Is It Easy to Write Monsters?

Young Frankenstein

Fairly certain that I’ve tackled this topic before.  I felt like doing it again because the question still comes up.  Since fantasy authors are known for having strange creatures in their stories, people wonder how they design them.  Is there a trick?  Do you need a special kind of mentality for it?

I’m going to be doing a 7 Tips post tomorrow and going over the 3 big methods of creation on Friday.  What does that leave for today?  Not much beyond a basic introduction to the topic.  Sorry that this won’t be that deep a dive, but monster creation isn’t that easy to explain.

Audiences take it for granted and think it’s easy to toss in a few dragons here and there.  I’ve seen people complain about fantasy depending so much on monsters too.  Well, they are a staple of the genre just like horses and cows are commonly found in Westerns.  It is strange how often fantasy gets criticized for its monsters being there and torn up for being unrealistic when that’s the genre.  The amount of times I’ve seen people explain how a dragon cannot exist in our world is frustrating.  Especially since:

These stories don’t happen in our world!

This is a key point to monster creation.  You don’t have to follow real world laws of nature if you need your monster to do something.  If it needs to breathe fire or eat metal then you have it do so.  No explanation needs to be given either because they simply could have evolved to be like that or been magically created.  With magic being around, it would be rather strange that there aren’t any weird animals.  At least one person would have tried to create new species and ‘improve’ on ones that existed.  So, a key point is to not let reality and the criticism of those who can’t step out of reality drive you to avoid adding monsters at all.

Monster creation is a key aspect of world building in high fantasy.  You can get away with not doing it in a world that is low magic, but it’s hard to resist.  The moment you introduce a non-human character, an animal that has a fantasy ability, or a beast that doesn’t exist, you’re doing monster creation.  Yes, even elves, dwarves, gnomes, and orcs would fall under this category.  They aren’t real beings, so they need to be created from imagination, which requires using the same methods as one would use for wilder monsters.  So, you can see that it is very hard to avoid this aspect, especially if you don’t want your fantasy story to come off as fairly empty.  People who enjoy the genre tend to expect at least one fictional being.

Personally, I like creating monsters.  It’s one of the more interesting parts of writing fantasy for me.  I can’t even explain why.  There’s just something fun and exciting about building a beast that doesn’t exist.  You mold it to what you need and unleash it on your characters.  Sure, it will probably have to get killed off, but you can bring back another for a later story.  Once you create a monster, it’s yours to use whenever you need it.  There’s no rule that every monster has to be one-of-a-kind, so you can gradually build up your own bestiary.  This adds a great dimension to the world because now it has its own unique flora and fauna.

So, what do you think about monster creation?

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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15 Responses to Is It Easy to Write Monsters?

  1. L. Marie says:

    You’re really good at monster creation. I’m excited about these posts! 😄😄I read Naomi Novik’s HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON, which involved an alternate England in the Napoleonic era, but with dragons. It was interesting how the landscape changed in order to accommodate dragons. 😄

    I can’t help thinking of Miyazaki’s NAUSICAA AND THE VALLEY OF THE WIND. (I didn’t read the manga.) The giant insects and the giant biomechanical warriors really changed the landscape and made survival precarious at times.


    • I’m always curious about dragons being dropped in historical Earth settings. Mostly, I saw them not really meshing with the world and being out of place. It’s like their presence doesn’t change anything.

      Liked by 1 person

      • L. Marie says:

        I know what you mean. I read two books set in the Napoleonic era that involved magic and dragons. JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL was the other one. The world building reminded me of Harry Potter in that the world as we know it was altered through the introduction of magic. But as you’re probably saying here, magic and fire-breathing dragons would probably have altered the landscape even more severely than they do in the books. 😄😄


      • One thing that always bugged me about Harry Potter was the real world. It wasn’t touched by magic at all. Magic was basically in its own realm and never strayed. I mean, no wizard ever tried to alter the muggle world? There didn’t even seem to be stories of a time when magic wasn’t hidden. Did wizards simply go into hiding the instant they appeared? Then, there wouldn’t be any muggles with magic. Going back to dragons, how are those kept a secret since it’s established that they live in real countries?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve had wonderful fun creating a monstrous dark god in my latest WIP. I can’t understand someone choosing to read a fantasy then criticising it for having monsters in it. They should stick to reading cozy mysteries and romances.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I love that last line, and I am kind of creating my own bestiary during the hat series. I didn’t intend for it to be that way, but that’s what’s happening. I’m in the middle of a creature creation feature over at SE. We may cross up some, but will both have a unique take on the subject. I’m looking forward to yours.


  4. The thing about monsters and other creatures is that they’re really useful for breaking up long stretches in a novel. Your characters talk, talk or they travel, travel. Something exciting needs to happen! Monster battles (or avoiding them) can fill that need. You also can use creatures to do world-building, so if the characters encounter a giant deer or something it add interest and implies something about the environment.


    • The trick is making the monsters interesting. If they’re only there to break up a journey, they’ll come off as flat and possibly alien to the whole world. That’s why I like to think of their purpose in the world even if it’s not essential to the scene. It can create habits at least v

      Liked by 1 person

  5. V.M.Sang says:

    The antagonist in my current series, The Wolves of Vimar, creates monsters by magically melding two different creatures. They aren’t always large. He has created what he calls moupions, a blend of mouse and scorpion. They look like regular mice, but instead of running away, they stand their ground and raise their tails like scorpions. Those tails have a poisonous sting. He has also created carnivorous butterflies. They have already eaten a small girl.


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