Let’s face it, the market is saturated with vampires, zombies, werewolves, and run-of-the-mill serial killers. Have you ever considered a monster alternative? Let’s creep down the dark, less-traveled path and explore Other Monsters.
If you ask me, I think Stephen King must have had the following conversation with himself–hmm, how can I push the limits of fear? I know, I bet I can make a vintage car scary. Because he is who he is, Uncle Stevie saw the potential for horror in almost anything, alive or not. Christine, Cujo, The Shining are all excellent examples of Other Monsters.
Below are a few categories to get you thinking. If you have other ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Don’t miss an opportunity to turn a place into a terrorizing nightmare. For example, forests, lakes, and caves could become ominous tools of destruction and mayhem. They can become giant voids that swallow their victims whole or portals to other hellish locations. They can house malevolent forces that increase their fear factor. The possibilities are endless.
Diabolical Inanimate Objects
Houses, cars, dolls, keys, boxes. All of these have been used before, but how could you put your own spin on them? Challenge yourself to write a short story about something you encounter every day and see where it takes you.
One of my favorite short stories by Clive Barker is The Midnight Meat Train. The train itself is not the monster, but it does transport something so much worse. That being said, subways and subway stations (Spooky Location!) have a dark vibe due to their usually dingy, dark, secretive nature.
Technology- Literally a Ghost in the Machine
A.I., Nano-technology, the cell phone. All of these hold great potential, as well. Who can forget the SIM card gone wrong in Kingsman: The Secret Service. If you’re not familiar with this movie, everyone is given a free SIM card for their cell phone. When triggered by an evil-mastermind, the SIM card causes people to rage, literally tearing one another to pieces.
We all carry technology with us all the time, what would happen if it had a mind of its own? How could you turn a familiar object, like a phone, into a nightmare for your readers?
Transforming the Ordinary into Other Monsters
You’ve settled on the what, now let’s focus on the how. Just like you’d do with any other character, start by giving your Other Monster a backstory. Get your story bible out and start taking notes. Ask these key questions:
- How did this Other become so evil?
- What does it want?
- When it achieves its nasty goal, what will happen?
- What roadblocks stand in the way of it achieving its plan?
Next step, (and again, just like you’d do with a human character) start thinking about what it looks like. Be specific and plan with gusto. Also, do your homework. Choosing a location for your Other Monster? See what you can find out about the existing history. Is there anything you could use or recycle? Does the forest have a history of lost children? Has the lake claimed anyone beneath its watery depths? No? Maybe the lake has unusually dark water. Come up with your own reason why and make it a good one.
We need more original stories, maybe you just need a push in the right direction or into the arms of ‘helpful’ A.I. Best of luck!