I bring grave tidings Ghosts, Ghouls, and Goblins!
Oh you poor, poor fool. You thought you could be the hero, didn’t you? Thought you’d go down in history? Well…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
The Monster of Your Stories
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!
Anyone who knows me well will know I adore this prompt. I love monsters, and the different legends and stories about them, and finding new ways to tell those stories. I’m excited to see what you guys come up with!
These words could be said in many different ways, in many different contexts. Or they might not be said at all, rather felt within the story, as the main character meets the monster they’ve heard so much about.
Let’s start there. Perhaps you want to write about the main character hearing about a monster, and going out to fight it. What do they find when they do? Do they find that it is everything they heard? Do they find it is far scarier than the stories? Did they scoff at the stories…only to learn it is everything they said it was? What does that cost them? Or is it the opposite? Did they blindly believe the stories, only to find it isn’t so evil as the stories said? You could easily do something like in How To Train Your Dragon, and have the main character realize that the monster is not everything they’ve been told.
What happens when the monster is human? Are they an innocent, painted in scarlet? The town pariah who really shouldn’t be treated so poorly? Or are they a true horror, worse than any beast in the dark? The “monster” in the form of a man might march towards the main character, full of power and intimidation, grinning as they ask “Am I everything the stories said?”
Of course, the “monster” could be something halfway between human and beast, like a werewolf, vampire, or zombie. Perhaps someone is cursed to be a monster of the stories. How do they cope with knowing they are becoming something out of a fantasy book? Or…what if they choose to be the monster from the stories? Like how, in The Case Study of Vanitas, one of the characters hears all the whispers of a beast, and realizes that there is no monster, but everyone’s hate is creating one. So he decides that he will become the monster from the stories in order to protect the person he loves. What happens when someone wants to be the monster everyone tells stories about? Does this make them a villain, or a sacrificial hero?
Some of my favorite stories, however, are about someone realizing, to their horror, they are the monster from the stories.
One of my favorite lines in all of media has to do with this. In Thor (2011), Loki learns that he is a Frost Giant, and is upset his parents never told him. Earlier in the movie we hear Odin tell a story to him and his brother as children about how terrible the Frost Giants are. During the argument with Odin, Loki tearfully says “because I-I’m the monster parents tell their children about at night?” It’s an incredibly powerful line that makes him very easy to sympathize with. It’s amazing to me that that single line was what might have been what initially made myself and other fans fall in love with him, even though he was meant to be a villain. This idea of a character not just learning they are the monster from the stories, but the stories they were afraid of themselves is an incredibly powerful one worth exploring.
I’ve been rewatching a beloved show of mine, and was reminded of one of my favorite uses of this idea. In the show the characters are looking for a werewolf. Throughout the episode we hear stories of the wolf, and see the massacres it creates. The main character later realizes, at a grave price, that she is the werewolf, and it is a horror for her to learn she is the monster from the stories. I love this idea of a character not knowing what they are, and seeing their reaction when they do.
The “stories” are a very intriguing aspect of this prompt, partially for this reason. Because stories can be told to the monster themselves, before they even know they are a monster. The monster can hear the rumors said about them, and choose to bask in them, or shrink from them, or else feed them. What qualifies as a “story” has near endless possibilities. Stories can be written, or told. And stories can easily skew information. The thing about this prompt is it gives you the opportunity to explore…just how true are the stories in the first place? And if they’re not accurate, what (or who) created the skew?
The song “Requiem” in Dear Evan Hansen comes to mind as another use of this prompt. Connor’s family are all mourning in different ways. Connor didn’t treat his sister Zoe too well, so at the climax of the song she sings: “I will sing no requiem / tonight / ‘Cause when the villains fall, the kingdoms never weep / no one lights a candle to remember / No, no one mourns at all / when they lay them down to sleep / So, don’t tell me that I didn’t have it right / Don’t tell me that it wasn’t black and white / After all you put my through / Don’t say it wasn’t true / That you were not the monster / That I knew” I find this notion to be an interesting use of the prompt, because it’s a “no one mourns the wicked” idea, but the “stories” in this use are the stories she told herself. She believed he was the villain, and at some point stopped seeing the good in her brother, and is now struggling to hear that he was in pain. What happens when the stories come from inside? When we tell ourselves that someone or something is a monster? In some ways, these are the most dangerous stories of all. Sometimes fear makes you start to believe there is a monster, and spin stories for yourself…when there is nothing there.
Even in our normal lives we have stories of monsters. Maybe someone tells the story of a person who hurt them…only for the one listening to the story to realize…they are that monster. Rumors surrounding a high schooler might make them out to be a monster, when they’re just trying their hardest to get by. A news story might speak of a criminal…when in reality they are innocent. In reality, people are layered. Someone who is a monster to you might be a hero to another. Perhaps you could explore this idea—not just how stories can be skewed, but how different stories paint the same person as different things.
My technical challenge for you is to write the story in second person. And/or to write it from the monster’s perspective. The prompt is “The Monster From Your Stories.” My challenge is to make the “you” the reader in some way or another. However, second person is notoriously difficult to write well. It is easy to incur resistance from the audience instead of sympathy. Perhaps you can use this to make your monster extra monstrous? Regardless, don’t underestimate how challenging this might be!
My content challenge for you this week is to write about a monster from stories you yourself have heard. This could be a monster from history—be it a notorious figure, or an urban legend. This could be a fantastical monster like Medusa or Grendel. This could even be your own fears, the stories you’ve told yourself. (Do take care, however, that you don’t break the fanfiction rule!)
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!
You’ve heard the stories, haven’t you, little hero? If you have, you know there’s no defeating me. Not today. Not ever.
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.
- No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
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
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- 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).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
- You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
- Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.