Horror: A study on Cliver Barker part 16, Scape-Goats
Summary: A group of young adults finds themselves stranded on an island (which is actually a burial mound for those who died at sea during the Wolrd Wars) and begin to explore. During their exploration, they find sheep fenced up. One of the men, while drunk, kills one of the sheep and causes the spirits on the ghost to rise. The Ghost kills the group.
Notes: I don't consider this to be the best story in Books of Blood, but it does serve as a great example of how to write a ghost/monster story. I wanted to go over the different parts of what makes a good monster/ghost story: Characters, Sins, Monsters, Isolation, & Resolution.
Characters: In a monster story, the characters need to be deeply flaw in some manner or moral. Using this story as an example, the characters in this story have a deep disregard for both each other and the situation they are in. There are two girls, and two boys, all who are cheating on their partner with each other.
Sins: The Sin of this story is a disregard for each other, how this plays into the story is that one of the men shows his disregard for life when he kills one of the sheep. This 'Sin' is what awakens the dead and causes the group to be targeted.
Monster: If you haven't read my Blog on Rawhead Rex, please do. A monster should be an allegory for something, and in this story, the undead is those that the world disregarded in death (bodies that were never reclaimed from the sea.) If anything, the monster of this story is just the characters flaws taken to some extream form.
Isolation: For these type of stories to work, the characters need to be isolated in a way that prevents them from escaping. This story, they are stranded on an island. Jurassic park, same idea. IT, they children are stuck living in the town. Rawhead Rex is a bit of a different type of horror story, in that one that Character is searching for a way to defeat the monster, not to escape it (in terms of story structure this is a very important difference, but that will be a different blog series.)
Resolution: At the end of the story, the MC will have two options: She changes her flaw and defeats/escape the monster, or she doesn't change and the monster destroys her. In this story, she does not change and the MC is drowned to death in the end.
How to avoid the cliche: Now that I've broken monsters stories into their bare parts, you need to ask yourself how to avoid cliches? Here is how: Don't put characters into the story as meatshields. Yes, people will die, but give their death meaning, and take the time to develop that characters. This is why a cast of four is a good number. Too many characters mean you need a longer story if you want to truly develop them.
2. Really think about the theme of your story when creating the sin the characters will commit. The heavy the theme, the deeper the horror of your story will be.
3. The monster, take your time and develop your monster, beyond just visual and gore.
4. Think of ways to Isolate your characters so they can't escape the monster. I want to look at Nightmare on Elm Street as it is genius. The Isolation is their 'dreams' when they sleep. We all know that people need to fall asleep sometime, and this was just a brilliant idea in terms of isolation. Think, and reach for that isolation that keeps characters from escaping.
5. P.O.V This one I think goes unexplored. There are three P.O.Vs you can use in a good monster story. The most used one is the people being chased by the monster. The another choice is showing the story through the eyes of the monster. The last choice and the one that is rarely used is you could show the story through the eyes of the 'victim' of the sin (This is done in Pumpkinhead where the MC is the father of a child killed by a group of teens. He has a witch summon a monster to punish those that took his child away from him. I'd watch this movie [while not perfect] to get an idea on how to show the story through the victim's eyes.)
I hope you've all enjoyed my look at Scape-goats. While not the best short story, it is still a great one to study if you are interested in writing a monster story.
If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment of like!
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