Playing with the Paranormal

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One of my favourite things about horror is that you get to create your own monsters and mayhem. You can design your own death scenes, and even concoct a whole butt puckering apocalypse. The only limits, I’m finding out, are your own.

So how do you go about it? Well, if you’re reading this, you probably have a fairly healthy horror disposition, so let’s get started with myths and legends. These were some of the first stories ever written, these are your foundations. Looking at them, you’ll find most will have some horror or paranormal theme. There’s the obvious Gods & Goddesses and there’s also the familiar creatures we know and love, like vampires and werewolves (I always found it interesting that they appear in every culture, even when the world was confined and countries didn’t know about one another – there’s stories and paintings from all over the world depicting these monsters) Check out the Roman and Greek myths, but don’t get lazy, I’ve discovered some awesome Asian creatures and some downright scary Native American ones too.

There’s also, of course, fairy tales. I have talked about these before, so have a gander at my archives (does that sound rude?) and check them out. Some of the Grimm’s stories were downright gross – in the Red Shoes, a young girl dances till her feet drop off! Again a great source of supernatural creatures and lore for you to paw through and find something of interest.

Moving away from the traditional monsters doesn’t have to be painful for a writer. There’s a wealth of legends available to a writer willing to do a bit of research. Get yourself a decent monster encyclopedia, read a few factual paranormal books. I personally like to keep an eye on Fortean Times – a monthly magazine dedicated to the paranormal and all things weird.

Of course, you can always mix it up a bit. Take two or three legends and mash them up into something scary with sharp edges and a dark appetite. Or even create your own monster and weave a new legend – the urban legend ‘Bloody Mary’ has appeared in countless stories and movies, but is a relatively new creation.

So what sort of monster should you create? Well it all depends on what it’s there to do. If you’re writing a balls-out gore fest adult horror, then you need something that can adequately  and quickly bump up the body count. If you’re writing a YA horror story, you need something scary but reasonably easily defeated (my personal opinion on YA horror is that you shouldn’t play it down – they want to be scared too, but making the monster venerable mutes the monster’s presence so they’re not going to be sat up at night worried that it’s still out there and coming to get them!)

Now, one thing to remember while you’re off being a literary Dr. Frankenstein, all monsters need an Achilles Heel. There has to be some way for your hero to beat them, to propel them back into the dark abyss with their hunger un-sated. If you’re writing an adult horror, then really the world is your bloody oyster – have the victims discover the weakness too late, have the reader know it – but keep the characters in the dark. In YA – kill the monster off, we want to scare them – not scar them for life!

So what’s your favourite monster? What have you created?

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