Attention all horror screenwriters. Great monsters make great movies.
For maximum impact, take the biggest fear/flaw of the hero and personify that in the monster. In the beginning it is good to immediately show the danger it represents. This is usually done to an outside character not known by the hero. It’s just a device to show the audience how bad and dangerous the monster is. That way you can keep a sense of dread going through the script based on the first violent act.
When describing your creature, use descriptive words to convey a feeling of unease, dread, and evil. Use all the senses as well. Invoke an image and response from the reader. Don’t just say shark, describe the razor, bloodstained teeth and pitch black eyes.
WHAT MAKES A MONSTER SCARY?
How does your monster activate one of our fear responses? Any monster must be able to cause one of the fears directly by what it does to its victims.
- Fear of Death – Loss of life
- Fear of Mutilation- can it bite your arm off, like a shark?
- Fear of Entrapment: prison, chains, hostile environment
- Separation/Abandonment: Maybe it takes you from your family and makes you a slave in an alien world?
- Fear of Ego Death: Becoming a zombie or pod person takes away your ego and personality.
If your monster gets its victim, what does it do and what fear does it play upon?
THE SIX TYPES OF MONSTERS
- Human Evil (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, etc.) This covers anything where a human does the evil, such as a serial killer.
- Nature (Jaws, The Swarm, Piranha) This is normally an animal like a shark, birds or swarm of bees! Sometimes a force of nature itself but these nature movies usually tend to be action or thrillers rather than horror.
- Supernatural Forces (The Haunting, Exorcist, Child’s Play, Halloween, Paranormal Activity) Anything in the realm of the supernatural.
- Science (The Fly, Jurassic Park, Terminator, etc) When science creates the monster, as in The Fly or Terminator.
- Legendary/Fantasy Creatures (The Howling, interview with the vampire –based on legends- Leprechauns, vampires, werewolves, etc.)
- Extraterrestrial (The Thing, Species) Anything from another world and not considered supernatural.
You can mix the above to create many more monsters as well. Nature and Science is a popular one to mix. When science manipulated a shark you get Deep Blue Sea.
CLARITY AND CONSISTENCY
You must create a monster that is believed, established in reality from the very beginning. Should have dimension and depth. If you take an old monster, make a twist and create something new and unique, like Anne Rice did with Vampires. The way you make them
believable is to set rules and tone in the very beginning. If you are consistent in what you represent, it will be believed. The audience will suspend their disbelieve if you keep clear, consistent and have rules regarding your world and monster.
Establish the aura at the start. Early on, the monster effect or kill should be done to show the power it has, without full revelation of the monster itself. Its full powers should not be shown until the climax, although it should not be something without basis. Revealing too much too soon robs the audience of suspense.
Establish rules of the monster and once set, do not cheat. Make any monster credible, they must pose a threat to main character but must not be ALL POWERFUL. But, they must appear more powerful than the protagonist, otherwise defeating them will be anti-climactic. The power of the monster should be limited. For example, Vampires are very strong but balanced with a weakness- sunlight.
All monsters have a fatal flaw like our hero does. The only difference is that hopefully our hero discovers his internal flaw and changes with a character arc. This is what makes him/her grow and ultimately triumph. A monster’s flaw is normally physical and it’s up to the protagonist to discover what that flaw is and exploit it. Think of a monster and I bet you can think of the flaw. We can make our monsters incredibly powerful and apparently indestructible, but if so, we must supply that weak spot.
Also, if you are creating a franchise character like Freddy Krugger, Jason, Michael Myers, etc. think about this: They all have a trademark mask, suit, or weapon. When we think of Freddy, we think of the hat stripped shirt, and finger knives. Then there is the Hockey mask, the overalls, the scream mask, etc. Make us remember your monster!
Most horror character monsters have a mythology, how he came to be, origins. The backstory. The better the villain, the better the movie. Create your backstory! You write a bio for your characters, write one for your monster!
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