For Writers: Creating from Fear

Death by Dragon:

Predators (and for this worldbuilding post we’re focusing on the animal-kind, not the human varieties) frequently appearing in myth and legend are largely grounded in ingrained human fear. Vampire bats feasting on human blood, giant spiders wrapping humans in webs and savoring entire families for a single dinner, dragons burning down villages. Even today, perpetuating lies about real creatures who wouldn’t hurt a fly serves to create a void between the human and the animal.

When you’re adding giant beasties and small, snake-like creatures with legs to your fiction, you need to play on that aspect–fear–and the inherent danger that goes along with it.

Forge your monsters from your own fears to amp up those same fears in your characters (and in your readers as you take them along the journey with you!).  Build them along a range of possibilities depending on your genre, bringing them to life and putting a new spin on old terrors:

  • Contemporary, normal things can have quite a few triggers just in the ordinary descriptions of “short bristles of fur skittering along the hardwood” or “two dark, beady, hyper-focused eyes”.
  • For fantasy genres, you can always double the danger. Make a small creature twice its normal size. Make it the same size or smaller–but so toxic being in its vicinity can cause pestilence.  Make a large creature stronger.
  • If you’re tackling paranormal, magically enhance the creature or introduce something from another mythos.
  • And along the science fiction route, don’t forget about genetic manipulation. Someone’s always playing with gene splicing and ways to end the human race with a new super-creature.


Example Time!

“Come on guys. There’s no need for revenge. I’m a vegetarian.” Scott felt his brain pulse inside his skull as the creature’s proboscis latched on to the nape of his neck.

As facts and memories vanished from his mind one by one, his brain functions seeping into nothingness, he found himself pondering one last, perverse idea: perhaps Laptasa, too, enjoyed their vegetables.


Brain Sparker:

In the comments or in your notebook, list several animal traits that bump up the chill factor for you. Dripping fangs? Collapsing tunnel traps? Jaws that can split a skull in two? For your creature (or creatures! Do you have a troop of spleen-eating monkeys?) pick two contrasting traits and splice them together like contrasting colors of playdough in a pasta maker. (Yummy yummy…)

Now spend a few minutes describing your creation. What does it look like? What’s the most dangerous thing it can do? Is it real? And perhaps most pertinent to dropping into your worlds:  How can it be provoked?


Until next time…have fun razing villages!

About Cera Daniels

My muse has found a home in paranormal, steampunk, and science fiction romance, and that's where we spend the wee hours of morning and the moonlit hours of evening. I've collected a delicious harem of menfolk for my tales (So many vigilantes, superheros, rogues, assassins, and sky pirates...*drools*), along with some seriously feisty ladies ready to shake up their worlds. I hope you're ready to see them unleashed!