The Duality of Nature (The Monster of Selkirk #1)
by C.E. Clayton
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: April 2017
Monsters come in many forms, and not everyone knows a monster when they see one. After three hundred years of monstrous, feral elves plaguing the island nation of Selkirk, everyone believes they know what a monster is. Humans have learned to live with their savage neighbors, enacting a Clearing every four years to push the elves back from their borders. The system has worked for centuries, until after one such purge, a babe was found in the forest.
As Tallis grows, she discovers she isn’t like everyone else. There is something a little different that makes people leery in her presence, and she only ever makes a handful of friends.
But when the elves gather their forces and emerge from the forests literally hissing Tallis’s name like a battle mantra, making friends is the least of her troubles. Tallis and her companions find themselves on an unwilling journey to not only clear her name, but to stop the elves from ravaging her homeland.
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Monster lore. The layers to monster creation.
Greetings everyone! I’m Chelscey (also known as C.E. Clayton), the author of “The Monster of Selkirk” series and I’m going to tell you a bit about my monster lore and some tips to crafting awesome, and well-rounded monsters. But first, let me tell you a bit about the monsters I’ve created.
In the land of Selkirk, the human denizens are tormented by feral elves. These elves are nothing like what you may be familiar with from things like Lord of the Rings—at least, not in their current form—as they are not regal or good, heck, they don’t even speak a language anyone can understand anymore! Instead they click at each other like insects, grow their nails out to talon-like length, file their teeth into razor sharp points, and have sickly, glowing yellow eyes. These are elves who like to kidnap children and eat the flesh of any human they catch roaming the forest. They are, in a word, monstrous. They weren’t always that way, however. They used to be more like the traditional elves we’re all used to—forest dwellers who worship tree deities with exceptionally long lives and agility, which made them fierce on the field of battle. They were beautiful and noble, but as the humans took more of their land they grew desperate for a way to stop them and save their trees. They sought help, but the help they received didn’t go as planned, and instead turned them into the beasts that have plagued the humans for three hundred years by the time the first book in the series starts.
So why did I pick elves to be my books’ initial monsters? And how did I decide what attributes to give them in order to make them beastly? First, I needed to research writing monsters in general to figure out what purpose my feral elves needed to fulfill. For instance, in things like the Walking Dead, the “monsters” (the zombies) are more of an obstacle. Sure they are gross and can be scary when they are in a herd, but they aren’t smart and the humans know how to deal with them. But using them as an obstacle means that it forces others to do evil things in order to survive. It makes for more complex villains as they can use these obstacles to their benefit against those they plan to victimize. Similar to Frankenstein’s monster. The creature wasn’t necessarily the bad guy, but using fear of this “other” creature allowed Shelley to show who the true monsters were. Sure, there are more traditional monsters, smart and menacing who prey on the innocent like Stephen King’s “Cujo” or the original “Dracula” which work because it forces your stories heroes to outsmart them and find ways to destroy the thing trying to kill them first. But ultimately, what all monsters have in common that makes them different from a traditional villain is that these creatures are scary.
Villains can be scary too, but what makes a monster is more of that primal fear they illicit in your characters. So, when crafting your monster, think first of what would be scary for characters to interact with, what fears do your characters have that this monster can play off of or you can embody in them? Is your monster meant to be an obstacle that your other bad guys use or that stands in the way of your main characters goals? Yes, your monster can be the villain obviously, but it’s important to decide if your bad guy is going to embody something truly frightening, or if they are going to be everything your hero is not and therefore oppose the goals your main character sets out to accomplish.
Once you decide if you have a monster or a traditional bad guy, and you’ve figured out if they are going to be the focal point for your character or just an obstacle, you can start having a lot of fun with the creation. Some questions to ask and answer as you start are: what does my monster look like? Where do they come from? What makes them scary? What are their powers or abilities? Their weaknesses? Are they brand new creatures or based on an archetype? How does this monster fit into my story/what goal does the monster have? These are just some of the questions you should think about when you create your monster, but a great resource I used and recommend when it comes to crafting monsters for any type of story—monsters don’t have to dwell only in horror—is “Writing Monsters” by Philip Athans. This guide was instrumental when I decided that my feral elves were going to be the monsters that served as both a metaphor, were sources of pity, brought the worst out in people, were an obstacle, and were legitimately terrifying—both for my characters and the readers.
There can be dozens of layers when you craft a truly remarkable monster that will stand out in your readers mind, and also pose all kinds of terrifying obstacles for your characters to deal with. Monsters can be as rich as your main characters themselves, which leads to a more robust world, and a creature that is both well rounded, and believable even if they are completely made up. Monsters can be your villains, but they can also be so much more than that if you want them to be!
About the Author
E. Clayton was born and raised in the greater Los Angeles area, where she attended the University of Southern California for both her Bachelors and Masters, and then worked in the advertising industry for several years on accounts ranging from fast food, to cars, and video games (her personal favorite). After going the traditional career route and becoming restless, she went back to her first love—writing—and hasn’t stopped. She is now the author of “The Monster of Selkirk” series and her horror short stories have appeared in anthologies across the country. When she’s not writing you can find her treating her fur-babies like humans, constantly drinking tea, and trying to convince her husband to go to more concerts. And reading. She does read quite a bit. More about C.E. Clayton, including her blog, book reviews, and poetry, can be found on her website. She’d also be thrilled if you followed her on Instagram and liked her bookish and pet photos, and Amazon where you can get updates on her new releases. And there’s always Facebook, if that’s your thing.
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