As we rapidly approach Halloween I’d like to talk about…monsters. They really are the main ingredient in the majority of horrors so I feel like now is the perfect time to talk about them, not just about the ones the we all know, but also about the lesser used creatures who rarely grace our books, TV and film screens and seem destined to wait on the literary side lines.
First things first, let’s look at the ones we all know and love? Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies, Ghosts, and Witches. Next blog will cover some of the lesser known entities that still deserve a mention.
These guys have been in the forefront of horror and paranormal romance for the past couple of decades. We all know the legends, starting of course with Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the book rather than the film). Many historical figures were rumoured to be Vampires and remains of ‘Vampire burials’ have been discovered all over the world. These blood suckers have, in fact, been haunting our nightmares for centuries. The science of Vampirism is even more interesting with ‘Renfield Syndrome’ now an official clinical term.
Only recently have they been morphed into more romantic figures and, in my opinion, lost their scare. When monsters are humanised and romanticised like these guys, well it’s hard to feel that sense of dread anymore. I remember watching Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot’ when I was little – when that little boy tapped on his brother’s first floor bedroom window, I decided to ask for a cross that Christmas! Nowadays I leave the cross at home to make my neck more enticing!
So OK, let’s be realistic here, the only way these guys are ever going to be scary again is if they don’t look like Alexander Skarsgard! Think Nosferatu rather than Edward Cullen. But rather than ruin anyone’s day dreams Vampires do still firmly belong in paranormal romance (I’m guilty of using them as such myself) but make sure that when you write their characters, you give them a bit more grit and lot less maudlin – remember they are still monsters!
The two-natured beasts have also been somewhat muzzled in recent years, perhaps not to the extent as the Vampire, but still they’re certainly not what they use to be. Werewolves have been with us just as long and were, more than likely, the supernatural explanation for some very real psychological disorders, such as schizophrenia, and lycanthropy. Being a ‘Werewolf’ was a handy excuse for townspeople that couldn’t believe that the ‘nice bloke down the road’ had murdered his wife and children. Here’s a handy link to a list of 10 real life historical Werewolves:
These guys definitely need a re-vamping (pun intended) they have so much that could be explored and of course have the capacity to still be bloody scary. One need only read Angela Carter’s ‘In the company of wolves’ to see how both their violent and sexual natures can be combined into a terrifying story.
A good Werewolf tale (I punned again!) can be a number of things: an out and out stalking monster story, a who’s the Werewolf Cluedo game or of course you can keep them as romantic figures – but hey let’s at least give them their claws back!
People take the piss out of me when I say that zombies could happen, but you only have to read this article:http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/neurophilosophy/2012/may/03/zombie-ant-parasitic-fungus to realise we are just one mad scientist away from an un-dead apocalypse.
Zombies are one of the few monsters out there today who still retain their scare factor. You can’t reason with a Zombie and well, they’re pretty up front with what they want from you. This might change with the cinema release of ‘Warm Bodies’ next year, based on the book of the same title by Isaac Marion; as this firmly puts a romantic spin on the whole Zombie/ human relationship. Still, if Zombies where behind door number one, then I’d choose the box every time!
When writing Zombies, it’s really down to the gross factor. You can’t write a polite Zombie story. Pick a scenario that screams outrageously hard to escape, throw in a ravenous Zombie hoard and prepare yourself to kill off your characters!
Kind of the poor relation of the supernatural at the moment, but I truly think that they’re ready for a comeback. I remember listening to ghost stories when I was a little girl and thinking they were the best entertainment ever, that was until nightfall and I started rolling around their existence in my mind,whilst sitting up wide eyed in bed! Everyone you know, and care to ask, knows at least one ghost story – they really are universal.
One thing to remember with ghosts is that they are the ethereal manifestation of people – so are neither good nor evil – in theory. The key here to writing a cracking ghost story is the actual back story of the ghost itself, who they are and why they’re trapped.
Hubble Bubble Boil and Blah! In my opinion Witches are so old big black pointy hat nowadays. To get these guys in the forefront would take a truly magical idea and a new spin on a tired stereotype. Now, in saying that I’ve seen the trailer for ‘Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters’ which is coming to a cinema near you early next year and it looks pretty good – the witches are more scary than sexy and it has a kind of dark gothic feel to it. Let’s hope it inspires us to take Witches and place them firmly back into the horror genre.
Again Witches can work well in paranormal romance, they are human after all and so side step that awkward mix of species – just as long as you stay clear of the whole Love potion Number 9 malarkey!