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Friday, September 2, 2016

Creating New Monsters by Seth Skorkowsky (guest post)

Creating New Monsters 
by Seth Skorkowsky

Writing about monsters is a lot of fun. I use many in my Valducan Series and for the most part they're classic creatures from folklore and myth with some personal twists. Other times, I make up something entirely new. I've been asked how I come up with unique creatures and the answer is usually a shrug.

It's difficult to explain how your brain comes up with a new beastie. It's usually organic. One idea leads to another, then you sprinkle on something cool you want it to do, and voila.  But that first moment of inspiration I can easily recall.

In Dämoren, I introduced a beast called a Tongue Terror (or Strutter, depending on which character you ask). I'm not entirely sure where it all came from, but the core of it is that I'm terrified of jellyfish. I wanted something with those god-awful jellyfish tendrils that I imagine every single time I'm in the ocean. I've had readers compare it to a Lovecraftian monster, and others assume it was based off of Sammael from Hellboy. Both are reasonable guesses. But no, it's a jellyfish.

I introduced Mistcats in Hounacier. They're these giant humanoid cats with fur made of flowing vapor. Where did that come from? I wanted it to look cool when my hero hits it with a warding spell and all the mist goes blowing off of it like a comet's tail. Why its feline and has glowing green eyes was all stuff that came later. The core is that I wanted blowing mist because it looks cool.

In Ibenus, instead of offering a wide array of familiar monsters, I focused almost exclusively on new ones. And unlike others that I've created, it wasn't a slow evolution with lots of pruning. It was all at once.

Several years back, I was running a Call of Cthulhu adventure. In it, the players encounter these giant bug monsters. The creatures themselves have zero description other than their stats. There is also a room that contains several young bug monsters. I'd been pondering what these things looked like and had decided they were pale, cricket-like things about the size of a bread loaf. As the characters opened the door to discover the horror within, I was struck with a crazy bolt of mad inspiration. The room was called "The Nursery," and I thought of crying babies.

They were pale, and bread loaf-sized, just as I'd originally imagined, but their faces looked exactly like porcelain baby dolls with black, dead eyes. Sharp mandibles extended from their little baby mouths and they began screaming like infants (I was able to add the sound effect during the game and I can do a pretty good baby's cry).  The players' reactions to this was perfect.

One player jumped to his feet in full-blown heeb-jeebs and shouted, "Christ, dude! That is messed up." (This, by the way, is the highest compliment a horror Game Master can receive.)

Egged on by this, I added some more baby sounds -giggles, squeals, coos. Eventually the players overcame them and the game continued on. Everyone was rightfully impressed with the creepiest monster they'd ever seen and I filed that away under, "Will Use Again."

When starting Ibenus, I knew that I wanted an army of creatures nesting in the Paris Catacombs. I contemplated a few options, but then imagined a child's innocent face emerging from the shadows. It was definitely time to pull those crying bugs back out.

Now those aren't the only horror I introduced in the Catacombs, but they're the root of those other monsters. Everything else was based around the Screamers (what the heroes call the baby-faces terrors swarming toward them), and the larger, deadlier monsters were designed to compliment my favorite new creature.

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About the Author

Seth Skorkowsky is a writer that gravitates to the darker sides of fantasy, preferring horror and pulp heroes over knights in shining armor.

He is the author of Dämoren and Hounacier, both titles in the Valducan series.

Seth has also released two sword-and-sorcery collections in the Black Raven series, Mountain of Daggers and Sea of Quills.

He lives in Flower Mound, Texas.

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About the Book

Ibenus (Valducan series)
by Seth Skorkowsky 

After surviving a demon attack, disgraced police detective Victoria Martin tracks down the Valducans in search for answers. Recognizing her potential, and despite the warnings of the other knights, Allan Havlock, protector of Ibenus, takes her in as his apprentice. As the Valducans travel to Paris to destroy a demon nest infesting the catacombs, the knights find themselves hunted by an Internet group intent on exposing them. Victoria, who belongs to this group, must desperately play both sides to not only protect herself, but Allan, whom she has begun to love. Ibenus, however, has other plans.

Ibenus is the third book in the Valducan series, for which Skorkowsky was shortlisted as "Best Debut Author" in the 2014 Reddit Stabby Awards.

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