Monster story is a specific horror genre focused on the threat of a monster. The story is centered around the threat of one particular monster, and your heroes need to escape it. Writing a scary monster story is difficult because you only have the words on the page. If you do it wrong, it can come off as sounding silly and not quite hitting the tone that you want to put.
Another problem is that most of the terror a monster brings is in its build-up. The anticipation and the suspense are often even scarier than the creature itself. You watch a monster movie that is lame, but the same goes in books: the monster’s anticipation and suspense are often much scarier than the monster itself. That’s no excuse to have a lame monster.
We want to ensure that the monster still lives up to the hype as much as possible. So to do that, there are many tips you can do to have a terrifying monster story or character. Stay with me if you want to learn the tips on monster writing.
How to write a monster story?
I’m going to talk about how you can create memorable monsters, stories, or characters. I want to take things in a different direction and tell you how to make threats, specifically monsters you can put in horror a fantasy stories.
While researching this topic, I came across several videos and articles that suggested that you can create a monster from a checklist or a recipe, as if you can come up with some strengths and weaknesses. But it doesn’t work like that!
If you’re going to create a monster, don’t do it from a checklist or some recipe. That’s not the way of going about it. Instead, you need to take a specific approach to build a monster. I have 10 methods for creating a memorable monster story. Let’s write!
1. Make a realistic scary monster
You want to scare your characters before you worry about scaring your audience. Many writers make the mistake of creating a monster to scare the audience. They want to go after the audience, and if you do it, you will fail. Most audience members are smart enough to know that a novel or a movie is fake. They know it’s fiction and that the monsters within these stories aren’t real.
So showing them a monster isn’t enough. It would help if you had some middleman who can be threatened by that monster, which can also act as an anchor point for your audience. If you can convince the audience to care about a character threatened by the monster, that’s where things start working now. For example, many people are afraid of spiders, so that you can make a spider-monster type.
If you’re going to write a story, you want one that will impact as many audiences as possible, preferably the whole audience. So the only way to do that is to ensure that your audience is invested in your main characters and they have some relationship to the threat.
2. Keep your monster mysterious
The scariest monsters out there are the ones that involve some aspect of the unknown. Either we don’t see what they look like, or we don’t know what they’re capable of or their motivation. Those types of monsters are terrifying. In the Alien movie, the monster is constantly changing, and we don’t know what to expect.
We don’t get to see it when it finally hits its mature form. We get to see movements in the shadows capable of killing different people. But we don’t know what it entirely looks like until the very end of the story. This movie has persisted through time as one of the great horrors because of how the monster is conveyed to the audience. When creating a monster, remember that you don’t want to give the audience the full details about this thing.
It’s okay if you know the full details, but sometimes it’s best to leave things up to the unknown because the unknown is scary and is so full of possibilities. In the novel Bird Box, some creatures instantly die if you look at them. There’s no way around it, creating this world where people can’t open their eyes.
The brilliant thing about these monsters is that we will never be able to see them in the book’s pages, and we can’t get a description of them. Because of that, there is this air of mystery to them, and they’re left unknown to an extent. That makes them scary, and it makes us wonder.
When you are coming up with your monsters, ask yourself: Is there a way that I can keep these monsters hidden in some way or another? Can I hide their appearance, origin, or other aspects of their being? Find your answer and use them in your story.
3. Embrace the meaningless fears
Meaningless fears are neutral, harmless, or unusual things that are not your everyday things or things that are not typically associated with the idea of being scary. Many writers mistake going for the low-hanging fruit when making monsters. They create monsters with teeth and claws, and they have monsters with these distorted appearances.
Ask yourself: How could a monster develop from fear? You can play around with it, toy with new ideas, and take chances. Eventually, you can come up with something original that gets under your reader’s skin and throws them off because they haven’t seen it before.
4. Ask yourself
It’s not enough to know what you find magical or terrifying. You need to understand why that’s the case. It will require some introspection, but that’s good for you. Your therapist agrees!
- Take a step back and ask yourself, “Why do I find unicorns so stunningly beautiful?” “Why are deep sea creatures so horrifying?”
For starters, the deep sea is dark. I’m scared of the dark because something could happen, and you’ll never know! The deep sea is also largely unexplored, which means most of the creatures down there are completely unknown to us. Plus, most sea creatures are as far from humanoid as it gets. They got tentacles!
- Make a believable within the context of your world.
- Make sure that your monster is not too over the top.
- Create a system of logic for your monster.
- Try not to make your monsters brutal for no reason.
5. Make your story unique
Creature creation is the perfect time to implement some good old-fashioned trope subversion. That’s what I love about creating monsters. It allows you to do the unexpected. I mentioned Pegasus and unicorns are two creatures that are widely considered beautiful. Do you know what they have in common? They’re both white!
What if your beautiful creature was black, purple, or any other color! A lot of scary creatures are black. What if yours was white? Do something different! Give your readers the chance to say, “Wow, I haven’t seen that before!” That’s the beauty of creation. You’re in the driver’s seat and can change the rules however you please.
6. Add some secrets
Depending on the relevance of the creature, its origin story may never be mentioned. It may not apply to the plot. Maybe your characters have no idea where it came from. But it’s helpful for you to know where the creature came from for no other reason than to make the creation process easier on you.
Something to keep in mind is that if you’re creating a fantastical monster, your readers know it’s fake. The monster’s origin story doesn’t necessarily have to be realistic. It only needs to be realistic to the world and plot you’ve created.
7. Show the strengths and weakness
It’s a good idea to know what your monsters are good at, especially if your creature is scary. What makes you not want to go up against it in a fight? You don’t get to skip this step! Besides, figuring out the strengths is easy to do. For example, does your monster have wings? Then one of its strengths is that it can fly. BOOM!
Figuring out your creature’s weaknesses is especially relevant if you’re creating a big evil monster, and your cast will have to fight at some point. If the creature is entirely invulnerable, that isn’t going to work! Even if your cast believes the creature is invulnerable, you should be able to concoct some vulnerabilities for it, at least for your knowledge as the all-powerful writer god.
The great thing about creature creation is that you get to be creative. You don’t have to be evident with the weaknesses, like head injuries or a blade to the heart.
8. Understand your goal
Not all creatures are created equal. Unicorns are beautiful, and the Sphinx is mysterious. You need to determine what the underlying goal of this creature is supposed to be in terms of its representation in your monster story. Are you trying to create something whimsical or fearful? It is an aspect you need to determine early on because it will dictate your entire process.
For example, you want to create a monster who looks soft and unassuming, but this closer approach is difficult. It could mean you’re making a pegasus, but it is an illusion. So, try to understand your motive and clarify it.
9. Use personal preference
Regarding creatures, personal preference can do a world of good. What do you personally find beautiful? What do you find terrifying? It can be easier to convey these traits when personally invested in them. Many people are terrified by deep sea creatures, which is a perfect starting point for creating a scary monster.
- It’s a good idea to have an honest conversation regarding how much weight the monster will serve in your story.
You need to do this to decide how much time you will put into this creature’s story. You don’t want to spend weeks inventing a monster and have it only show up for one page. Rate its relevance, and you’ll be able to determine how much time, effort, and detail should go into its creation.
10. Spot the differences
Many fictional creatures are based on other fictional creatures or real-world species. For example, the guardians in my dark fantasy romance, The Savior’s Champion, were loosely based on viperfish and dragon fish. But if you replicate these animals, you’re not doing anything different. So you have to think clearly and specifically about what makes your being unique.
It especially goes for humanoid creatures. So many writers create humanoid species that are exactly like humans, except they have wings or their skin is a different color. What if they have four lungs instead of two due to the oxygen on their planet? What if they only require ten hours of sleep a week? Even Vulcans from Star Trek had things like inner eyelids, and their heart was in their torso instead of their chest. Remember, you invent a new creature using your beauty, and anything is possible.
7 Best Monster Tropes In Fiction
Mystery monster: There’s a monster wreaking havoc across the land, and our main character is desperate to find it. Only to discover they are the monster! They have been the whole time! They somehow don’t remember any of these monstrous killing sprees, and the massive lapses in their memory aren’t at all suspicious or troubling to them.
Cute but deadly: We’ve got an adorable, doe-eyed creature that will tear you and use your tendons as floss. Isn’t that precious? Let’s talk about the Bunny in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Bunny was so funny and seemingly harmless. Then it murders people, and that’s hilarious! The rest of the movie wasn’t so funny, but that part was golden.
Scary but sweet: This is the polar opposite of the last point. The monster is giant, and it’s hairy and horrifying! All it wants is a hug. By the end of the book, you’re thinking, “Why can’t I have a winged demon in my life?” Because that monster is a sweetheart! It wants to cuddle and be friends. This kind of monster teaches you not to judge a book by its cover or a beast by its cloven hooves.
The familiar: A familiar is a demon that takes the form of an animal to obey a witch’s requests. This trope is different! There are a million guardian or mentor characters to go around. But a guardian monster is notable because it’s not a person.
The pet monster: This monster does not take orders or protect. They’re here to play and get belly rubs. If they serve as protection, it’s more so in the guard dog capacity, not the bodyguard capacity. It’s fun to see something typically written as terrifying instead behave as loving
The monster evolution: I’m not talking about shifters or werewolves under the full moon. I’m talking about a complete evolution from human to something terrifying, and there is no going back. That is twisted, and I want more of it! The 1986 version of The Fly with Jeff Goldblum is a perfect example. You get to see a man waste away into a grotesque creature, and there is nothing he can do about it. The monster evolution is alarming, which will mess with your mind.
Greek mythology: Greek mythology has some of the best monsters. They mashed a ton of animals together. Greek mythology threw the whole kitchen sink at their monsters, and I salute them for it!
How much do your characters know? As we already covered, much of this information may not be relevant to your story, depending on how vital the creature is to your plot. If that’s the case, you must recognize and respect when to take your foot off the gas. It is especially relevant if your characters don’t know much about this creature.
For example, if they’re stumbling upon an alien race for the first time. You may know your alien’s origin story in minute detail, but the book is told from your character’s point of view. If they’re clueless, lay off the omniscience. I encourage writers to learn about their creatures as much as possible because you never know what that monster will do next. Resist the urge to overload your reader with creature building that is either inconsequential to the plot or unknown to the characters involved.
What is your favorite monster from a movie/book? Let me know in the comments section below.
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