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Anatomy of a Good Monster
When It's So Good to Be So Bad
I think I would like to write a good ol' fashioned monster story. In order to do that, let's take a look at what makes monsters worth looking at.
A "good" monster is a monster like Dracula, or Frankenstein, or the Wolfman, zombies, the mummy, or a malevolent ghost, or an alien. Like when a person says "that was a good joke", even though they lost an eye in the process. Terrible, horrible, nightmarish, unimaginable, but good. Good, as in memorable. Good, as in scary as hell. Good, as in, we want, at least secretly, to be just like that. Wouldn't it be something, to smile eerily at a person, and they wet themselves and give out a little whimper-ish scream, and then see them look around to see who made the little girl sound? Wouldn't it be something?
The Quality of a Good Monster
A good monster, I think, has the following qualities.
1) We could be them. All it would take is a bite, or our hands or brains or some other part of our body sewn onto other people's body parts, or a permanent separation from our body. That's all it would take to turn us into a ghoul. Perhaps just some kind of reanimation after we die, leaving us with a body, and a one track-mind but not much else. Then it would be me, or you, searching, longing, for delicious, delicious brains. Or maybe just some nice revenge, or some evil mischief-making and carnage. If we went to another planet, then we'd be the alien. That's probably something psychologically scary to any descent person, we fear what we contain inside of us, and what we know others contain in themselves. What happens in riots. What happens when we snap because someone betrays us. What happens to people in mobs. What we can't understand is terrifying, but we fear more than that is what we can understand, because we perfectly understand it, it'll just happen, we'll be animals or out of our minds, and can do nothing about it. We fear what we could become. And we fear that what we could become is a monster. We fear the evil and darkness lurking inside each of us.
2) Maybe they just look scary. That goes a long way, once again, psychologically speaking. Like how warriors look in battle, painted faces, formidable looking armor, helmets, muscles, crazy eyes, crazy hair, etc., etc. Maybe they can blend in nicely when they want to, and they go into their frightening mode when it suits them. Those are the most scary ones, the monsters who can hide in plain sight.
3) They can do stuff we can't. Maybe it's super-strength. Or shape-shifting. Or the ability to exert control over people's minds. We would all like to have abilities beyond our current abilities, wouldn't we?
4) They're outsiders, like us. The monsters that can think, think of themselves as outsiders, looking in. If they have a conscience, then of course it makes it easier to think of the victims as "them" and those of their own kind as "us". That is what most of us are already, at least all of us feel like that at some point; the outsider. It makes the monster, less monster-like. If the monster has a touch of humanity, its allure is more alluring. We're scared wit-less, but we're drawn, nonetheless.
5) They're misunderstood. All they want is blood, or brains, or to kill someone, or a friend, or a patchwork bride, or to probe you in your nether regions on their spaceship. Just one or two things is all it takes in order for them to be happy and contented and alive. (Or a few things to keep them happily undead.) We have wants, too. Food, companionship, warm enough and cool enough houses to live in, we know what wanting feels like. But we don't want what they want, and that makes them misunderstood. Whether they're outsiders because they're misunderstood, or they're misunderstood because they're outsiders, it doesn't really matter. Either way, the torch-bearing angry mob is bent on taking them down.
I'll think about it some more, perhaps there's more to being a good monster than these elements. Comments are more than welcome.