Science fiction, fantasy and horror stories are full of monsters. But one of the toughest jobs a writer has is coming up with creatures that are new and interesting.
When I sat down to write my urban fantasy novel A Kiss Before Doomsday, I knew that the bad guys would be undead creatures. But today’s readers have seen countless undead foes. How do you put a brand-new spin on such an old idea?
The Secret to Making Monsters
The secret to creating compelling monsters can be found in the word itself. MONSTER makes a useful acronym:
- M is for Mind
- O is for Origin
- N is for Need
- S is for Sketch
- T is for Take On
- E is for Eat
- R is for Relationships
To create a truly unique, complex monster, look carefully at each of these aspects, then ask yourself questions and write down the answers. By the time you finish, you’ll have a monster that’s not only frightening, it’s also fascinating.
Even if you hate the idea of writing an outline or synopsis, you can still figure out a plan to help you finish your novel fast, avoid major revisions, and beat writer’s block forever.
It’s surprisingly easy. Here’s how to do it.
First, turn off your computer and set aside your notebook. For this exercise, you going to need a pack of index cards. Regular old 3 x 5 cards will work just fine.
Wait — index cards? Really?
Yes. It may sound clunky, but writing on small cards actually makes it easier to plan out your story.
With cards, you can throw away or rearrange your ideas instantly. Plus, small cards force you to focus your thoughts. When you only have a few square inches to work with, you need to be succinct, and that boosts your creativity.
Here’s what to do:
There are three elements that make up every story: people, problems, and places.
To form a good story, those elements need to be in balance, because each one affects the others.
That’s why you need to put as much effort into the places in your story—your setting—as you do for your characters and your plot.
Here are the three best ways to make that effort pay off, so that your setting comes alive. Continue reading
Are you planning to write a book in 2020?
Want some writing inspiration and wisdom from authors who have written dozens or even hundreds of stories and books?
Check out my list of the five most inspiring books about writing over at Civilian Reader.
P.S. Do you love free stuff . . . like books, for instance? Want a chance to win one? Get my author newsletter.
What makes a villain fascinating?
It’s not just about scaring the pants off the reader.
The most terrifying thing a villain can do in a story isn’t killing the hero or blowing up the world — it’s making their twisted viewpoint seem morally right, and making the hero seem wrong.
Because if the villain’s outlook starts to make sense, and the hero seems to have things backwards, then for just a moment, the reader has to wonder: Have I been rooting for the wrong side all along?
In my Dru Jasper urban fantasy series, every book sees the heroes (all with strange and unique magic powers) fighting to defend the world from a looming apocalypse. The latest book, Forever and a Doomsday, squares them off against the worst threat they’ve ever faced: a horde of wraiths, the dispossessed souls of sorcerers, who can walk through walls and kill with a mere touch.
How do you fight something like that? Continue reading
True story: When I was 17, I met an African storyteller.
He traveled to distant parts of the world, collecting oral stories and writing them down for posterity. He was my first real-life writing teacher.
His feedback helped me get started as a writer. Within a couple of years, I had sold my first magazine article. I’ve been writing ever since.
I got a chance to talk about that experience (and a bunch of other sometimes-funny, sometimes-humbling stuff) on the ever-excellent Nerds That Geek website. Check it out.
P.S. Want a chance to win one of my new books for free? Get my author newsletter.
How do writers create fascinating monsters?
For me, it’s a many-layered process that involves thinking about where a monster came from, what it’s after, how it thinks, and what happens when it encounters the heroes.
I actually got the chance to dive deep into the monster-creation process and explain how to do it step-by-step, thanks to the marvelous Mogsy over at Bibliosanctum, the super-fabulous speculative fiction blog.
You can read my guest post here.
P.S. You can also get access to your own monster-making workbook when you get my author newsletter.
Categories: Dru Jasper, For Writers, how to write a book, how to write a novel
Tags: aspiring writers, behind the scenes, fantasy, for writers, horror, how to get published, how to write a book, how to write a novel, monsters, science fiction, Writing Tips
Before I became a published author, I used to carry around a writing notebook in my back pocket.
You know the kind I’m talking about: the little black book that tells the world you’re a Serious Writer.
But that little notebook is a big mistake, I eventually learned.
Here are three reasons why you should ditch it, and what you need to keep in your pocket instead. Continue reading
When considering who gives out the best writing advice in the world, the first name that pops up might not be Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But a decade ago, Schwarzenegger presented his “6 Rules of Success” in a now-famous commencement speech at the University of Southern California.
And these rules just might hold the key to your success as a writer.
Has your writing fallen into a black hole?
Has your pacing dropped to a crawl, or your suspense become a snore?
Do you just feel stuck?
You might be sabotaging your own writing without even knowing it.
But don’t panic. Here’s how to avoid the four most perilous pitfalls of writing.