What is a monster in writing?
I've been wondering an intriguing thought since I got feedback from a short story I wrote. In the story I imagined an alien which was designed to be terrifying to a young child. Although I could see a creature with three legs and long talons, with skin black and oozing, with dripping boils and sharp spines protruding from its back, I was told I had created something cliche and used too many of the typical 'monster' attributes.
I do agree that cliche monsters are perhaps something we don't need more of, however I was considering the story from the point of view of a child and what I thought they would find the most disturbing.
The feedback suggested that something almost human, but not quite right, was far more terrifying - this I agree with from my point of view as an adult, but not from that of a child's.
To many children an adult-like creature which is slightly off will probably not even register and it isn't until we grow older that we start to see this sinister monster as a scary and unnerving creature.
As a child I was far more afraid of a creature which lurked under the bed, than I would ever be of a slightly odd person. That was how I would see them at the time, just 'slightly odd'.
Everyone has things we are afraid of, whether that's heights or tight spaces, and certainly if I'd created a giant spider-like creature I suspect a lot of people would find it made their skin crawl.
For me it was wasps and I confess there is a wasp-like creature in my final book in the Prophet's Quest Trilogy which possibly developed from my own dislike of the creatures, however they were by no means my most scary or dangerous creature because as I have got older I have found them less terrifying.
When is the point when we become more afraid of the stranger than the insect?
We're taught 'stranger danger' from a young age, but I can't pinpoint when it was that the transition between being most unnerved by a small black and yellow insect, turned into the fear of the human who has it out for you.
Maybe it's as we grow up and begin to learn just how untrustworthy some humans can be and the damage they can do to you. That's the point, I think. The moment we start to learn the mental damage is far longer lasting and powerful than the physical damage something not like us can inflict. Is it because we trust our own kind more willingly than another species, only to get that thrown back in our face?
Something that is similar, but not right, or a human who has no soul really does become the greater monster to an adult, though it does make me wonder one more thing...
as true as that is, how come films like Alien and Jurassic Park are so successful?
Perhaps there is still a fear of the traditional monster in us all after all...