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What Monsters Would You Like to See More in Stories?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by d20kaiju, Mar 10, 2020.

  1. d20kaiju

    d20kaiju New Member

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    I’m drafting a fantasy story from the perspective of the monsters and while I’m brain storming I thought I’d reach out to my fellow fantasy writers and see what monsters interest y’all the most? Are there any particular creatures you’d like to see more in books? Anything with an old favorite that you’d like to see a fun new spin on? Any fond memories from role playing games that might inspire? Would love to hear your thoughts!
     
  2. I love it whenever a real relationship or connection can be found between the monster and the adventurers who come into contact with them. It's always so much more entertaining than if the adventurer is only hunting down and trying to kill it. I feel like that's why Moby Dick's "White whale" sticks with us, or the troll who guards bridges rather than just killing whoever crosses it. Because once you establish an emotional connection with a creature through dialogue or experience it makes me care about what happens to it for good or ill.

    I feel like part of the Witcher series's success comes from the way monster hunting is handled. You don't just go kill a monster, or track one. Through the tracking Geralt remarks on its habits, its personality, and its motivations. You can opt to side with it some of the time, or lift its curse. It's never the track and kill that sticks with you in the Witcher's world, it's the story surrounding it.
     
  3. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Auror

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    I admit they show up a lot, but more orcish and other sorts of the horde monsters as P.O.V. with looks into them and not just as the old evil one. They are coming more into the mainstream with help from things like Elder Scrolls and Warcraft, but they tend to default to sword fodder a lot. Maybe a look into more alien societies and such. And I am also fond of the classics getting new spins, even though they don't always work out. Again, orc's make it easy to stray off into new paths.
     
  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Vampires, werewolves.... well fewer of them, but their monsteriness comes with some interesting mechanics, and I think some writers try to avoid things like that. But I want to see more like them.

    Take a Treant, for example. In most stories it’s a walking talking tree with little explanation. Sometimes it’s a rare creature, whatever that means, and sometimes it’s elevated to a race like in Tolkien. But if we give it some mechanics, if we look at why some trees become treants and others don’t, and then ask if some types of trees make better treants, we start to find interesting avenues for a story. Can we stop or start a plague by elevating the right tree sitting on the river with the right pollens into a treant? Or find out what happened thousands of years ago by elevating a tree and asking it? If we build mechanics around the treant, if we look at why and how and make the treant into a proper creature, then we can develop much better stories around these tasks.

    Let’s say, since the old spirits have passed on, if trees now have to borrow a soul on its way to the afterlife, and hold it in place by drinking a concoction through it’s roots, and if the soul is willing or not makes a difference on the treant’s attitude, and if the tree holds a soul too long it can be damaged, and weather the tree has more influence compared to the person it was might change over time....

    But that’s just an example. It’s not that I want to see more treants. What I want is to see creatures that are more than flash and aesthetic but actually work in a way that matters.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2020
  5. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    I would like to see more Slavic mythology monsters - Baba Yaga, Drekavac and so on. Although I am afraid that if they do show up, they will be ruined - much like modern fantasy ruined vampires (which themselves came from Slavic folklore, and were much better there than anything Western fantasy came up with. The only vampires in modern fantasy I really like are those from Cronin's Passage trilogy).

    Darn it. I am yet to read Witcher series. Shame on me.
     
  6. ShadeZ

    ShadeZ Sage

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    I am surprised by how few monsters there are in most 'fantasy' actually. While most have dragons as such is the hallmark of all fantasy very few have gryphons, manticore, basalisk, hydra, unicorn, cerberus, chimera. We all know all or most of these monsters but I find so few books that have them. Also don't be afraid to invent monsters of your own.
     
  7. d20kaiju

    d20kaiju New Member

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    Thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts.

    The collective feel that I’m getting is that the type of monster is much less important than a) the character/characterization of the monster and b) the authenticity of its nature and how that relates it to the rest of the world. This latter part does seem to get skipped over quite readily, especially in more adventure-focused stories. I’ll do my best to avoid this pitfall. :)

    Devor: the notion of a Brandon Sanderson-esque systemization for monsters, that is to say real and measurable mechanics yet with genuine meaning and heart underlying them, is something definitely worth exploring. Thanks!
     
  8. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    I don't have a strong opinion about this, but I vote for more original, or custom, monsters in stories. I tend to prefer secondary world fantasy with a goodly amount of world-building, so this view is in keeping with that.
     
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  9. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

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    I'd like to see new creations or ones less used from mythology. Not saying I don't love the familiar ones but i'm bored of them now and would love to see something new and fresh. I love it when the monsters are given qualities we can relate to, not just mindless eating machines. Or if they have to be that way, maybe they are savage to outsiders but are a family to each other. They protect their off spring with their lives, they show affection to each other, they pair up with only one mate and they can grieve over losses. Maybe not as intelligent as humans but are skilled at what they need to do to survive. Something that makes them feel real.
     
  10. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

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    I think shapeshifters and mimics get overlooked in fiction, by whatever mechanism they use to hide whether it's pseudo-biologic or by magic. Especially ones that can radically change size and immitate inanimate objects. And, even more so for the purposes of predation. That to me is nightmare fuel. I'd rather battle a werewolf than a creature that can mimic a trashcan at the curb as I'm walking down the street.

    Invisibility is also creepy as hell.

    As much as I love for 'monsters' to have personality/intellect/motivation and biologic behaviors, I do think there is a gap in terms of monsters...well... being monsterous. And by monsterous, I don't mean "mindless" or "less sentient" either. There is something primordially triggering when you read about something being bigger, badder, tougher than you and also NOT interested in "being understood" or "maybe redeemable" in anyway.

    I think most fiction revolves around *creatures*, not monsters. I don't think dragons, griffins, basilisks, centaurs, trolls, orcs, goblins etc. are depicted as "monsterous" enough. They're organisms with some radical biology, adaptations, degrees of sentience, maybe a smidge of magic here and there. Scary, sure. But the same kind of scary as "oh crap! There's a bear charging straight towards me." I understand this bear is a living thing, with instincts, biological imperatives, intelligence and that while it is scary to be ran down by one, that it's no monster. Just a bear. Same as any other creature on this planet. And, if I had the right skills and weapons, have a reasonable expectation of being able to kill it or escape.

    If you write a Griffin as having biological imperatives, instincts, and intelligence, my first inclination is to say "creature". Even if it has a preference for eating humans, still acting within the parameters of biology: It lives, it dies. Giving creatures speaking abilities, and intent, can make it lean more towards the monsterous... but, most fiction to me feels like it's leaning in towards the creature aspects.

    Otherwise, if you don't go for the dark and almost radically monsterous, you end up writing "creature" or "misunderstood creature". Which is all fine, but that is not a monster.

    That's a wildlife documentary in a fantasy setting.

    I can hear David Attenborough narrating in my head how "for many centuries, people believed that dragons mindlessly burn down farming villages after the first spring rain. What was later discovered was that, by burning the fields the villagers settled upon, the dragon flame burned out a noxious weed that if left to spread, would likely drive their preferred prey of deer into other grazing areas far away. By managing the weeds early, the deer would be attracted to this forage area, and make for better hunting grounds for the dragons as their clutch begin to hatch." Then, the camera zooms in to show a mother dragon nuzzling her adorable hatchlings on a nest of charred deer antlers and bones.

    "Monster" has everything to do with the will, want and ability to cause harm, and not conforming to any recognizable form of reasoning, negotiating or vaguely justifiable morality. Monsters are supposed to be the embodiment of human kind's darkest, most wicked intentions and constructs. They're not meant to be understood or redeemed, they're just meant to be vanquished and banished.

    Sometimes, I just don't want to sit a monster down for a psychotherapy session analysis or talk therapy about why they are a monster. ( I don't want to hear about how great the Dark Lord Darkington is, and how they love being evil and all, but also how the Dark Lord keeps promising to take them to Disney World and never does...)

    I can accept that some things are just base 'evil', destructive and cannot be fixed, cannot be understood (communicated/reasoned with) or made compatible with the greater good. I know some think that's one-dimensional, uncomplex fiction writing but I'm also trying to help delineate between the 'creature' and the 'monster' tropes which seem to be a blurred, interchangeable term.

    I think that's why I gravitate towards the spiritual supernatural for 'monsterous': they aren't bound by pseudo biology, so they operate in ways and for purposes that are more difficult to relate to and understand.
     
  11. OberonLordofSylva

    OberonLordofSylva Troubadour

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    Personally I think something like Dire Animals could work. As for other monsters I'd say look for real-world animals that scare the living crap out of you and just add magic. When you get down to it Monsters are really just spooky animals with magic powers. Also don't be afraid to link your monsters to other dimensions, most of the stuff in DND's Monster Manual isn't native to the Material Plane.
     
  12. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I just discovered a whole clutch of South American monsters.
    Atma RPG Setting: South American Bestiary - Part 1 of 4
    I found it interesting to see how many of the monsters were creatures who turned into humans, usually with some sort of dire consequence. Then there were the combo-monsters. There were some interesting wrinkles here and there.

    All in all, I find traditional monsters to be one-dimensional and not terribly imaginative. Good for starting points, maybe. Modern (20thc and later) monsters are more varied, nuanced, and interesting.

    We fantasy writers have a conundrum. If we invent a new monster, we have to spend story time not merely describing the thing but establishing its monstrosity--why it is scary and leading the reader in to feeling appropriately frightened or horrified or amazed. This in turn rather limits the number of monsters we can include in any one novel. If, otoh, we go with established monsters, we can just name them, sketch them, and off we go without slowing down the story. We are, however, saddled with the limitations of each monster. We work within the stereotype. It's an interesting conundrum. Which is an interesting word of unknown origin--sort of a monster in itself!
     
  13. enoch driscoll

    enoch driscoll Scribe

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    I do love a world that has hundreds of mythical beasts to find, but that might just be me. I would advise making 'spin-offs' of famous mythology creatures such as Cerberus and Medusa, or using dinosaurs, but the real key is in naming them originally. for something horned, you could use a spin-off of the word triceratops like quadrotops or something like that. That way its a new creature, but is familiar in the readers mind. Hope this helps!
     
  14. Sir Fantasy

    Sir Fantasy New Member

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    I like it when the monsters are from unexplored mythologies. We all know the classic trolls and ogres and cyclopes and sea serpents and now these are really overused and boring. There are several unique monsters in cultures such as Slavic, Polynesian and Indian. I feel that you really can do a lot with them.
     
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  15. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Inkling

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    I've been reading through the complete Lovecraft and realized I haven't seen a whole lot of ghouls in recent fantasy, outside of Gaiman. I do think I shall have to see about using them in something myself.
     
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  16. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Inkling

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    And I just wrote a pack of Ghulan into the WIP. :)
     
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