Using Giant Monsters in Books

Godzilla

There have been times when I’ve used a huge monster in my stories.  Legends of Windemere had dragons and various giant species.  War of Nytefall had vampirized giants and other massive beasts.  They were fun to write, but I always wondered if I did them justice.  After all, they depend a lot on suspension of disbelief and the audience’s imagination.

Television, video games, and movies have it much easier.  They show you how big these creatures are, so everyone gets the same visual.  There’s no questioning how big Godzilla is because you see him there.  When show in contrast to people and cities, you get a sense of how dangerous it is to be around him.  It’s instinctive in a way since we’re working entirely off our senses.  Our imagination doesn’t have to put much effort into crafting the scene since it’s right in front of us.  Sadly, books don’t have this luxury.

Authors have to craft the scene and stir the imagination to bring these monsters to life, which can dance around the ‘show don’t tell’ accusation.  To some extent, you have to tell the person that this threat is BIG.  Showing that they are through actions and adjectives doesn’t always work.  Sometimes you simply have to say ‘the giant dragon’ and beat the reader over the head with the fact that this thing is massive.  Otherwise, you get a few people who downplay the scale in their mind and that can change the way that the scene works.  Part of is that because everyone has their own definition of what constitutes a huge monster.  One person may think elephant while another one thinks skyscraper even if the story gives hints of size.

I try my best to describe my giants with terms that make it clear that they’re big. If they’re in a forest or city then I make sure to note that things are getting damaged as they move around.  Objects that are typically impossible to move are thrown or knocked around like they’re made of paper.  For example, a wagon or shed getting hurled across a clearing can be a good indicator of size.  Having someone view them from a distance and note how they tower over nearby things helps.  Describe the setting in a way that focuses on how everything around the giant appears smaller and fragile.  Combining these tricks should help in getting the point across.

With fantasy, I believe giant beasts are a staple whether it be humanoid, demon, dragon, trees, or golems.  Even mythology used giants because there’s something epic about facing an opponent that is bigger than anything natural.  I’ve seen people try to steer away from these monsters because they aren’t scientifically sound.  Yet, that’s part of what makes them frightening.  You know they aren’t able to exist in reality, but here they are in this fantasy world.  It makes them more mysterious and unnatural, so you can’t even be sure they can be killed the same way.  This is probably just me though.

So, what do you think of giant monsters?  Ever use them or do you avoid them?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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9 Responses to Using Giant Monsters in Books

  1. L. Marie says:

    Such a great topic! Great advice. I grew up watching Godzilla films and reading books about dragons and dinosaurs. The Jurassic franchise has been very entertaining. Other than dragons (a book I’m working on), I haven’t used any other giant monsters because of the scale of them. It’s hard having to account for the wingspan of a huge dragon. Yet I love when other authors and scriptwriters use them. 😄

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  2. I never thought about trying to get the concept of big across to a reader. Well done, Charles. If someone describes a monster stepping on and crushing a house that’s good enough for me.

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  3. I’ve done it, and found it as difficult as you described. There are a few that show up in the Lanternfish series. The one with unbelievable proportions was referred to as a God that brought the monsoon.

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  4. V.M.Sang says:

    The only giant monsters I’ve used are dragons. I think I’ve shied away from others because of what you mention. They cannot exist, so I tend not to write them (except dragons, which I love). I have a science background and so have a tendency to say “Could this beast really exist?” (except dragons.”

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    • It’s funny how dragons get a pass. Also how we view worlds of magic and monsters through real world science. I think I stopped doing that because it felt so restricted. I wondered why a world that isn’t Earth needed to abide by only some of our rules. So, I created a bunch of giant species.

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