Broad brush, part 2

By JCrawford Uncategorized Comments Off on Broad brush, part 2

A few of the people who read the first part of this article exposed the dirty underbelly of this installment. Bravo, people!

Let’s explore, for the nonce, monsters you can’t communicate with and how utterly terrible they are.

First and foremost, monsters of this kind tend to murder human beings without remorse, or even a second thought. For example: our old friend the Xenomorph, spat from the pen of H.R. Geiger, and given life by Ridley Scott.

The Alien sees you, and all it cares about is how well you’ll incubate an egg. You’re not even food for it.  In modern internet parlance, “Honey Badger don’t give a shit.”

Another popular monster is the classic Zombie. All you are to the living dead is a source of brains. They will keep coming until your skull has been popped open like a hard boiled egg. There’s no such thing as reasoning with Zombies. It wants you for dinner. That’s all.

In both of these cases, you’re used for something other than the purpose you were born for: living life as an upright, sentient being. Your enemy doesn’t see you as a peer. Another quality those two monsters share is a sense of inexorable doom. They will never stop. They will find you. They will kill you.

The original Terminator had this awful charm, too. It blurs the line between communicating, and not valuing the target as a sentient creature, worthy of respect. It has a job to do, and social niceties merely assist it in accomplishing the task: killing people.

I believe monsters that can’t/won’t communicate activate a primal terror within our souls. Wild animals can’t communicate with us, and vice versa. When we were tiny mammals living in the trees, we were food for anything bigger and stronger than us. Resistance was futile. Sure, little mammal could run and hide, but the predator would keep coming. Bloody doom was never far away.

Call it “evolutionary psychology”, we are still wired to be scared of creatures we can’t communicate with. They can’t be bargained with, swayed, or controlled. All we can do is fight, flee, or fall. None of those options guarantees success, but might delay the inevitable for just a bit longer.

Take note of what these monsters tell you about human beings and fear. Loss of control. Impending doom that you might not be able to stave off. Dehumanization: people aren’t people anymore, but reduced to food or breeding stock. Inexorable, determined predation. Man, toppled from the highest rung of the food chain. Destruction of human pride in the face of a foe that does not, will not, care. No mercy, because there is no mutual identification or communication.

Notice how these fears also apply to situations. Plague. War. Interpersonal conflict. It is all there.

When you craft a villain, conflict, or a monster, look at the primal fears of man for inspiration. Grab your reader by the hind brain, and they’ll follow… and hope your protagonist wins.

-James Crawford


  • Share:
Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Google PlusVisit Us On YoutubeCheck Our Feed