7 Tips to Creating Monsters

Young Frankenstein

Let’s be clear.  There really aren’t many solid rules to monster making.  At least when it comes to fiction.  In reality, you have to struggle with the ethics of creating a monster and hope it doesn’t kill you when it escapes.  Anyway, let’s dive into some general advice that can help you along.

  1. Have a reason for this creature existing.  Not just in terms of story, but of the world in general.  Monsters are basically the animals of another world.  Just like on Earth, they will have some kind of niche.  Maybe they’re an apex predator or they keep another creature’s population in check.  It doesn’t have to be that scientific, but figuring out their role can guide you in designing their abilities.
  2. Be careful altering established monsters.  You do have some leeway, but you have to retain some aspects of the original.  Otherwise, you’re slapping a known name on an unrelated creature.  This can come off as lazy or full-blown lying.  For example, you can have a dragon that is covered in feathers and doesn’t breathe fire as long as it still has the form of a dragon type.  You can’t slap feathers on a dragon and call it a roc.  It doesn’t work that way.
  3. Naming your monster doesn’t have to be right on the first try.  Many times, your initial name for a creature might be a placeholder.  You’ll write them in a scene and realize that the name doesn’t roll off the tongue.  Maybe it fails to capture the essence of what you have created.  Just go back and change it with a ‘find/replace’.
  4. Size isn’t everything!  Many authors think that they have to go big with monsters.  The thought of a giant beast barreling towards the heroes or crashing through a wall has a lot of appeal.  Yet, there is something to be said for smaller creatures.  Large monsters need a lot of room and they are huge targets, which are not known for speed.  The advantages of smaller ones is that they can be placed in small locations without sacrificing mobility.  One can believe that they will be faster, harder to hit, and maybe even harder to notice.  So, consider going tiny instead of huge.
  5. Not every monster has to be aggressive and a threat.  If you want to paint a vast world of magical creatures, you should consider those that are passive.  Consider how some real animals will runaway instead of attack, which can guide you to create these ‘window dressing’ beasts.  They might not be essential to the plot, but it shows that the world has more than dangerous monsters.  It shows that you have an actual ecosystem out there.
  6. If you’re going to use a real world animal for a base, try to keep the main form intact.  It isn’t a requirement, but you picked the initial animal for a reason.  If you change it so much that it isn’t even close, the monster might no longer work for what you initially intended.  For example, if you take a bear then it’s best to keep the animal stocky and strong.  If you change so much that it is now slender and agile with not much in the way of strength then there was no point in the bear starting point.  You’ve basically gone with a cat, but you don’t have that in your mind enough to give your monster the benefit of that form.
  7. Try to maintain a list of creatures you’ve created.  This is mostly for those who are going to do a series.  You never know when you’ll find a place where your monster will work out again.  This saves on time since you already have something to fit that niche and it makes the creature feel more widespread.  It’s no longer alive in that single area, but it has a range like any animal.

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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38 Responses to 7 Tips to Creating Monsters

  1. L. Marie says:

    Great tips! 😊Now I’m thinking of Avatar (the Last Airbender Avatar), because of their monster blends like the platypus bear. 😊 I also think of the Godzilla movies where other monsters come to fight and science fiction worlds in books and movies where the aliens are gigantic monsters who usually come to destroy Earth. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Small can be scarier than big, especially if it’s a spider! I’d be scared stupid by a spider that had human intelligence and evil intent.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve seen the future and the monster is us


  4. I think your lesson on monsters has some application to story characters too. Nice job, Charles.


  5. I do enjoy a good pack or swarm of small to medium monsters. Not as easy to target, and one can always escape if the story requires it.


  6. V.M.Sang says:

    More Great tips, Charles. Thanks for the help.


  7. One of my finished stories involves a swarm of creatures. Renders the old .357 Magnum kind of useless.


  8. raynayday says:

    I tend to use monsters that already exist (legendary or human) when I need to but monsters who are flawed as we humans are, weak and hopeless. Lol. How easy is it to kill a vampire? Just wait till morning, wander into the castle crypt with a stake and hammer, Both available cheaply at B&Q or ASDA. In fact, you can buy a stubby hammer now in Asda (Walmart) so you could just have your vampire extinction kit in your pocket. I have rarely attempted an overwhelming evil. Recently I have used, “Dread”, “Barrow Weights”, “Djinn” and humans as the monsters required but I quite like “creature Horror” as long as it is (almost) believable.


    • Funny thing is that original vampires used to be dangerous during the day too. Hollywood really took some of the fangs out of them. Never liked that it seems so easy nowadays.

      Legendary monsters are fun. I’ve noticed they come with a risk. People have expectations and get annoyed if those aren’t met. That’s one reason I like adding my own creations in too. It establishes that it’s a different world than Earth.

      Liked by 1 person

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