Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Best Monsters

Let’s talk about monsters. You might as well know that this post is related to yesterday’s post. You will recall that I mentioned that Brandilyn Collins is writing a Lyme disease book. She’s a suspense author, so there’s a couple of plots that are likely candidates for her book. She could do a Whydunit, but she’s already revealed the why and the who, so that’s out. The most likely candidate is the Monster in the House story. The basic plot is this: someone commits a sin, the result of which is a monster that is trapped within a confined space (a house) with our protagonist. I’ve got to admit that when I saw the press release my first thought was “Arachnophobia with Ticks.” But I’ll give Brandilyn the benefit of the doubt and assume she is going to use ticks as her monster. I really don’t expect that the man she says lost his wife is going to break into the doctor’s house and dump Lyme infested ticks on his bed.

Ticks don’t work well as a monster because they are small and relatively slow moving. You can watch a Lyme infested tick crawl across your skin without fear that you are going to get Lyme disease from it, as long as you get rid of it before it bites you. If you wander through tall grass, play with the pets or walk through the woods, you might pick up a few ticks or even hundreds of ticks, but a little insect repellant will help keep them from biting. Even if you know of a particularly deadly tick in your area, you can move and get away. A tick is a terrible choice for a monster.

The sin, in her upcoming novel appears to be that the doctors didn’t treat the man’s wife to his satisfaction, resulting in her death. That should give us some idea of what kind of monster she can create. We can’t really choose the doctors as the monster, since their teeth have already been removed by the death of the man’s wife. I think the monster has to be the man himself. If she make the man the protagonist, which seems to be indicated by her comments about the book, it’s likely to become Amber Morn in a doctor’s office. He’ll go in, wave a gun around, lock the doors, shoot a few people and then either be killed or taken to jail by the police. The hard thing with a monster like that is that it’s difficult to know who we should cheer for. We want to cheer for the protagonist, but we know he will have to face justice in the end.

A different approach would be to forget the question of “to what lengths will he go,” but instead make him the monster and be done with it. We’ll send the medical providers off in the woods somewhere, either vacation or have them out looking for ticks. While they are cut off from help, he shows up and kills one of them. This sends them running. Our protagonist is a doctor and in the end he is able to defeat the man, but only after coming to the realization that something he did resulted in the death of the man’s wife, showing us the true monster in the story. The best monsters are always those who reveal that as bad as they are, they aren’t as bad as a character we trust and they are even better if they reveal the monster we see when we look in the mirror.

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