Writing Prompt: Monsters in America


a cryptozoological map of monsters in America

This lovely cryptozoological map by artist Mark Adams for HogIsland Press delightfully illustrates regionally-famous monsters in America. Some of these monsters are well documented in film, TV and literature; others are virtually unknown outside their home territories. Let’s give them a moment of consideration as a writing prompt.

Thinking About Monsters

  1. What is it about the historical hardships and anxieties in these particular regions that gives rise to these particular monsters?
  2. How are these monsters relevant to the fears and tribulations of modern life?
  3. How is this monster relevant to you?

Those are good questions to ask whether you’re writing about a pre-existing monster or inventing a monster of your own.

The Monster Under Your Bed (Or In Your Backyard)

Did you ever live or travel in a region that has its own local monster? Have you seen it? (I have to ask.) Have you written about it yet? If not, why not?

(I grew up along a lake in Canada that is famous for its own lake monster, and I have a back-burner project that involves it.)

Reading & Watching Monster Stories

What are your favourite monster movies and stories? Why do you love them? Who are your influences when you write your own monster stories? What lessons can you take from them about how to write a great monster story?

Writing About Monsters

  1. Write about a famous or not-so-famous legendary monster. Pick one that has some personal resonance for you.
  2. Think about a place that you know well. What kind of monster does it deserve? Invent that monster and write that story. (Tip: You may be tempted to pick a place you hate, but your story may turn out better if you pick a place you love.)
  3. Think about your favourite monster stories in any medium.
    3(a) Write a story in the style of one of your heroes.
    3(b) Now step back a little, and without emulating your heroes’ writing output, try emulating their writing strategies. (If that distinction isn’t obvious to you, let me know, and we can explore it in more detail.)
    3(c) Make a list of your favourite elements from your favourite monster stories. Now, mix and match them to create a new story.
    3(d) Make a list of elements that annoy you in monster stories. Work out how to avoid, invert, or otherwise subvert those elements. Ooh, you’re onto a very interesting story now.

Happy Writing and Happy Halloween.