Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How do you like your monsters?

Okay, so I had some other things to post about, but they were going to involve way too much thinking, and my brain is in the shop, so here's a question I've been pondering for some time now...

I don't think there's AN ANSWER, but I'd love to hear what people think.

In the world of fantasy or paranormal or dare I say horror.... do you like a monster you know or something different and unusual?

I look at a lot of the successful books out there and while they did do their own twist on vampires or werewolves or zombies or angels or demons... The monsters were variations of known mythologies.

What if the monster is something entirely new?

How close does a monster (or even a heroic creature) have to be to an already recognizable creature for readers to get attached?

Thoughts? Anyone? Bueller?


Lynda Simmons said...

For me, the most terrifying monsters are the ones you wouldn't recognize if you were sitting next to him on the bus. Like Hannibal Lecter. You have to love that character because he's witty, charming and utterly lethal when crossed. And the worst part is that he doesn't have fangs or any other identifying marks, just like real life monsters Paul Bernardo, Karla Homalka and Russell Williams. Those are the monsters that make me bolt my doors at night and prop empty wine bottles in front of them, just in case!

Stephanie Doyle said...

I remember when we saw the smoke monster (or didn't see the smoke monster) that first season of Lost - and I thought that was pretty damn scary.

Not knowing what it was - you couldn't quantify it, or deal with it or form an attack against it.

That creates a BUNCH of obstacles a hero might have to overcome.

Eileen said...

Wasn't there a movie recently where you never actually see the monster? Cloverfield? Something like that?

Lynda has a good point. I think the scariest villains are the ones who appear totally normal, perhaps even better than normal. It's kind of the Ted Bundy phenomenon. You think you're helping a good looking guy with a cast on his arm (or was it crutches) and then the next second you're strapped to a table being tortured to death.

Horror movie monsters are a little different though. The unknown is pretty darn scary.

Sinead M said...

Lynda, hello.

As for movie monsters, well no surprise, I love 'em. Give me vampires like the ones in 40 days of night... scary ones with needle sharp teeth, or Hannibal Lector. I don't discriminate... except maybe against zombies. No more zombies please.

Maureen McGowan said...

Lynda, those characters are the scariest. And the smoke monster... Yes. Terrifying.

I guess what I was wondering but didn't directly ask... was:
Is it a mistake not to use a known mythology in genre fiction?

Let's say you have creatures, that are a little like zombies, but aren't... are you better off making them zombies so readers have a point of reference?

I already know Sinead's opinion on this one... NO. MORE. ZOMBIES. :)

Molly O'Keefe said...

First of all Maureen clearly did some work on our blog and it looks GREAT! Thank you maureen - everytime I look at the blog I get thirsty - that beer looks very good.

I like the unknown to be honest - I've had enough of the it's a vampire but different, it's a zombie but different - because that decision usually comes with a big chunk of world building that explains how they are alike and how they are different - that pulls me right out of the story.

The smoke monster is a great example because we don't know what it is - the characters on the show don't know what it is so we get a totally serviceable name.

I liked the Reevers too - not that the name gave us any idea of what the monsters were - but there were lots of consenants and it sounded bad.

But absolutely - real life monsters - the worst.

Eileen said...

I wonder if it depends on how good a world/mythology builder you are. It's not exactly my strong point so I chose to use the tried and true vampire and werewolf traditions and a real urban setting that I could describe and not have to make up from whole cloth when I started the Messenger series. Well, I did make up Messengers so I guess I did make something up myself, but it was all about how she fit into a world that was already there!

Anyway, I've never felt that world building was one of my big strengths (I think I do characters and dialogue better), but if I did, I might be more likely to move in that direction.

As a reader . . . I'm not sure I care as long as it's done well.

Maureen McGowan said...

Eileen you're right.

I always get hung up on these things, but in the end, it always comes down to execution. And FWIW I think your world-building skills are excellent and don't agree that it takes less skill when you're using a common mythology.

In fact, as Molly points out, using a common mythology you need to spend time explaining how your vampires/werewolves/whatever are different. And that takes worldbuilding skills, too, or it would be confusing or boring.

I just worry that having a recognizable creature is more marketable... But if a story is compelling and the world is built well, it shouldn't matter. :)

Dark Angel said...

Something new could totally work, like in Paranormalcy, the writer had a very cool, very different type of supernatural creature and he sounded cute! A shape-shifting-water boy.

Maureen McGowan said...

Thanks for stopping by, Dark Angel!

I've been meaning to read Paranormalcy... Need to move it higher in my TBR pile.

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