I’ve never been much of a horror fan, but I’ve always loved monsters. There’s something about the scale and sheer terror that comes with a monster that makes my heart jump a beat. Now, when I say “monster”, I mean monster in the Ray Harryhausen/Ishiro Honda sense of the word. City-destroying, neigh-invulnerable terrors that seem to know no remorse or have any reason for their actions. There’s something primal about looking up and up into the eyes of a towering creature that fills the heart with dread. Seeing as this will never happen in this world (and we should be grateful for that), it is up to speculative fiction to feed us these images.
The last two stories I’ve written have a monster involved. The first was a major plot device, but by no means the main character. My monster was created by humans, playing a crucial part in the overall theme of the story.
This time around, my monster has a more limited role, more of an ominous background character that crops up unexpectedly, but is inextricably linked to the characters.
I imagine that the first one reflects J. J. Abrams’s creature in Cloverfield, which I think is a great monster film (if you discard the parasitic spawn that the creature sheds).
My second is more like Joe Abercrombie’s Fearless from the First Law series, which acted more as an obstacle to the main character rather than a mindless beast. Incidentally, I can’t help feel that Abercrombie’s villain is somewhat drawn from Hoichi the Earless. A great horror story. Read it.
But I’m not the only own who loves a good monster. Smaug, the Balrog, Mael Kauth (sort of), the Jaghut Tyrant, the White Walkers, all of these monsters are something to fear and fascinate, which is why they’re great.
The trick is, making variations on a theme. How can this monster be both similar in form but different in function? Or, to put it more simply, what makes this monster unique? They all do basically the same thing, create fear and smash things, but it’s the why and how that are important. And they need to be an integral part of the plot. A monster without a home is not going to fool anyone.