Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Classic Monsters

Picture from stock xchnge
Only a few days to Halloween.  So I thought I’d do a quick monster post.  Just to be clear, I’m talking about these monsters in a horror kind of way, not in a paranormal romance kind of way.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good paranormal romance, but around Halloween, monsters need to be monsters, and not emo, tortured souls that glitter in the sunlight.

So here is the ranking of my top five most favorite monsters.

5.  Frankenstein’s monster—This is one of my least favorite, and I think that is mostly due to the way Frankenstein has been portrayed by Hollywood as a dim, almost mindless creature.  The original story by Mary Shelly was far more interesting with a highly intelligent monster who was rejected by his maker.  I love the themes of being held accountable for one’s creations whatever they may be.

Want more information on Mary Shelly's Frankenstein?  You could read the book or link here for an indepth summary.

4.  Zombies—I’m not really a fan of mindlessness in monsters, and you don’t get much more mindless than zombies.  Also, zombies tend to be slow, and I’ve always wondered why people have so much trouble outrunning or outthinking them.  However, I do think zombies can be interesting metaphors for disease since being turned into a zombie is a big part of the horror in zombie stories.  I’m not sure people today fear disease as much as people used to since there hasn’t been a major, virulent outbreak in my life-time, but the 1918 flu pandemic killed 20 to 40 million people in one year.   Even with all our technology, other than vaccinations which take time to develop, I’m not sure if we are better equipped to handle a similar outbreak today.  Now that is scary. 

Want a fresh take on zombies?  I suggest going back to the source for inspiration.  Here is an article on the origin of the zombie myth to get you started.

3.  Ghosts—I think what I love the most about ghosts from a writers’ stand point is the flexibility.  A ghost story can have very active ghosts like in the movie Poltergeist where they have that creepy clown and a tree attack a kid while sucking another child into a vortex, or very subtle hauntings like in The Others or Sixth Sense where you have creepy instances without a lot of direct interaction with the characters. Personally, I find ghost stories the most eerie.

I think the origins of ghosts is fairly obvious, but here is a list of supposedly true ghost stories and hauntings that might get those creative juices flowing.

2.  Werewolves—While the animalistic side to the classic werewolf is more or less mindless, it’s the human side that interests me.  The potential internal conflicts are goldmines.   There’s the conflict of the infected individual learning that he/she is a werewolf and potentially committing murders and possibly hurting loved ones without his/her knowledge or ability to stop it.   Additionally, the conflict of the characters trying to stop the werewolf can also be full of internal conflict since they have to kill the innocent side in order to also kill the rampaging beast.  This can be especially heart-wrenching  if the infected individual is someone close to the hunter.  So much built in conflict to explore.  I love it.

Here is a brief history of werewolf myths.  Did you know there were werewolf trials just like witch trials? Fascinating.

 1.   Vampires—Vampires to me are the ultimate monster.  I read Dracula in college, and some of those early scenes are so freaky.  I like vampires who are truly devoid of humanity (unredeemable), and yet highly intelligent and alluring.  In fact, it probably is how vampires essentially seduce their victims which I find most appealing.  I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’m okay with not analyzing it.  I do realize the sexual aspects of vampirism, the blood lust, the penetration, how modest, upstanding women are turned into wanton, freely sexualized beings.  But I think it goes beyond the sexual aspects.  Vampirism is about abandoning all social constraints, good and bad, a complete lack of morality in all sense of the word.  I see vampirism as an elevation of self to the detriment of all others.

Origins of the vampire myth is discussed here.  If you want to write a story about an evil and twisted female character, you need to read the part about Elizabeth Bathory.  Truly disturbing.

Anyway, that is the order of my favorite monsters, and the reasons I still find them interesting even though they have been done to death.  I think that there will always be some room to breathe new life into these classic monsters.

So what is your favorite monster?



  1. I'm not a huge vampire person (mostly because I don't like horror--nightmares). But I really enjoyed Elizabeth Kostova's take on Dracula in The Historian.

  2. I've never read The Historian. I'll have to check it out.

  3. I'm really fond of demons. OK, that was a sentence I never thought I'd write. But my mind is filled with cliches for most kinds of monsters, but not for demons, and I like that I don't have to battle my own stereotypes as I'm reading.


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