My Favorite Monsters by Nevada McPherson
Let’s welcome back monthly columnist Nevada McPherson as she shares with us “My Favorite Monsters.” Enjoy!
Halloween is on its way; time to get out Boney, our life-size skeleton decoration. He’s been around for several years now. His skull fell off his neck, but we repaired him and now he’s sitting in a fold-out chair on our porch, waving at passers-by, his skeleton hand high in the air. He’s not all that scary, really. Actually he looks kind of friendly. Having Boney on display is just of one of my favorite things about this season. Another is seeing all my favorite horror movies again, more than once this month, if I’m lucky.
I’m not the biggest horror movie fan as a general rule, but I do love the classics: Universal’s Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, and The Mummy. There are others I like from time to time, but these are my absolute favorites. There’s something timeless, and well, universal about them, and much that all writers can learn about great story-telling.
Of course with these films, there’s wonderful acting involved. Boris Karloff as the monster, product of Dr. Frankenstein’s hubris, inspires pity as well as fear. Bela Lugosi as Dracula is intense and mesmerizing. Lon Chaney, Jr. as Larry Talbot, aka the Wolfman, is a likeable fellow who has to face a tragic destiny, and Karloff again is Karis, the modern incarnation of the mummy who returns from the grave to claim his long, lost love, and breaks the rules to do it. Yes, romance figures prominently in all these classic monster movies.
There’s also gorgeous set design in these films, haunting and beautiful all at once. If you allow yourself to forget the pressures of the day, you can truly be transported to another world. From a plotting standpoint, these stories exemplify the rules all effective storytellers should follow, regardless of their genre: get in late, get out early. In other words, start a scene as late as possible: no preamble, no fooling around. Things revealed in conversation between characters will be important later on, so there’s no fat, just lean. When a scene has accomplished its purpose, it’s on to the next, moving the stories on at a fast clip. When the story is over, it’s over, “the end,” no post mortem, as it were. Of course, these monsters will return in sequels, but that will be another story.
I liked these movies well enough when I was a kid, but I love them now. I appreciate more about them and the things they represent in the culture, the world, and in ourselves. I understand better the monsters’ strengths and weaknesses and the strengths and weaknesses of those around them. I let myself be carried along by the events of the story and then all too soon the ride is over and I’m reading the closing credits. I aspire to tell stories as beguiling and memorable as these. That’s a very tall order but I can watch and learn, over and over, one Halloween season after another, until I get it right.
Until next time, happy writing and Happy Halloween, from Boney and me to you!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nevada McPherson McPherson lives with her husband Bill and rescue Chihuahua, Mitzi in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she is an associate professor of Humanities at Georgia Military College. Nevada received a BA in English/ Creative Writing and an MFA in Screenwriting from Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge. She has written over a dozen feature-length screenplays, plays, short stories and the graphic novels, Uptowners and Piano Lessons. Queensgate, the sequel to Uptowners, is her third graphic novel. For more information, visit www.nevada-mcpherson.com.