Everyone wants to be successful in life, especially aspiring writers. Writing is a tough gig no matter how you look at it. The process is long, draining, and ultimately complex. I used to think that the toughest part of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel was completing that very first draft. Although it does take a toll on your free time and the resources dedicated to research on the internet, it is by far easier than fixing up your manuscript. Once you’ve completed the first draft, you have to find an editor and then go back and fix anything that he or she has pinpointed and hope your first edit survives the eye test. That’s just the beginning. Don’t get discouraged. This is a long and grueling process for every writer no matter how long you’ve been in the biz or how many times you’ve been published. You can imagine that it gets easier. From personal experience, I’m not there yet, but there are people out there that can help you. The resources are realistically endless. There’s always someone who has a connection to someone or some company. I want to talk about rejection. It’s arguably the most commonplace thing when it comes to manuscripts. I’ve seen it so many times (as have you): people close to me being rejected left and right, and for the same manuscript no less. Some could be receiving more rejection letters than regular mail on a weekly basis. It’s possible if you put yourself out there enough. It breaks my heart knowing that they are going through this and that I myself will have to endure this cumbersome process. The trick to surviving it all is the ability to push it aside and wait for the next great opportunity. Don’t take it personally and don’t show your frustration. It’s happening to everyone around you. When it comes to being published or even signing a TV or movie deal, you’re going to need to find an agent. People say that finding an agent is like finding a needle in a haystack. It’s mind blowing. I’ve seen situations where an agent would confirm that he would get back to a client and then disappear into thin air. It’s probably the most deflating and depressing feeling a writer can go through. Don’t get discouraged by the feedback you receive from an editor. Don’t even take it personally from other writers that are close friends. If you take it personally, you’ll drive yourself into the ground. Being part of a writing group has its advantages, but do not reject the guidance of the people around you. They’re there to help you along your process, not watch you fail.
The First Harry Potter Book
To close, I just want to mention that countless famous authors have struggled including the likes of J.K. Rowling and
James Patterson. Rowling has numerous quotes regarding failure in the writing industry and Patterson was rejected a dozen times before finding an agent in the newspaper. We all fail. It’s just a matter of whether we want to get up and try again, over and over.
If you write Fiction, sooner or later you’ll need a villain. Call him an Antagonist or just a bad guy, and they need to be well-composed. Let’s face it, the goons that invaded Nakatomi Plaza would have lasted an hour at most of it wasn’t for Hans Gruber leading them. Die Hard is richer for having a Great Bad Guy.
The Stranger. 1946 RKO Studios
We love to hate the bad guys most of the time. However, some are beyond liking in any way. Enter Orson Welles as director and star of The Stranger. Produced in 1946, it was the first time American citizens saw actual Holocaust footage from the Dachau Prison Camp. The shocking footage perfectly complimented the film’s villain, Franz Kindler.
Franz Kindler had been the second-highest ranking of all the Nazis, just behind Himmler. The Holocaust against the Jews originated with Kindler, who never appeared in public. No one knows what he looks like, and he escaped the Allied nets before Germany fell. No photos of him exist, and there is only one person alive who knows him personally, a Nazi vermin named Meineke.
Wilson, working for the OSS, lets Meineke out of jail. The former Nazi heads to America, winding up in the small town of Harper, Connecticut. Mr. Wilson follows him to Harper, intent on catching Meineke together with Kindler. Kindler and Meineke meet, and Kindler takes the little man out of town and out of sight. Meineke’s strangled body lies in the woods near the clock tower, the cornerstone for the city.
The Stranger. 1946 RKO Studios
Wilson only has one clue to the identity of Kindler. The man has an obsession with clocks. Mr. Potter, the owner of the general store, tells Wilson that someone is repairing the tower clock. This information makes Wilson smile. He asks Potter who is repairing the tower clock. The name he gives Wilson shocks him. It’s Charles Rankin, a professor at the local college. Rankin is very popular and well-liked in Harper. In fact, the day Wilson arrives, Rankin is marrying Mary Longstreet, Supreme Court Judge Longstreet’s daughter.
Up to this point, we have seen Rankin kill someone and bury them in the woods, kill Mary’s dog after he digs up the dead man, and near kills Wilson in a dark, empty gymnasium. Everyone loves Charles Rankin, but we now know how evil he is. Welles does an excellent job playing the evil Kindler and the benevolent Rankin, often in the same scene. Kindler/Rankin personifies the pure evil of Nazi Germany. While he speaks soothing words to everyone, we can see the hatred for the same people in Rankin’s eyes.
Wilson is posing as an art dealer and has everyone fooled except Charles Rankin. Rankin and Wilson finally meet at a dinner party, and we can see that both know who the other really is. Dinner talk turns to World War Two and Wilson almost tricks Rankin into revealing his true nature. Now Wilson is sure who Franz Kindler is.
What follows is an exquisite game of cat and mouse between Good and Evil. While Wilson gathers allies in town to spy on Charles, Rankin looks for ways to lure Wilson to his death. The look of fear can be seen in Rankin’s eyes as his world, once the size of Europe, is now just the town of Harper and is growing smaller by the hour.
The Stranger. 1946 RKO Studios
Franz Kindler had plans to hide in the middle of America’s First Families while waiting for a 4th Reich to rise. Those calculations come crashing down when Mary realizes the truth that Wilson has shown her. When Rankin kisses Mary, she recoils from his touch. Rankin must kill her now to cover up his identity. The list of people who know who he is is far too extensive for him to eliminate, so he makes the only decision that bullies always make when outsmarted. He runs.
The Stranger is one of the best examinations of Evil ever presented in films. It shows how Evil can fool an entire nation with poison they willingly swallow. We also see how that same poison can take root anywhere if we are not careful. In these turbulent times, we have good companies lured, whether by blind intent or plain ignorance, openly supported obviously evil causes in the name of doing the right thing. Perhaps these good people need to watch The Stranger. They may see the error of their ways.
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Why Monsters? For the past three years, I have been writing stories about monsters of all sorts. My take on them, I hope, is to create creatures that no one has ever seen or a twist on a familiar beastie that creates new connotations for its existence.
What do you like to see in a Monster? Do you like Classical Critters who have been nipping at Mankind’s heels since we hid in caves? Or would you like to meet something that has no name, will not communicate with Us, and will eat you without a second thought?
My work strives to inhabit that territory between the Known and the Never Known. Still, there are those writers who would like to craft a story about a fiend or two and have no idea where to start. Believe me, I’ve been there. Creating Monsters is not easy unless your name is Frankenstein. Take my hand and I’ll help guide you into the Art of Monster Making.
From Hell It Came- 1957
What Is A Monster? From Dictionary.com comes this. Any creature so ugly or monstrous as to frighten people, or any animal or human grotesquely deviating from the normal shape, behavior, or character.
That covers a lot of ground. Most of us think something larger than us can be monstrous. In the sense I am talking about, it is something natural, but out of its natural setting. A lion is not seen as unusual in the zoo or on an African plain. But put one in Times Square and you have yourself a monster of a problem.
Ordinary creatures as monsters can make for terrific stories. I recommend the film CRAWL for anyone looking for some thrills. Sure, they are alligators, but they are in someone’s house. And they’re hungry. Monsters? Yes.
A monster can be anything that menaces someone. Even a bird can be menacing, as in THE BIRDS by Daphne Di Maurier. Smaller even are the ants from “Leiningen Versus the Ants” by Carl Stephenson is terrifying because there are about Four Billion of the things in one place. Smaller? Try “The Andromeda Strain” by Michael Crichton.
Monsters Are A Vital Part Of Our Human Chronicle. We see ourselves in many of the monsters we encounter. That’s as true for Mr. Hyde as it is for the ten foot long ants in THEM!. Those ants were created by the genius mind of Man, and their eating us is more than we might deserve.
Poor Dr. Frankenstein. His intentions are honorable. He just went a little too far, especially when he sets out to create a mate for his creation. When he freezes to death in the Arctic, the last person he sees is the Creature he sewed together. But the Creature survives to the end of the book! We have a perfect opening for sequels, of which there are at least a dozen good ones.
Put the person in your Monster. Dr. Frankenstein had little humanity. It was his Creature who showed what it is to be Human. If your thing has at least one human-like trait, your reader will identify a bit with it. More traits equal a more human-like entity.
The Creation And Care Of Unique Monsters. How does your thing come to exist? Has it always been here, waiting for an opportunity to strike? Did someone create it, from some new experiment or looking in places where they shouldn’t be looking? Your origin has to be something logical, no matter how strange the result of that exploration or research.
What does It like to eat? Does it run when It sees someone coming? Is It the only one, or is It waiting for the right time and place to reproduce? What does It need to reproduce? Does It want to kill at random, or does It just want to go home? Perhaps It has a name and is angry because they don’t address It by that label.
X, The Unknown. 1956 Hammer Films
Bringing Your Monster Out Into The Open. Billy-Bob the Slime has just oozed out of Crater Lake, looking for a mate and a good meal. Nobody knows this because Billy-Bob cannot speak. He can only eat and lust. What’s there to do? If you’re Billy-Bob, you’ll ignore any attempts to set you on fire, blow you up or poison you until you get the two, and only two, things on your mind taken care of.
On the other hand, the Army and the Scientists see a ten-ton pool of red slime come out of the water and eat 100 people who were at the lake’s edge taking pictures of the red goo. Shoot it or blow it up, says the Colonel. Drive it between these two electrodes and fry it, says the Scientist. If that doesn’t work, there’s always a handy atom bomb at the nearby airbase.
Your monster has to make an appearance sometime. Make the reveal count. In “Quatermass And The Pit”, the menace behind everything is Hob, the racial memory of our long-dead Martian Masters. Its appearance over London comes at the very end of the story, but we’ve been anticipating it showing up for the entire time.
It doesn’t have to be a big jump scare. It can be subtle and sneak up on your reader. Those are the best kind of scares, the ones standing next to you until you turn around and see them.
Fighting A Common Enemy And Bringing People Together. When monsters strike, it brings the community together. In “Night of the Cooters” by Howard Waldrop, the Martians land outside of a small Texas town. The townspeople gather together and blow them to Hell.
To bring people together, just add a monster or two. It doesn’t have to be a lot of people. The survivors who can still see in “The Day of the Triffids” number only a few at first. Disparate bands of people eventually gather together and take a stand against the marauding carnivorous plants.
Any good monster will bring out the torches and pitchforks in us. When In Doubt, Just Shoot It was the motto in the 1950s. Their call was right practically every time, but the poor creatures always paid a heavy price despite the fact that often they were innocent. The shark from JAWS followed his instincts and his hunger. When he’s picked on, his lust for vengeance causes him to go after the three men in the boat. The shark could have swum away and eaten somewhere else. If the town had not hired the Sheriff, the Fisherman and the Scientist, the Shark could have eaten a dozen more people.
Create a crisis that brings the common folk to the fight. Among them are where the true heroes lie.
Bringing Out Your Character’s True Nature With A Monster. Danger and adversity will bring out the real person inside of your characters. For every six heroes fighting off a fearsome menace, there’s one coward who runs off with the explosives. Every story needs a balance of good and awful people. Let the coward run away, as long as he gets eaten at the end with the dynamite lit.
A crisis will always reveal heroes. 9/11 is a good example, as is the American Revolution. A monster, by its existence, is crisis personified. As much as Chace Winstead wanted to run away with everyone else, he chose to drive his hot rod filled with nitroglycerin into THE GIANT GILA MONSTER. Alex Rogan could have stayed home on Earth and waited for from Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada to destroy the planet. Instead, he chose to stay and become THE LAST STARFIGHTER.
The Monster Of Piedras Blancas. 1959 VanWick Productions
Metaphors, Monsters And Reality. Monsters don’t always have to be just monsters. They can represent something about us as human beings. Godzilla represented the atom bomb, and it came from Japan, the only country ever hit with atom bombs. The current Zombie craze can be seen as a representation of such diseases as VD or HIV.
The Silicates from “THE ISLAND OF TERROR” are products of renegade cancer research. These entities suck the bones out of any creature, leaving an empty husk behind. While we are being scared to death, we are given a lesson about following the rules and not keeping things a secret.
In reality, these monsters are trying to tell us that there are perils when it comes to being Human. The robots in “WESTWORLD” are Us, right down to their eyes. Where does the person end and where does the robot begin? Will we be able to tell when someone has crossed over from human to non-human? Time will tell, and your story can give us a monster that is very close to ourselves.
What’s Behind Your Door? The very things that make us Human also can tear the Humanity from our souls. Watch out for that monster. It could be your uncle. Man’s cruelty to another man is the fuel that creates real-life monsters. Godzilla, the Silicates and the Frankenstein Monster are warnings to not take any idea too far. One small misstep and the world is overrun by vampires, the Undead or Triffids. When you write a story, choose the doors you open with care. Your job is to scare the reader, and that means picking the door that reads “Do Not Enter. The Dead Are In Here.”
My Favorite Monsters. To round out this piece, let me tell you about my preferred organisms of horror.
Triffids by John Wyndham.
Slime by Joseph Payne Brennan.
The Creature from Frankenstein.
The Weeping Angels from Blink (Doctor Who).
Hob from Quatermass and The Pit.
The Thing From Another World.
The Silicates from “Island of Terror.”
The Id Monster from “Forbidden Planet.”
Thank you for your time. Always, You can come on by and comment on this or anything else at JoesWritersClub.com