DC Green, author of the Erasmus James series, has a new book. Monster School hit the shelves on 1 October and DC is out and about doing a monstrous blog tour. Today, he’s visiting us here at Boomerang Books. Take it away, DC…
Writing Monstrous Characters
By DC Green
Monsters rule! The hardest thing about writing Monster School was deciding which terrifying creatures to leave out of the main narrative. There are so many cool monsters – some popular, some rare and many unknown. Yet I knew for my story to work, I’d have to focus on a small(ish) group of monster types. Better to get to know a few well-developed characters than to have dozens of ill-defined or stereotypical creatures overloading the poor readers’ brains.
So, reluctantly, Monster School features zero werewolves, sasquatches, leprechauns, hydras or Terminators. (Though there are two more books in the City of Monsters series to remedy that situation!)
Conflict conflict conflict
Cramming four million monsters into a single city seemed a perfect way to brew conflict. I loved the idea of different monsters clashing for a range of reasons – opposing cultures and values, ancient rivalries, and of course, simple hunger. Logically, many monster species would have their own schools in their own quarters, such as the famed Ogre Bodyguard College. But Castle Mount, at the heart of Monstro City, contains a mix of adult monsters from every quarter. It makes sense their monstrous offspring would attend a nearby, very mixed, school: Monstro Central.
To multiply this potential conflict, I wanted the core ‘gang’ who attend class 10A at Monster School to be diverse. That, presumably, meant each of my main monsters would hail from minority species, which would add to the outsider dynamic I wanted to establish.
The most populous monster species in Monstro City is the plains goblin. The three main goblin clans tally over a third of Monstro City’s population. They are the deal-makers, politicians, bureaucrats and bankers; in short, the new humans. So the school is dominated by young mafia goblins.
I named my outsider group the Dead Gang, because I liked the name and it was accurate. Yes, the majority of the Dead Gang are not technically alive. I couldn’t help myself: there are just so many cool dead monsters!
So I came up with the three core Deads: Stoker the mohawked vampire; Scarab the kindly mummy, and Zorg the rat-chewing, socially-challenged zombie (who has a thing for Scarab). The gang also needed some monsters from other quarters, so I brought in two Mythics: Tessa the garbage-collecting troll (actually, garbage-digesting is more accurate) and Bruce, the joker giant spider.
On the first day we visit Monstro Central School, two new and important characters arrive: the narrator, Swamp Boy, a scaredy and naïve swamp monster; and Greta, a surly and sarcastic forest goblin, rumoured to have magical powers.
That ended up being a lot more monsters than I planned to include, but they all proved to be so much fun to write, all had such distinct voices and brought so much to the story table. Together, they formed a virtually a super-powered team, capable of so much more collectively than individually.
Bruce the giant spider
First, this Bruce is fun to physically describe. The giant spider has 128 eyes and is huge, so he can’t fit through normal-sized doorways. He has eight legs with pincers instead of fingers, two chellica (mini-arms) enclosing his mouth and one exoskeleton. Despite his fearsome appearance, he’s a loyal gang-member and friend. When scared, he vibrates.
Bruce is a prankster, always quick with a one-liner or an insult. From the moment he jabs a hairy pincer into Swamp Boy’s ribs, his dialogue is distinctive. ‘Yo, Swampy. I’m your friendly neighbourhood eight-legged killing machine! But you can call me Bruce.’
As with all my characters, I asked dozens of questions of Bruce before I even began the story proper. That way, I got to know my monsters intimately, from their voices to the way they react in different scenarios. I also like to weigh my characters with some type of personality flaw, as well as at least one secret. Other questions I ask range from the mundane (what is their favourite food?) to the profound (what is their philosophy of life?).
Creating monster characters is no different to creating interesting humans. Both require careful planning and questioning; though not many humans can shoot webs from their claws and their backside spinnerets!
George’s bit at the end
My thanks to DC for sharing his monstrous creative process with us. Cool stuff!
To find out more about DC Green, his book and his Monster School blog tour, check out his blog.
Catch ya later, George
Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.
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