Writing Scary Monsters

This week on Hide and Create Moses Siregar, Jordan Ellinger, Diana Rowland, and Joshua Essoe talk about writing monsters.

A monster isn’t just a beasty with fangs and an appetite. A monster is something that offends our sensibilities, sets the fine hairs on the backs of our necks on end.

So how do you do it? Think about what primal human fears are. Take those fears and create a monster to exploit them. One sterling piece of advice to keep things scary is to let the reader do the work of scaring themselves by keeping the monster hidden. Que readers how to respond through character reactions.

There are many ways to approach creating a horrifying monster, but as with most everything story-related, the key is evoking a powerful emotional reaction in your readers.

Joshua Essoe is a full-time, freelance editor. He’s edited for David Farland, Dean Lorey, Mark Lefebvre, James A. Owen, and many top-notch independents¬†and winners of Writers of the Future. Read some of his other articles for Kobo, Grammar Girl, and Fictorians.


2 thoughts on “Writing Scary Monsters

  1. I think one of the tried and true ways is to take the attractive, the innocent, the sympathetic and and make them dangerous and unpredictable, perhaps even a kind of terror unto themselves. Cases in point…80% of the children in Stephen King novels: Carrie, Firestarter, Cujo, Pet Cemetery, The Shining, Poltergeist, etc. Another case in point the very scary Anthony Freemont of It’s a Good Life by Jerome Bixby. He’s a little kid and you want to hug and protect him…but if he doesn’t like what you are thinking he puts you in the cornfield. The female version of Anthony sans the special powers is the psychopathic child, Rhoda, from the story Bad Seed.

    Variations on the false expectation of innocence include the cute little dinosaurs in Jurassic Park that are just adorable singling, but a devouring swarm en masse, or the rats in Willard. The Frankenstein monster explore the opposite end…a visually monstrous person, who is a monster mostly by accident or in response to physical threats. At heart he is a besieged innocent. One of the most effective uses of an “not so innocent” object that I know of is the Talky Tina doll of the Twilight Zone “Living Doll” episode, “My name is Talky Tina, and you better be nice to me.”

    While super powerful creatures like dragons and giant bears can be monstrous in a purely physical sense, we expect them to be dangerous, and are more surprised and delighted when they are not. We feel terror when baby starts chasing Mama with a knife, and the cute black kitten that didn’t like your stuck up sister has invited a hundred of it’s closest friends to her room, for lunch.

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