Sunday, 19 September 2010

What Is A Monster?

When I was working on my previous post, I started thinking about how my monster should look. And then I suddenly realized that actually, no-one really has met a monster before. It is merely a concept thought up using our imaginations.

So, what is a monster?

I've given it some thought, and I have come up with some prime factors that most monsters have that defines them. I may be stating the obvious here, but I feel that it is necessary to write all this stuff down all the same. That way I can think about how these points should or shouldn't affect my monster character.

Here's a list of attributes that generally come together to make a monster:

  1. A monster must have human characteristics. This means that the monster must vaguely resemble a person in some way. This could be the way it looks. For instance, the monster may stand on two legs, have two eyes, have a nose, etc. It could be the way in interacts with its environment. The monster might have emotions like empathy, jealousy, hatred, disgust... anything that requires a certain amount of understanding of others.
  2. A monster must have hideous "unnatural" abnormalities. Although a monster may in some ways be a lot like a human, there has to be something grotesque about it that makes it stand out. Good examples of this can be seen in the film "Monsters vs Aliens". The main character Susan appears to look like a normal human, except she is abnormally tall and strong. The Missing Link has the mannerisms of a human, but has the features of a fish and a gorilla.
  3. A monster must be scary. At the moment, think not about how scary the monster is. Most monsters make us feel a little uneasy. Even if the monster is very endearing (like Stitch from "Lilo and Stitch"), we still feel a little edgy about the being we are seeing. Some monsters like Stitch may seem kinda mean and scary to begin with, but the turn out to be really good-natured and misunderstood. Our first impression of a monster might be that it looks kinda sweet, but it acts in a really vile, terrifying way. It all depends on the personality and history of the character. Which leads me on to...
  4. A monster must have a reason for it being the way it is. Why is it that monster has tentacles? Why is it that monster has two noses? Why is it that monster is able to fly without wings? Why is it that monster can't see? Is it because of an incident that caused it to be malformed? Is it because it has had to adapt to its environment? Is it because it was simply born that way? There is a reason for everything, and that applies to monsters too.
  5. A monster must cause you to react in a certain way. Apart from the scariness of the monster, bumping into the critter will cause a positive or negative reaction. More often then not, the reaction will be negative. However, it may be that a character meeting the monster may befriend it. It depends on whether the monster is good or bad.
  6. A monster must have strengths and weaknesses. Like all of us, monsters have to be good and bad at certain things. Say a human is trying to defeat a monster, there must be a way to defeat it to continue with the story. Also, if a monster has a chance of beating that human to a pulp, it must have powers that can make it seem like a difficult foe to vanquish. This could be physically, mentally, socially... it could be anything really. A monster could be very strong, but also be very thick. A monster could be clever, but also socially inept. A monster could have the gift of gab, but be incredibly weak and weedy. Again, this depends on what your character is like. If you think about "The Incredibles", the super heroes' powers reflect their personality. The same can also apply for monsters.

There's probably more I'd like to say on this subject, but for now I'll finish there.

In related news, I've just sent out a little questionnaire to some of my friends to see what they have to say about monsters. I want to know what their interpretation of them is. Here the e-mail I sent:

Hey guys!

I was wondering whether you could give me a hand, by answering a couple of things for me. Be as brief or elaborate with your answers as you feel necessary. Here they are:

1) Please give me your interpretation of what a monster is.

2) Is there a monster that used to scare you a lot as a child? Explain why.

3) Do you still find that monster scary? If so, why?

4) Is there a monster that you used to like a lot as a child? Explain why.

5) When you were a child, how did you cope if you got scared?

Hope this isn't too much trouble for you guys. Thanks!

Hopefully I'll get some good feedback! :D

Here's a funny video I found of a little girl talking about how she'd cope if faced with a monster!

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