Wait, what?!
Do you want to make a monster?
Are you out of your mind?
Why intentionally seek trouble?
Don’t you like some peace and quiet? 

Before you storm off in disbelief, hear me out… We’re not about trying to create some real-life Godzilla in some sinister underground laboratory somewhere. What I have in mind is something a bit more harmless and fun – a fictional monster for our stories. 

 You may exhale now. We need monsters from time to time in our fiction writing, but why? The simple answer is that they make our stories all the more riveting. The more imposing a monster is, the more compelling we can expect the conflict to be, which often leads to a stronger story. Imagine watching a version of Odyssey with no Scylla or Cyclops, a Dr. Strange with no Dormammu, or Frankenstein without his monster. Bland and ineffective, right? That is exactly my point! 

 But how exactly do monsters make our stories more interesting, if they do at all? First, remember that though monsters come in different shapes or forms, the quintessential example is a vile, ugly-looking beast set out to end the protagonists’ lives. Additionally, though they may wreak untold physical havoc, they’re rarely known for their supreme intelligence, although exceptions may occur. Thus, to the average person, a monster has every attribute or personality trait that’s deeply ingrained in us to dislike. Think about it. Who would want to be friends with a lumbering, drooling beast who smashes our cities to bits? No one. So we learn to root against monsters and for the hero, who we now identify with. The more we do that, the better we feel after the hero’s final victory. We throw him an imaginary high-five and heave a sigh of relief. As we can probably guess, in story writing, there’s no great victory without a great foe. 

 Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, and you’ve presumably decided to create a monster, how do you go about choosing their attributes?

My advice: don’t overthink it.
Remember that they’re not necessarily expected to carry the story.
That role should be reserved for your hero!

Instead, focus on making them formidable – which usually means huge. Have you ever been on a small boat in the middle of the deep sea and felt a bit of fear as it dawned on you that all it takes for you to be killed is a moderate-sized wave rolling toward you? You can evoke visceral responses in your readers by creating a giant monster. Think about Kingkong, Godzilla, or the Kraken. They’re by no means tiny toddlers, so keep that in mind when writing your monster. Another tip that’s guaranteed to make your monster scarier is to have them behave more erratically – after all, as the saying goes, “we fear what we don’t understand.” Now, go ahead, ramp up the tension! This is not the place for a suit and tie or a nice haircut. Make your monster despicable looking. Give them a strange language with unusual sounds or screeches. Make them dangerous! Take away their moral compass and refuse to have them follow human rules. The hero – and you, by extension – will be peeing your pants when it’s time to face them. And when the hero wins against all odds, how fulfilling will that feels?  

 Next, we face the question: “where should our monsters come from”? You can claim that a half-a-mile-long behemoth just crept into town from the shadows, but that won’t make for great writing, would it? Every character in your story needs to have an origin of some sort, and your monster is no exception.

 How do we go about creating one?

Your story type will heavily influence the specifics of their genesis. Is your story a fantasy? Consider having your monsters result from demonic curses, enchantments, or a magic spell that has gone wrong. A man stumbling on some ancient forbidden dark magic in a crypt during an expedition is in keeping with this theme. You might also consider making your monsters the product of the union between a man and a god.  

What if you were writing a science fiction book? In this case, your monster could be a naturally occurring animal, like a great white shark that’s gone berserk. This approach was used in the movie Jaws, for example. A slightly different variation of this would be an animal that’s grown to be bigger and more aggressive after consuming toxic chemicals in the environment. Alternatively, your monster could be an alien from another galaxy, a product of genetic mutation, or a science experiment gone wrong. The possibilities are numerous! 

We’ve seen that monsters are essential for our stories – to create tension and to make the hero’s final victory all the more worthwhile. It doesn’t matter whether they were spawned from demon eggs or products of a botched scientific experiment; monsters need to die – and from the hand of the hero. The reasons are nuanced. We must realize that monsters represent our deepest and darkest fears and challenges on a subconscious level. Our monsters cause us to doubt ourselves and tremble with anxiety. Thus, we share in the joy when the hero destroys his monstrous. It inspires us. We realize that if the hero could have defeated such a formidable being against all odds, perhaps we would have a chance against our challenges too. So don’t deny your audience the opportunity of experiencing monsters…

 Make them big, evil, and vile. 
Remember, the hero will always find a way! 

Written by Laolu Ogundele 

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