Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lake Placid and the Sequels: Monster Making

It’s alligator season in Florida. Everyone’s secured their hunting permits and readied their bang sticks. Gassed up the airboats and motor boats. Filled up the coolers with drinks.

While enthusiasts spent the night tracking and wrestling gators on the still, blue waters of Lake Okeechobee, hubby and I snuggled in for an evening watching the Lake Placid movies. Might have been more realistic if the setting was Lake Placid, FLORIDA where there are real alligators and not up in the North East. And someone should have taken the time to at least google alligator behavior and habitats.

Another thing I notice was the confusion between alligator and crocodile. The two are not interchangeable. Like a rat and a squirrel. Both are rodents, but they aren’t the same rodent.

Loved Betty White in the original. John Schneider didn’t quite steal my heart in #2 the way he did in the Dukes of Hazzard (the original TV show, not the movie remake). Yancy Butler was the tough, go-getter cougar that I expected her to be in #3.

So, what did I learn about the craft of writing watching this monstrous trilogy?

It’s not enough to simply make something larger than life. You have to make it believable or it becomes farcical. Monsters, even supernatural ones, should come equipped with predictable behavior traits. Random chaos doesn’t apply, because if you want to get into the quantum matter of things, there is order even in chaos. But, that’s another topic.

Everything in the universe adheres to rules and patterns. When world building or monster making, that is an important fact to remember. It should be the foundation of your creation.

Without a core structure to support all the fantastical things that a writer can imagine, the creation falls apart. Think of the human body without a skeleton, a skyscraper without the steel supports, a jellyfish without its fibrous membranes. Take out the internal structure and what’s left is a puddle of goo.

Plan your monsters carefully. Give them strengths and weaknesses and use those to their advantage and against them. The stakes for the hero/heroine should be high, but not unobtainable. They can’t be defeated at every turn and then suddenly defeat the monster in the last second using the same weapons, cunning, etc., that failed them time and time again. To do so is the result of lackluster writing and an underactive imagination. Trust me, if the writer isn’t interested in investing the time needed to carefully craft their monsters, the reader/viewer won’t be either.

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