Before I can begin thinking about plot or characters, I need a premise. Genre, for the most part, will always be Fantasy for me. The premise, however, will bend that toward Sci-Fi, Urban or even Horror. So, what’s our premise?
It can be a person, a cool character I base the story around. What makes this person so cool? How does this impact the world? How can I make a story around it? What sort of characters will this person attract as friends or enemies?
It can be a place, something unusual and worth reading about. Is this place like earth but with a twist? Are the laws of physics different? How much of everyday life is affected by the something?
It can be an object, something that needs to be protected or destroyed, discovered or hidden away, stolen or secured. What makes this object so special? What would happen if it fell into the wrong hands? Could it be used for good in the right hands? Should it be used, ever?
It can be an event, something that changes the course of all future events. What exactly does it affect and to what extent? Is the landscape forever altered, or can it be returned to how it was? What about the individual people or society as a whole?
Aliens attack, and monsters defend the earth.
It’s a simple notion to start with, and I have no idea if it’s ever been done before. Not that it matters if it has. No idea is truly original in every aspect. I’ll be making this story my own.
There are quite a few things to think about from here, though. What are the aliens like? How advanced is their technology? Why are they attacking? How are they attacking? What will the world look like if they succeed?
Then there are the monsters. What sort of monsters, the typical ones from myth and lore or something completely new? If going with the established sort, are they different in any way? Are they helping defend the planet, themselves or their food supply (humans)? How prevalent or extensive is monster society? Can earth even win with their help? What are they truly capable of? What was their relationship with humans before the attack? What’s it like now?
While the genre will be Fantasy, I’m leaning towards strong tones of Horror. Now, I’ve never written nor have I read much Horror before. I’ve played plenty of video games and seen numerous movies, so what I’m envisioning might not be what others expect. I’d like this aspect of the story to be truly horrific, something terrifying to think about.
This means, to me, that the aliens are not intelligent or logical in the same way that we imagine ourselves to be. Their way of thinking, acting and problem solving must be alien. I don’t want to try to create futuristic technology, nor do I see it as being particularly frightening. What I’m thinking of, instead, is a biological superiority, an otherworldly species driven to multiply and spread by any means. This would be the organic version of Gray Goo. For those who don’t know, Gray Goo is a technological plague of nanobots that convert all matter they contact into more nanobots, creating a planet wide ocean of grayish goo.
My aliens would not travel by ship, nor would they send mature specimens. I’m thinking of spores or some kind of genetic material capable of surviving in space, traveling within something similar to asteroids. The entire rock could be a biological mass of genetic material, with a carapace like outer structure that opens when certain conditions are met (impact, temperature). When what’s inside is set free, it seeks out life. It absorbs, subverts and transforms biological material into genetically coded beings. The aliens spread by altering existing life.
The aliens don’t have to be all one type of creature. There could be a number of variations, each with a specific purpose. Maybe some are better at surviving in different environments. Some could be driven to multiply, while others work to change the planet itself or immediately begin forming the structures needed to propel new biologic mass back into space.
What would these aliens look like? How do they move? Do their bodies favor strength or speed, survivability or efficiency? How exactly is other life transformed? What would that look and feel like? How do they think? Do they approach problems rationally, or are they driven by an unthinking instinct?
In my mind, the most horrifying type of personal invasion would be a slow and painful transformation. Knowing that something alive was inside, burrowing in deeper, causing irreparable damage, changing everything forever, would be far worse than a swift death. How would this affect other people and how they see those infected? Pity and hope for a cure or fear and the supposed mercy of a quick end?
Most importantly, what’s a successful scenario for the aliens? What would the ending look like if everything went their way? What’s the best way for them to reach this goal? What sort of roadblocks would hinder them, and how might they overcome each one? Is it possible for life to resist the transformation? What would that end result look like?
My first thought was to go with the classic vampires and werewolves, with maybe a campy or comical approach. Once I decided on horror, however, I changed my mind and decided on a more terrifying approach. The monsters I envision are just as horrible and foreign as the creatures from space.
I want to do more than just vampires and werewolves, though. I’m not worried about tropes. I know I can make a version that’s my own. But what else can I use that doesn’t involve reinventing the wheel? I thought about a banshee, which is actually a fairy, a member of the Aos Sí (people of the mound, sometimes called the Sidhe; pronounced Shee). I could make that work, even if I have to rely on my google-fu for information about celtic fairies. What else? Angels and demons? I could make that work. What about magic? Or mutants?
I don’t need to introduce all of these elements at once, but knowing ahead of time what I intend to include will help me plan out parts of the story. They’re like tools at my disposal that will help me fix problems in fun and exciting ways. My main focus, however, will start with a vampire and some werewolves. Which leads me to wonder at how to make them my own.
Will my vampirism and lycanthropy be a result of disease or a curse? Magic or biological? This will shape how they spread, how their society has formed and maintains itself to date. How do they feed and live day to day? Once I fully flesh out their origins, I can focus on how the aliens affect them.
If you’re interested in talking about any aspect of this project, feel free to leave a comment or drop by my Discord.