What kind of monsters do you prefer?

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

MaryLennox

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 25, 2014
Messages
361
Reaction score
42
Location
Canada
I am writing a fantasy that requires the MC to come across many different monsters. When reading fantasy, do you prefer when monsters are based in folklore? Like a basilisk, or a kraken. Or entirely new and made up things? Or a blend of both? For example, maybe taking something like a kraken but it can also travel on land and spew fire.
 

Unimportant

but appreciated anyway...
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
6,966
Reaction score
2,719
Location
Aotearoa
I like monsters that have their own, believable reasons for doing what they do. Other than that, not fussed.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

CMBright

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
647
Reaction score
431
My 10yo is obsessed with Unicorns. Especially if the unicorn is able to fart rainbows, shoot kittens out of its horn or both. Silly kid.

I'm more eclectic in the monsters I like. The monsters in my WiP are some of the humans in that world.

I agree that monsters should have just as much motive as any other character. Even if that motive is as simple as wild carnivore is hungry and humans are slow enough to be on the menu.

I agree with the above about making sense. As for traditional or original, why not both? Start with a traditional monster and change it to get an original monster you need for the story.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

ChaseJxyz

Writes birds and bird accessories
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2020
Messages
1,067
Reaction score
560
Location
California
Website
www.chasej.xyz
One of my projects also has a lot of monsters! And I mulled over this very question, too. So hopefully I can help :)

I knew that there would be werewolves, so that was the first thing. The story is about monster hunters, why do they hunt monsters, it can't be just because they're dangerous. I decided it's because they use parts for "magical" materials, which can't be gained in other ways. I already knew the magic system would be based on alchemy, so I fiddled with these parts to determine that "magic" doesn't exist, there has to be a regular explanation for things. A goblet made from a unicorn's horn neutralizes any poison in it because there's some special chemical in it, like how honey is naturally anti-bacterial. So that means things like fire elementals don't exist, but fire mussels can (whatever those beard hairs are made out of must be pretty tough!).

This also means that I have to "power down" some real monsters, so a thunder bird won't make lightning by blinking, but maybe there's some static electricity going on, maybe the wings make the sounds of thunder. Differently-shaped feathers can cause different sounds when flying, so the thing that cause static electricity also makes the thunder-like sounds and people kinda just exaggerate things.

So there's a blend of regular monsters but also some invented ones. Nothing is exactly the same since things are tweaked to fit the setting/magic system, but I also want that blend of the familiar and the wildly new.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

frimble3

Heckuva good sport
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 7, 2006
Messages
8,765
Reaction score
1,424
Location
west coast, canada
I am writing a fantasy that requires the MC to come across many different monsters. When reading fantasy, do you prefer when monsters are based in folklore? Like a basilisk, or a kraken. Or entirely new and made up things? Or a blend of both? For example, maybe taking something like a kraken but it can also travel on land and spew fire.
How does a kraken that can walk on land and spew fire differ from a wingless dragon?
How about an alligator or crocodile that spits fire?
Werewolf is fairly common - how about a were-bear? Or a were-dog: looks kinda like a husky, but is much more amiable than a wolf.
I'd say stick to the classics, and reasonable variations.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

Brightdreamer

Just Another Lazy Perfectionist
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 22, 2012
Messages
9,079
Reaction score
1,165
Location
USA
Website
brightdreamersbookreviews.blogspot.com
On varying existing monsters: it can be and has been done, but must retain some connection to the source to justify the name, and always make sense within your particular story world.

I once read a book where "vampires" were essentially spherical and attacked by rolling at victims... but were still quite deadly and very dangerous, and the characters treated them with sufficient gravity to convey this to the readers. It made sense within the world the author created for the story. If this world suddenly had a "classic", Bela Lugosi-style vampire pop up, that would've been jarring.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

Kirkhammer

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 17, 2021
Messages
55
Reaction score
31
I think I like monsters in two flavors.

One is if they're designed to be like animals, and have their own temperaments, diets, climates, and interactions with humans. Two is if they're designed like fairy tales. Things markedly not from the world of reason and logic. Things that need specific solutions to overcome.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

neandermagnon

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 25, 2014
Messages
4,618
Reaction score
1,239
Location
Dorset, UK
Website
cavepeopleandstuff.wordpress.com
There are two ways I would look at it.

1. (rather predictably being into evolutionary biology) - what would evolve in that environment and how does it survive? What's it's ecology? For example, studies in Loch Ness show that there isn't enough biomass to support a species as large as a Loch Ness monster. There are lots of creatures in fantasy stories that are completely implausible from an ecological point of view and I'm left wondering how it evolved and what it would eat if the MC wasn't around to be chased with threat of being eaten. (This isn't enough of a problem to stop me reading on though.)

Most people don't notice this sort of thing, but if you are worldbuilding it's definitely something to consider. Instead of "what creatures could I invent/randomly place here" you could start with "how does the food web work? What do the apex predators look like? Are there creatures who eat smaller things but get eaten by bigger things?" And also "what characteristics would creatures have to survive in this environment?" which leads to different habitats - forest monsters, swamp monsters, sea monsters, monsters that roam open countryside, etc. Also, life as an apex predator is precarious and most ecosystems support only one. You can get situations like the Neandertals/bears situation in ice age Europe - sometimes bears ate Neandertals and sometimes Neandertals ate bears so it's hard to say which is the apex predator. There were other large carnivores around (e.g. species of large cat) but there were also a lot of very large herbivores (woolly rhino, woolly mammoth, bison, various large deer species) to support multiple predator species. From a worldbuilding for a fantasy story perspective, large herbivores can present a substantial danger to characters. Especially ones with huge tusks or other defence mechanisms they evolved to protect themselves from the large carnivores/omnivores.

2. from the perspective of what poses an adequate level of challenge to the MC from a plot point of view. In any fantasy story there's a danger of characters being overpowered and never being sufficiently challenged so there's little substance to the story. So you would need to create creatures/monsters in such a way that they are an equal match to your MC. Start with whatever powers your MC has, and what the MC's weaknesses are, and design creatures that are going to match their strengths and exploit their weaknesses. Maybe the creature can have a weakness that the MC finds out about and this enables your MC to defeat them.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

JJNotAbrams

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 8, 2021
Messages
74
Reaction score
20
For me, it largely depends on the situation at hand. If the story was more grounded, then I would prefer monsters that are more grounded. Something out of folklore or urban legends. If the story was more fantastical, then get as weird as possible.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

Maggie Maxwell

Making Einstein cry since 1994
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 21, 2013
Messages
10,301
Reaction score
4,736
Location
In my head
Website
thewanderingquille.blogspot.com
The important thing to me is that I can picture them in my mind, that I know what I'm looking at. If you tell me there's a basilisk or a kraken, I have a sort of mental image, maybe different from what you intended, but it's there because the name is familiar. I can picture a kraken moving over land and breathing fire because I know how octopods move on land. If you tell me you're looking at a Splathoon, I'm gonna need a real good description, but once that's established, we're good.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

The Second Moon

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 12, 2018
Messages
3,288
Reaction score
258
Website
mimistromauthor.com
I prefer a blend of both folklore and made up. As long as you describe the made-up creature well enough then I am good. I read a book where they would just plop a made-up creature in without describing it. This made me think these creatures were something from folklore or even real animals that I had never heard, of but when I looked them up they were made-up by the author.

Also a fire-spewing land-walking kraken sounds so awesome! šŸ¤©
 

starrystorm

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
Messages
2,527
Reaction score
184
I really love new and unique monsters, but if the protag is going to be meeting a lot a lot, then I would throw in some regular monsters as well so the reader doesn't have to remember so many.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

starrystorm

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 9, 2018
Messages
2,527
Reaction score
184
I prefer a blend of both folklore and made up. As long as you describe the made-up creature well enough then I am good. I read a book where they would just plop a made-up creature in without describing it. This made me think these creatures were something from folklore or even real animals that I had never heard, of but when I looked them up they were made-up by the author.

Also a fire-spewing land-walking kraken sounds so awesome! šŸ¤©
I agree. Please describe both made-up and folklore monsters. Not everyone knows every type of monster.
 

ironmikezero

practical experience, FTW
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 8, 2011
Messages
1,604
Reaction score
229
Location
Haunted Louisiana
I prefer sentient monsters who don't think of themselves as "monsters", but rather as a much-maligned and misunderstood minority who harbor festering resentments toward those responsible for their pervasive mistreatment/persecution . . . Of course, their well of patience is doomed to run dry, a reckoning inevitable.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

Maggie Maxwell

Making Einstein cry since 1994
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 21, 2013
Messages
10,301
Reaction score
4,736
Location
In my head
Website
thewanderingquille.blogspot.com
I agree. Please describe both made-up and folklore monsters. Not everyone knows every type of monster.
A very good point. You never know when your writing will be the first time someone encounters a "familiar" thing. Even dragons must be introduced at some point.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

The Second Moon

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 12, 2018
Messages
3,288
Reaction score
258
Website
mimistromauthor.com
I agree. Please describe both made-up and folklore monsters. Not everyone knows every type of monster.
Yes. This 100%.. Great point, staryystorm.

There are creatures that are common folklore in some places like that I as a native Floridian might have never heard of.

For example, I was reading a book on Inuit legends and myths. The author had grown up in Alaska hearing about Kushtakas (a supernatural creature) his whole life. I haven't. The author-- though Kushtakas are a common myth from his region-- took the time to describe them. Imagine if he hadn't. I would have been totally confused and pictured Kushtakas as something they are not. (They are otter-like).
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

J.W.

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 27, 2011
Messages
273
Reaction score
112
Location
New Hampshire
I like monsters and villains where you know everything about them but their origins. Once the origin is no longer a mystery, the monster loses its mystique. It's like a magic trick. Once you reveal how the trick works, it loses its charm and luster.

Jaws, The Thing, Heath Ledger's Joker--the less we know the better.

Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, Magneto--the more we know, the duller they become in my opinion.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

Unimportant

but appreciated anyway...
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
6,966
Reaction score
2,719
Location
Aotearoa
Lotsa good points made here. I agree that if you use a term most people know, like unicorn, then it had probably better be a horse like thing with a horn like thing. "Character glimpsed a unicorn. It had three alligator heads, an elephant's body, a horse's legs and hooves, and a tiger's tail" would leave me hella confused -- don't call that a unicorn, call it an allephtigpony or something.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

Unimportant

but appreciated anyway...
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
6,966
Reaction score
2,719
Location
Aotearoa
I like monsters and villains where you know everything about them but their origins. Once the origin is no longer a mystery, the monster loses its mystique. It's like a magic trick. Once you reveal how the trick works, it loses its charm and luster.

Jaws, The Thing, Heath Ledger's Joker--the less we know the better.

Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, Magneto--the more we know, the duller they become in my opinion.
I think, for me, the less we know about them, the scarier they are -- I don't know why they're doing what they're doing, so I can't predict what they'll do next. The more I know about them -- Darth, Hannibel -- the more they become individuals that I can sort of empathise with. I still fear and hate what they do, but I can understand why they do it (and can more easily predict what they will do next) so they're less scary in the 'go bump in the night' kind of way.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

CMBright

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
647
Reaction score
431
Lotsa good points made here. I agree that if you use a term most people know, like unicorn, then it had probably better be a horse like thing with a horn like thing. "Character glimpsed a unicorn. It had three alligator heads, an elephant's body, a horse's legs and hooves, and a tiger's tail" would leave me hella confused -- don't call that a unicorn, call it an allephtigpony or something.

Oh that brings up another good point. Even familiar mythical critters can very from description to description. If it is important to know a unicorn has cloven hooves, a reader might get confused how the hunter can mistake a deer track for a unicorn track if the reader is "seeing" a horse with a horn.

If it isn't important, it doesn't matter if a reader sees a horse with a horn or a horse with a horn and cloven hooves. I have read descriptions of both hoof variants used depending on the author.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

MaryLennox

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 25, 2014
Messages
361
Reaction score
42
Location
Canada
Wow, lots of food for thought. Thank you to everyone who has dove into this conversation. This has really helped me think about "my" monsters more. They're going to mostly be man-made experiments, so it would make sense that their base might be something familiar, with other stuff thrown in - because the people making them are not good people.
 

Unimportant

but appreciated anyway...
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
6,966
Reaction score
2,719
Location
Aotearoa
Wow, lots of food for thought. Thank you to everyone who has dove into this conversation. This has really helped me think about "my" monsters more. They're going to mostly be man-made experiments, so it would make sense that their base might be something familiar, with other stuff thrown in - because the people making them are not good people.
Oh, excellent! I love it when a thread can spark such a great discussion, and also great ideas for the original poster. It validates AW and my faith in humanity, and also gives me that little frisson of delight that there will be in future yet another cool story written and, hopefully, out there in the world where I can get my sticky little beak on it for my own reading pleasure.
 
  • Like
Reactions: MaryLennox

Introversion

Pie aren't squared, pie are round!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 17, 2013
Messages
5,649
Reaction score
1,702
Location
Massachusetts
My 10yo is obsessed with Unicorns. Especially if the unicorn is able to fart rainbows, shoot kittens out of its horn or both.
I presume she knows of the Phoebe and Her Unicorn series?
 

Featured Book