Horror Discussion: Should you Show the Monster?

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A heavy discussion point in the horror genre is whether or not to show the monster. I know many people say it’s better not to see it, but I personally disagree. Granted, a badly-made monster is better left unseen, but that would be something I’d count as a major flaw in your story. If your monster is so badly designed that you don’t want to show it, that’s on you.

However, there is merit not seeing the monster flat out all the time, or even ever all at once. Glimpses of the monster are excellent, as are hints of its power. I don’t like being led on, however. If a monster is causing a massive amount of havoc and panic, then I don’t want to get to the end and see: ‘it was terrible beyond comprehension’ or ‘as big as a store’. I’ve read some really bad online stories that do that, and it’s super frustrating. The story can be excellent all the way up to a horrible ending, where there’s no satisfaction, and that will ruin your entire story.

I know many horror fans will disagree with me, but it works wonderfully, again, with well-made monsters. You don’t have to jump scare to make it effective. I present to you one of my favorite horror scenes of all time:

We clearly see the monster here, and his design utterly terrifying to me. I love it. The way he slowly comes to form, then lunges for the kid faster and faster works incredibly well. We don’t see the entire Crooked Man easily here, but we see enough. Another scene comes up that shows him, however (WARNING this one IS a jump scare.)

We very briefly see the Crooked Man’s entire face, but that’s all we need. By ‘We should see the monster’, I don’t mean constantly or right away. We get the point that this monster is incredibly aggressive (I still think he should get his own movie). We see his design and how crooked (hah!) he is. Monster design is something I adore, so if you’re not going to show me your monster, forget it.

In writing, describe to me your monster in as much detail as possible. I want to be able to see it in my head, and I’m sure there’s other horror fans like me. You have the benefit of short glimpses when you describe only parts or actions, which you can do, but don’t let the reader down in the climax. You can appeal to readers like me when describing your monster in detail.

Don’t give me a serving of ‘too HORRIFYING TO EVEN IMAGINE’ because to me, that will always be lazy writing, regardless of how much that excuse is used. I don’t want to hear anything ‘beyond my comprehension’. I can comprehend it if you know how to describe it to me!

The monster can technically be invisible via paranormal activity, but again, that’s tough to do and going to lose my attention fast unless you can pull it off well. Folks can do it in an ‘okay’ fashion with ghost videos and the like, but that’s overdone and seeing glimpses of the spirit or a silhouette is better than nothing. For example, a ghost can throw tons of cups all they’d like, but I’m going to need to see a decayed face or something for it to really drive the horror home.

Hopefully this gave you a different perspective from a horror fan who’s tired of hearing the ‘stop showing the monster’ nonsense.

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