What makes a good monster? The estimable Sam Knight presented a great workshop on crafting monsters at Pikes Peak Writers Conference this weekend. Sam likens monsters to villains, with each having varying degrees of monstrousness and villainy. I’m not so sure. We’ve been told forever that the villain/antagonist must have some redeeming qualities “to be relatable.” In that sense, the villain is more akin to the protagonist than to the monster.
Yet the best monsters (think the Cloverfield monster, the Jaws shark, Hitchcock’s birds, Tremors’ graboids, Alien face-huggers, etc.) were anything but relatable. They are a force of nature and not to be reasoned with.
That said, there are rules. Sam was clear to say that all monsters have secrets. They have an origin we may or may not know. And monsters have to scare the living snot out of you. Making monsters relatable diminishes the mystery and scare factor. Cute monsters are no monsters at all.