Sleep well, Click-Clacks and Rattlebags!
Best not look under there. No, no, it’s nothing to be afraid of, really. But I still don’t think you should look, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
Under the Monster’s Bed
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
You’ve heard of monsters under the bed—the fears we harbor as children of the closet, of the dark, and of hands set to wrap around our ankles. But what hides under the monster’s bed?
The first place my mind goes to is a switch—a monster calling their parents into the room because they’re scared a human child is under their bed. Like in Monster’s Inc., how the monsters are scared of Boo, the little girl. There are many different fun switcharoos/opposites you could use with this: an angel hiding under a demon’s bed, a knight or princess hiding in a dragon’s hoard, a vampire hunter hiding in a vampire’s coffin, a rooster under a basilisk nest. There are lots of hilarious stories you could write of heroes hiding under the villain’s bed. Such as an adventuring party reaching the villain’s lair, but the only place to hide is under the villain’s bed, so they’re all crowded under there…all the while the villain plays ponies on the bed, or cries themselves to sleep. I think lots of fun stories could be created by thinking of something you’d usually consider a monster, and then reversing the roles—putting the “good” character in the monster’s usual hiding spot.
Part of what makes the image of “the monster under the bed” so scary (and so common) is that it’s the image of danger in your safe place. But let’s have fun switching the roles around this week—what’s safe to a monster? What leaves the monsters vulnerable and scared?
What’s hiding under the monster’s bed doesn’t necessarily have to be something good. What leaves a monster vulnerable and scared could easily be more monsters. You could play with the idea of “there’s always a bigger fish.” A child might be scared of a monster…but it stands to reason what haunts that monster would be that much scarier. It could be a cycle: a monster haunts the human child, a monster haunts the monster child, and it’s monsters all the way down. You could do silly things with this too—perhaps a zombie is buried under a vampire’s coffin, or two monsters get their schedules jumbled, and end up haunting each other.
What hides under a monster’s bed could also make the monster…less monstrous. Perhaps hiding under a monster’s bed is a box of mementos from better times. Maybe they keep the letters from their lost love, or the photographs from their past friendships. You could even go very symbolic with this—maybe what hides “under the monster’s bed” is rather the good person just beneath their villainous surface, which is brought out during the story. How does our hero get “under their bed”? How can they pull the “box of memories” to the surface?
You could do other domestic, gentle things with it too. Maybe you want to write about a cute little “monster” and the toys hidden under their bed. Or the strange, alien pet hiding there during a thunderstorm. What’s hidden under the monster’s bed doesn’t have to be living, or evil. It could just as easily be smelly socks, lint, dust bunnies, old coins, and toys.
You could play with different types of beds, like waterbeds, air mattresses, or hammocks. Maybe fish swim in the arrogant billionaire’s fancy waterbed, or a snake curls up beneath the hammock of the teen who refused to help set up camp.
It doesn’t even have to be a traditional bed either! Many things are said to have beds; maybe your monster has a flower bed, with skeletons, or else harmless trinkets, hidden inside. Or perhaps you want to write about a river or sea monster, and what’s hidden beneath the river or seabed. Even layers of rocks can be beds—“a bed of clay.” Perhaps an entire civilization is the “monster,” built on the fossils of the previous one. Or a foundation could be a bed—“a bed of concrete.” Maybe a murderer hides the evidence in wet concrete. Even layered foods can have beds—“a bed of spinach.” Maybe your character is a petulant child, who wants the chocolate beneath the bed of “monstrous” raisins in the trail mix.
You can take it further than that. You don’t have to use something called a bed either. It can just be a place of rest. Maybe someone, who just destroyed a bar in a drunken rage, collapses on the couch, finding old coins in the cracks. Perhaps you want to write about a homeless kid who is treated as a monster by society, and in their bed of straw are their only possessions. A troll might find rocks very comfortable to sleep on (or you could use the river bed idea with a bridge troll too). Perhaps a spider (considered a monster by many) lives under someone’s hat, so what’s under their bed is simply…a person. Maybe a mother reptile, or bird, or even a dinosaur, finds something hiding under her eggs.
Because that’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be a bed with four posts and a mattress…and it doesn’t have to be a fantastical monster either. People can become monsters more easily than most of us care to admit. Perhaps one spouse is having an affair, and the way they ruined the relationship makes them a monster, and the person they’re having the affair with hides under the bed. People will sometimes hide their diaries under the bed (or at least under the pillow). What could make a little girl doodling in her diary a monster? Perhaps she bullies the other kids at school, and the evidence is written in her diary. Maybe you want to write about a traditional situation where a monster hides under a child’s bed…only to slowly show us that the child is the real monster, and the “monster” is more of a guardian angel.
Let’s take the symbolism even further. There’s a saying “You’ve made your bed. Now you have to lie in it.” Generally, this doesn’t refer to a literal bed. This is usually said to someone complaining about their lot in life, meaning “You’ve made many poor choices that led you to this place in life. Now you’re facing the consequences.” As long as you make the bed connection clear, I think this could be a fascinating take on the prompt. Perhaps a villain, or cooperation creates an evil empire, and the rebellion arising against their cruel regime is what’s hiding under their “bed.” Perhaps you want to write about how your villain’s evil actions come back to bite them in another way—it could even be something as simple as them creating a structurally unsound, but impressive, castle that comes crashing down.
Initially my challenge for this week was going to be “don’t make it an actual bed” and/or “make all the characters human.” If you prefer either (or both) of those, feel free to still use them! You could even add another layer of difficulty where each challenge excludes the other—either write about only human characters, or only non-human characters; either write about a literal bed, or a non-literal bed, but not both.
However, the more I write about the potential literal takes, the more hilarious they seem, and the more I’d love to see you write about them. So I thought I’d try a new angle.
This prompt is, in some ways, “What makes a monster less scary?” Because, if you know what’s hiding under the monster’s bed, then presumably that makes them less scary to you. Even if you’re still just as scared, maybe you at least have a better understanding of the monster.
So my challenge is…that. Think about what would make a monster less scary. What fears does the monster have to deal with? This could be a reason to sympathize with the monster—like the bigger fish, or box of memento ideas, or just finding a gentle, happy side to the monster after seeing the toys under its bed. But you could also take it even deeper, and think of the monster under your bed. This could be what you were scared of as a kid, or something you’re scared of today. Think of something that genuinely scared/scares you…and give it a monster under its bed. Sort as a therapy for yourself—making the nightmares you’ve truly faced less big.
Remember, these challenges aren’t mandatory! They are meant to be a fun bonus if you’d like to have a little extra challenge. But, if you don’t want to use them, please don’t feel obligated to!
Oh no. Well…I did tell you not to look.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least five stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
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- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
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