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Writing Monsters: Old vs. New

  • November 02, 2015
  • Blog

There are pros and cons to writing about monsters everyone’s heard of. And there are pros and cons to creating new monsters. Let’s explore a few.


Old Monsters

Everyone’s heard of vampires, werewolves, zombies, and demons, right? Here’s why using them or other familiar beasties might be good or the kiss of death for your story.


  • Readers know something about them already so they’re primed to be afraid.
  • Less explanation is needed.
  • You have a lot of pre-made history to play with that still allows for individual expression. I’ve read vampire stories where some could go out in daylight and others couldn’t fly. But the fundamental elements of what made them vampires remained.


  • Readers might be tired of the same ole, same ole, and even monsters fall out of fashion (some because of a glut on the market).
  • It’s harder to surprise or shock readers.
  • Straying too far from reader expectations isn’t playing fair. Werewolves can be killed by a silver bullet. Changing that to garlic is just wrong. (Yes, I’m aware that these are mythical creatures. But mythical creatures with rules that people believe. If that doesn’t make any sense, well—I don’t make the rules. 🙂 )


New Monsters

There’s nothing new under the sun, but some unique twists can be turned into a monster no one’s written about.


  • It’s new and exciting, both for the writer and reader.
  • You’re free to make them whatever you want.
  • More uncertainty creates bigger tension. If no one knows what the monster is or what its motivation is, that can feel like riding an invisible roller coaster.


  • It’s hard to create something no one’s ever heard of. No one wants a reader to say “Oh, it’s just a vampire living underwater in a swamp.”
  • It takes a lot of buildup to create a plausible monster.
  • The payoff needs to ring true. An escalation of fear and tension with a new beastie needs to have a plausible conclusion. Avoid miraculous coming-out-of-left-field saves.

So, which path do you take?

Whichever one makes you feel you’ve got a good story. Whichever one interests you. Because if you’re interested in writing it, the chances are good there will be readers who want to read it.

* Image courtesy of holohololand at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

**Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • jan • November 2, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    You’re right – there’s nothing really new under the sun but you can get creative with plot and character.

    • J. M. Levinton • November 2, 2015 at 9:17 pm


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