Friday, July 22, 2011

A Monster With Personality

Creature from "Aliens"

This was good: the prey’s psychic output had increased ten-fold, exciting the creature. It fed on the rich emotions.

Were it not for the new program, its new adaptation, the creature’s instincts would demand that it now devour its prey and flee. Instead, the program instructed it to do something it never would have otherwise thought to do: reveal itself to the prey. It was not by accident that its species had survived for a million years; they were masters in the art of stealth. Their enemies could not destroy what they did not know existed or could not see. Revealing itself went against this most basic of instincts.
But it promised great potential psychic rewards.
It rose out of the water, revealing its ancient face to the prey. The reward the new programming had promised was realized, in greater abundance than imagined; it gorged itself on the prey’s fear.
It opened its mouth and bared its teeth, to see how the prey would respond. It was again rewarded.
Burke almost died of fear when a large black, thing, rose up from the canal. It floated with him for a few seconds, then opened its eyes; three yellow slashes in its forehead blinked, and he screamed louder than he ever thought he could scream.
He slapped and kicked at the water, trying to distance himself from the thing. Fear galvanized him, flooding his body with adrenaline. His mind momentarily shut down the pain pathway in his spinal cord so he wouldn’t feel the throbbing leg; he couldn’t afford the distraction.

He bumped up against the canal wall and flung his arms behind him, trying to crabwalk up the wall. His hands slipped. Panic threatened to consume him and he searched frantically for a possible solution, some way to survive, to get away from this impossible thing.
The creature opened its mouth, revealing eight-inch-long silvery teeth that flashed and sparkled in the moonlight; jagged and wicked: he understood how he had lost his leg, and he knew he would not be leaving the canal alive.

His mind slipped toward insanity.

If you read or write horror fiction, do you think the monsters (aliens, creatures, gnomes, etc.) should have a personality? Or should they just be a big mean monster?

In my horror novel, CANALS, the canal monster makes its appearance early in the book. Its physical characteristics are revealed bit-by-bit, as is its personality. It thinks, calculates, and makes adjustments in its feeding pattern as it adapts to its prey. It even has a gender (which I won't reveal). The reader learns later in the book the monster is one of a species that was once abundant on the...

In some books and films, monsters are just monsters. They show up out of nowhere to kill or eat people. Their "motivation" is usually filling their stomachs or plain savagery. Most don't have offspring they're trying to protect or feed and aren't part of any community. They're just monsters.

In the movie ALIEN, and subsequent follow-ups, the monster had a personality and a goal: the perpetuation of its species. It corralled the humans into its nest to use as incubators for its young. One wonders how it survived before the planet was colonized.

What kind of monsters do you prefer, if you like stories with monsters? Do you like the simple, straightforward monster with no personality? Or do you prefer a monster that's a little more complex?