1. CleverBrunette
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    CleverBrunette New Member

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    How do you keep your monsters original and fresh?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by CleverBrunette, Jan 8, 2012.

    Being I prefer writing in the supernatural and paranormal genre, I've been finding it harder to write out certain monsters such as vampires, demons, and werewolves. How do you as a writer find the inspiration to keep the monsters you write on a fresh take? Now I am not specifically asking for ideas in how to do it with my own writing, but I've been noticing that its harder to find a fresh take on the monsters which is why I've been researching on other monsters, I am curious though. How do you find the best way to create the mythology fresh to your stories and go by in making it feel like a fresh take to your readers and yourself when the same monster may have been done before in other works?
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    There's another thread called "Making Vampires Scary Again" (I think it's in general writing or plot creation, maybe settings, I'm really not sure). It's a really interesting read and talks about how to make vampires genuinely scarier than previous portrayals, if you want to write vampires but want to avoid the standard Dracula or Twilight interpretations.

    As far as generic monsters -- creatures that are monsters, but not necessarily something with a pre-existing title like a vampire -- don't describe them in terms of other animals. Don't write something like "it had the paws of a lion, the body of a wolf, the horns of a deer and the face of a bat." Even though such a creature might look extremely scary in a real-life encounter, it'll just read like an unthreatening, even comical, hodgepodge of Noah's Ark animals from a kid's book.

    In fact, don't go into too much detail about appearance at all. Pick two or three characteristics that might make the monster disturbing or scary, like the fangs/claws, or anything specific like lack of facial features or extremely long fingers or what have you. This way, the reader can visualize what's scariest to him or her. Anything intimately described to readers will, more likely than not, sound like a 6-year-old's description of the monster in their closet. Instead of focusing on appearance, try other factors like the sounds they make, any scents, residues or other materials they left in its wake (I find this one can be especially creepy) etc. And study up on creating a tone, such as through rhetorical devices and "doubling" (look it up).

    Evil spirits/demons are even more imagination-based, as in you shouldn't describe them too much, because the character likely can't see it or know what it wants. From everything I've read and watched on the topic, demon horror is like "Blair Witch Project" in the sense that you don't actually see it or know concretely know what it will do. However, this kind of horror, to me, is the scariest. For this type, I'd advise you to really focus on the setting and character dymanics to make it as frightening as possible. For example, it's scariest if the person is alone, in an extremely rural or isolated place, instead of with a group of trustworthy friends and help all around. This is just based on my own opinion based off of what I find scary - you may feel differently, so do it in the way that works best for you, but I'd strongly recommend making readers use their imaginations.

    As for the reinventing the wheel question - have you tried using lesser-used characters? Something like the Wendigo, or the Strigoi, which are extremely scary but are also far rarer in fiction than vampires and werewolves. You could pick some obscure mythical creature, invent your own setting, and give that setting a made-up legend involving that creature and its characteristics.
     
  3. Granville
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    Granville Member

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    Fortunately, since I draw on society for my character profiles, politics and religion supply me with and endlessly diverse variety of really scary monsters.
     
  4. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    This is a really good idea. By taking a mythological monster that is not as well-known, you can make it seem fresh to the general audience. For example, a lot of the monsters in Harry Potter were actually taken from ancient mythology, but many readers still don't know that. To them, her creatures looked new, innovative, and, at times, creepy.

    Personally, vampires and werewolves have been bastardized to a point of no return. They have been played with in romances and comedies so often that they no longer seem scary to me. However, you can always give them a twist that might make them appear different than other vampires or werewolves. Give them something that makes them unique compared to the others. You can always mix their qualities with other monsters like making a... I dunno, a blood-sucking werewolf with the power to travel space? Oh, and they could be undead! And they can shoot lasers from their eyes! And name it "Juicy"! It could totally work.

    Or, you can just make up your own monster. It doesn't even have to look terrifying; you can just make it have a terrible quality (example: stealing faces, turning one to stone with one look, etc).

    Cheers!
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Also, I'm far more easily scared by a scary place than a scary creature. If there's a vampire, werewolf, strigoi or wendigo wandering around, there's got to be a way to kill it or even just stay the hell away from it.

    I think the idea of a scary/evil location -- a boarded-up room in a house that you know has something supernatural in it, but you don't know what; a cave with a tunnel leading somewhere sinister; a portal to an altworld like Narnia, but dark and hostile and threatening -- is much more creepy than a scary/evil creature. There's more room for the reader's imagination to explore its darkest corners, but there's also the unspoken threat that the dark place (and/or what's inside it) could break out and take over. It just seems more powerful to me.
     
  6. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    I'm drawing on my knowledge of techniques using multiple mediums here, so bear with me.

    There are three ways to make a monster - a "threat" would be more apt, because monsters can be friendly - scary.

    1) Keep them scarce. Tease your audience. The Wight Walkers from George R R Martin's Game of Thrones are scary because they've been relegated to legend for several generations and have only just begun to reappear (thpoilerth!). Foreshadow, reveal and tease but just make sure you don't keep pushing them onto the stage for a seven-part song and dance routine because the commonplace is rarely terrifying.
    2) Make them unpredictable. Time, location or any other set of criteria. The monsters in the better Silent Hill games are usually more apt to do horrible things to each other and it is difficult to predict whether they pose a threat or not until it's too late. The uncertainty drives a sense of paranoia and fear and forces the reader to remain on edge as to whether the situation is threatening or not.
    3) Make them Otherly. There are many threats in fiction today that have become so overused they're commonplace, while the inherent weaknesses of others have made them laughably piteous. Mummies, Frankenstein's Monster and Zombies are among those most ridiculed while Werewolves and Vampires are relegated to the pulp fiction bin. A character's knowledge of the threat should be limited and opportunities to exploit whatever weaknesses they have should be rare.

    These three things combined challenge your characters and make a more viable option of fleeing than fighting. Victory should come infrequently and either at tremendous cost or after intense preparation - and even then, leave it in the air whether it works till the final moment.

    It's only scary when you don't know what's going to happen next.
     
  7. astrostu
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    astrostu Member

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    I agree with the idea of using more rare creatures (besides trying to invent your own). I also like (and use for the really bad guys) not giving much description at all. When every other evil character just refers to my über bad guys as "THEM," are deferential, and try to have zero interaction, it sets 'em up as scary without ever having to describe THEM.

    When I do use more mainstream supernatural evil characters, I try to go back to the original mythologies. I used the very cliché Vlad Tepes (some of the foundation of modern vampire myths) but in doing so, I looked up some original source material for personality, just referred to him as Vlad Tepes and not "The Impaler" nor "Dracula," and tried to actually make him more human but just crazy-evil with a few supernatural powers. No turning into a bat, scared of crosses, stuff like that.
     
  8. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I take the main features of the creature and then figure out the underlying reasons for it, and that leads to logical conclusions that give my creatures a new twist. For example, I have vampires in one story. I decided to have them be spirit beings made entirely out of magic, and their physical form is an illusion. This explains how they turn to dust when dead (the dust is dried blood). Then I got the idea to make all the spirit beings have powers to influence the fundamental interactions in physics. The solidity of objects arises from electromagnetism, so I made vampires electromagnetic - which also helps to explain their aversion to sunlight through the photoelectric effect.
     
  9. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    I think the important thing is not to overdo it when it comes to magical creatures. Use them for special circumstances. Also, it's good to deconstruct the tropes surrounding stock monsters - it's not all about appearance. By deconstruction I mean exploring how things would play out were it the real world. So if for example you've got vampires that are vulnerable to garlic, why are people still using garlic in their cooking. It should be a valuable commodity. Perhaps people oil their blades in it before going out to fight vampires. Just an example.
     

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