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  1. #1
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    Bad monsters written well

    As I have talked about on other threads around here, I am currently working on expanding a Halloween-themed novella into a full novel. The project was not going well for a while but now things are really taking off. So now I find myself in the position of having characters whose personalities and backstories I can explore more deeply. One of the things I am worried about, however, is that I have several monster characters (vampires, werewolves, ghosts, other spirits, etc.) but I am not read too many horror or other stories that feature these kind of supernatural beings. Most of my knowledge and feelings about them have been picked up through pop culture of my generation--the last 20 yrs or so.

    I know I do not want Twilight type creatures. I want more of the classical, scary, mean monsters who are different from humans, both in terms of physical needs and how they think and feel. They are of different races from humans, not just different nationalities or skin color. So I wonder if anyone has any recommendations for me? Both in terms of books to read and movies/tv shows to see and in terms of just how to make my monster/supernatural characters different from the human characters.

  2. #2
    This is an interesting topic, and one that I have come across in my own work.

    I completely understand about the need to move away from massively overused cliches and stereotypes that have been done (usually very badly) a thousand times before. I think the main thing, especially that worked for me, is to try and understand the motivations and driving forces behind each of these characters. Trying to think about their own psychology and their perceptions of the world, and demonstrating what matters to them.
    For example, when the werewolf is in their human form, how do they cope psychologically with what they do on a full moon? Does it consume their every waking thought, or can they calmly deal with it? Similarly, I think the personalities of the ghosts or spirits would be influenced by the lives they led and how they died. For example, although the person may have been very nice in the land of the living, perhaps the manner or untimely nature of their death means that they are now very bitter in the afterlife.

    I hope this helps you in some way, and isn't just a load of old tosh!

  3. #3
    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
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    It's been some years since I read the Harry Potter books, but it seemed that Rowling did any extraordinarily good job. Maybe some of the Potter Freaks on the board can fill in some of the details.

    Nearly Headless (was it Nick?) as a ghost.

    Sirius Black as a werewolf.

    Moaning Myrtle as a ghost.

    The Death Eaters as... Death Eaters (really, The Damned.)

    Personal characteristics of their human personalities set the molds for their "monster" existences. It was their very-human souls that made them interesting. Simple claws and teeth wouldn't have carried.

    Good luck -- WB

  4. #4
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Oh my, well that's a lot of horror to catch up on. Off bat, I'd suggest you check out 30 Days of Night, either the graphic novel or the movie. You probably also want to check out the works of Brian Keene and Peter Straub's Ghost Story, and the horror threads in the Fantasy and Horror forum for recs. Tim Lebbon's duology Dusk and Dawn might be useful.

  5. #5
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    Oh, dear heavens, don't read Tim Lebbon unless you want nightmares. That man can write horror FAR TOO WELL for my tastes. (I just got goosebumps thinking of his White short story - shudder.)

    Also, don't forget the classics. I just re-read Frankenstein and I was blown away by the persistent theme of friendship. The movies and subsequent pop culture just kind of stresses this monster thing, but the original story dealt with friendship, the pursuit of knowledge, etc. far more than what a casual viewer might think.

  6. #6
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    Hmm, maybe I should have said that I am not actually intending this to be a horror story? Because I'm not. However, that doesn't mean I shouldn't check out horror stories, movies, etc. So keep the rec's coming! I hope to begin looking into them after Halloween or, even sometime in mid-October.

    I would like to have the monsters be more realistic than cutesy. KatG, you've discussed this story with me, though it was a year ago and more. It is very much aof a YA tale, though I am aiming for it to be enjoyed by adults as well. TMSO read the novella version that I am expanding and called it "darkly sweet" (or something like that).

    My strongest influences include the tv show Supernatural, the feelings and imagery of Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood series, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Underworld, the movie Casper from the early/mid '90s with Christina Ricci and Bill Pullman. I listen to music as I write and, with a few exceptions, my playlist for this story is composed almost entirely of the Norwegian band Sirenia. I also enjoy the band The Birthday Massacre for this story as well. My newest influence is Tim Burton's movie Dark Shadows released this last spring. I had never heard of the soap opera it was based on until the movie came out, and I still have not seen any episodes and I'm not sure I want to. Still, everything about the movie spoke to my me and I will probably be watching it weekly after the DVD comes out.

    @WB--I have read the Harry Potter books. In my story, instead of creating a hidden world within our own, the magical people and creatures created their own, separate world to which they fled over a thousand years ago. Which explains why there are stories of vampires, werewolves, spirits and, even, some of the old gods such as Selene, the Roman goddess of the moon. So the world and society that one of my MC's and the monsters are comign from has developed separately from our for centuries. Vampires often live in families (a la Underworld, though smaller groups as they don't make their own, synthetic blood and do have to drink living people for sustenance--aka situation of supply and demand and human communities that are or were in the past used treated like cattle by the vampires). Further, the were-creatures are living in individual communities and are strongly clannish because they are so different from others. So, in the case of those characters, they aren't dealing with issues of changing except when they can't change for one reason or another--which is touched upon a couple of times in different ways in the stories I have planned. Returning to Harry Potter, I of course want my world and characters to be different. For one thing, the magic is not based on speaking Latin-sounding words to cast spells.

    Oh, and yes, I do plan on reading Stoker's Dracula and Shelley's Frankenstein. Those are musts for sure!

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