many psychologists speculate that some are created in childhood when the child experiences neglect, bullying, molestation, or other forms of mistreatment. Other psychologists theorize that some human monsters are born this way.
About a real-life human monster, “John Wayne Gacy (March 17, 1942 – May 10, 1994) was an American serial killer and sex offender who raped, tortured, and murdered at least 33 young men and boys . . . near Chicago, Illinois. He became known as the Killer Clown due to his public performances as a clown before discovering his crimes” (Wikipedia).
Gacy would often lure his victims into his ranch house where he would handcuff them under the guise of showing them a magic trick. Then he would rape and torture them. Afterward, he would strangle them with a rope. He buried most of his victims beneath the floorboards of his home.
A look into Gacy's childhood shows that he was raised by an alcoholic father who physically and verbally abused him and constantly belittled him.
The origins of other monsters and creatures stem from the brainchild of authors. Here are two human psychopathic monsters from the same novel The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris:
Hannibal Lecter is a psychiatrist as well as a cannibal and serial killer.
Jame Gumb is also a serial killer who makes himself a “woman suit” from the skin of his female victims.
Frankenstein is a novel by Mary Shelley. He is hands down a monster that takes his place solidly in the horror genre. He is a misfit in society, having been created in a lab. And society treats him horribly to the point that the monster kills his creator.
Monsters feed off our fears. These fears can originate in childhood, through adverse adult experiences, and the chaos we see in the media. When authors craft successful short stories or novels that feature monsters or creatures, they pay particular attention to the creature's backstory. Monsters did not just spring up on the page. They have histories. What made them a monster? Or are they from a lineage of monsters such as aliens, whose birthright is to terrorize and kill?
A monster or creature shouldn’t be a flat character. Make them interesting by giving them attributes, a personality, and idiosyncrasies. Terror is heightened when these creatures seem to have an advantage over the protagonist. The proverbial monster under the bed is elusive. We don’t know how it got there or specifically what harm it intends to inflict. It makes us panic.
Ridley Scott is the author of Alien whose alien creatures terrorized space explorers. These parasitic entities want to feed off humans. The alien creature is the epitome of horror.
Do the monsters that terrify you or you hope to terrify your reader, have supernatural powers, ability to shape-shift, immortality, super intelligence, or great strength? These are the traits that the hero must conquer.
Not all creatures strike fear in our hearts, though. Remember the extraterrestrial, ET? He was a little charmer, wasn’t he? And how about the ogre in the movie Shrek? He was a lost, lovelorn, soul. Know the type of creature you’re writing. Is it to evoke warm feelings? Or is it to instill to-the-bone angst?
Monsters, creatures, and entities provide the fuel that drives your narrative forward into engaging stories. They prove that fertile ideas to write about have a rightful place in fear-inspiring literature. If you are a writer, leave your reader wanting more yet dreading to peek around the corner and venture into the shadowy alleys of storytelling.
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