It’s finally come and I’m stymied. There are still so many monsters to choose from and I honestly don’t know which one deserves the final spot in the line-up of February’s daily monster posts.
I could focus on how some monsters seem to repeat in mythologies across the globe — all those big cats with wings. I could have fun with my all-time-favorites and attempt a list of the ‘top ten’ monsters of all time. Or I could delve into the deep, dark well of HUMAN monsters — the serial killers, sexual predators and socio-paths that take the starring role in so many popular books, movies and TV shows.
I think I’ll save all of those ideas for future monster meditations. There’ll be plenty of time —with posts twice or three times a week — to explore this rich territory.
Today, I want to talk about the monstrous nature of writers and writing.
Writers are, by nature, multi-headed beasts. With the notable exceptions of successful memoirists with lives so long, rich and full they can create a string of books about themselves, writers must inhabit the ‘heads’ of other people in order to create credible characters.
A writer must ‘become’ — for a limited time and in a limited context — all the characters in a book. Sometimes it’s a lot like being Cerberus — the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of hell. Different characters pull the story in different directions. Each has an agenda and, although it doesn’t always make it onto the pages, a life separate from the story. In other words, you’ve got to know your characters. Sometimes they’ll surprise you and take the plot in a new direction and sometimes they need a serious makeover — the kind that necessitates a rewrite. Either way, a writer has got to get inside the characters’ heads.
Actors do this too. They get to play at being a king, a killer or a knight in Arthur’s court, and then become someone else in their next job. Of course most actors are limited in their roles by appearance. With the notable exception of heavy make-up and roles that rely on special effects to transform an actor into another creature, the appearance of the actor and the appearance of the character must match. That’s where writers have a huge advantage. We can be old, young, tall, short, change genders and ethnicities as well as life histories. Plus, we get to be the king, the killer and the knight all at the same time.
In The Mary Shelley Game, the first Candy’s Monster, I’ve written stories within the main storyline. These short stories inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, are ‘written’ by the characters in my novella. It gave me a chance to imagine how each character would approach the task, what kind of language that character would choose and what kind of ‘monster’ each character would create.
It was fun.
And because the over arching story shifts points-of-view, I was able to play with how the characters saw each other. This figured a lot in the physical descriptions of individual characters, as we all see people through our own, skewed lenses.
In the second, soon-to-be-published monster — Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet — the first person narrative invites the reader to share the character’s point-of-view, even as she admits to being in need of a serious reality check. Her analysis of various evidence, leads her to conclude that the man living next door is a vampire. I hope that readers enjoy the ride, as they inhabit her head the way I did while writing it.
Right now my head is filled with Edgar Allan Poe. There’s no need to spell out the monsters that occupied his imagination’s real estate! I’ll keep the is monster trend going until I run out of monsters, and that means it’s a long, long run.