The Monster Show

 

Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Br...
Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Bride of Frankenstein as Frankenstein’s monster. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Monster Show

 

Traci Kenworth

 

 

 

Who didn’t go to a monster show at some point growing up? I remember sitting on the couch every Saturday when I was twelve or thirteen watching the local channel’s Scream Theater showing. Frankenstein’s monster, the she-devil, and BIG bugs reigned. Armed with a bowl of buttered popcorn (oh, those innocent, before I became weight-conscious days), and a group of friends, it was something I looked forward to all week. Perhaps because of these screenings, horror often topped the list of my readings growing up.

 

I loved to root for the characters, praying fervently that each would make it. I think this weekly ritual was the stepping-stone to my writing. It brought an eagerness to tell stories, even those heroes/heroines that didn’t make it, of my own. Writing just clicked with me. I could explore new worlds, the human psyche, and wrong decisions. I found myself at peace when I got it all down on paper (the way it was done before computers came along). At least, into my household. I didn’t own my first computer until I was married.

 

When divorce hit me, my next computer helped bring me through the rough patches, and pointed me back down the road toward writing. It wasn’t easy, raising two kids by myself, buying a house, and paying the bills, but I did it. I’m still doing it. I watch very little of what’s called horror these days (mostly because it’s become so much of a gore-fest), but when I do, I’m reminded of those Saturdays spent cringing from this week’s monster.

 

Oh, I have my favorite shows still to keep me tuned in. From Supernatural to The Vampire Diaries, I’ve learned that it truly is the protagonist/s in trouble that capture my attention and less the nameless ones that flee the masked murderer in the forest that capture my efforts. I like fear to count for something, I guess. When I get to know a character, their family, their hopes, their dreams, I want to see them survive. It’s what I try and do in my own stories. Capture the essence of who they are, where they’re going, and how they’re going to come through things. In short, I want people attached to my stories, not a body count.

 

All this has helped me make some recent cut-backs in my own work. I, too, went for the high amount of corpses versus the character, but I came to realize: less is more. If you want your reader to care about what’s happening, give them heroes/heroines to root for not walk-ons who are just there to get cut up by some psycho. It’s the story that counts, the truth behind what is happening, it’s the meat on the bones.

 

Yes, those Monster shows educated me on what’s important: the survivors. If you’re having trouble in your work-in-progress, it may mean that you need to step back and look at the people in your story. Are they fully-rounded? Do we care about them? Or is the boogeyman the main character? Readers want to read about people. What makes them tick, how they survived a day in hell, and what their future may look like. Concentrate on the protagonist/s and the curtain on your show will continue to go up every time.

 

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11 thoughts on “The Monster Show

  1. So true. I grew up in the wrong generation, I guess, because I NEVER got a thrill from horrors. After all, how can I thrill when I don’t care whether someone survives or not.

    Of all movie genres, horror is definitely my least favorite.

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  2. My only encounter with horror movies was watching The Ring in my friend’s basement. She had seen it a million times and was still terrified during the movie. I was not frightened during the movie and kept telling her what was about to happen (which annoyed her), even though I hadn’t seen it before. After the movie was over, however, I had trouble falling asleep for an entire week.

    And I think you’re right–creating real characters that readers will become invested in is extremely important. I’ve heard people simplify “commercial” fiction and say that it’s plot-based instead of character-based. But no matter how good your plot is, you need worry-worthy characters, or else no one will care what happens.

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    1. Caring about your character/s is the most important aspect of a writer’s job. You have to get in there and get your reader to feel something, develop your person to bring out the best/worst in themselves. Only then will the reader turn the pages like you want.

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  3. Great post. A book can’t be all slash and blood and a high body count. WE have to care about the characters and WHY they are striving to survive. ‘Trying to not get killed’ isn’t enough.

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  4. I loved this post, Traci! You are right about the story being character-driven. I can’t stand today’s slasher movies. I grew up with The Twilight Zone & Outer Limits which were scary enough without watching the old black & white monster movies! They were so much more creative stories. I think the movies/stories that don’t have a plot other than ‘stay alive’ and focus more on the blood & gore put me off of horror. Give me a good suspense story with characters I can relate to and you’ll have me hooked! 🙂

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  5. I am THE biggest chicken, and never watch horror now. In the early days, I watched the Halloween movies, maybe the first two, but that was it. My sons were watching “Insidious” the other night, and I locked myself in my room so I wouldn’t hear a word!

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