Creating a Lovecraftian Creature

Whether you are writing horror, science fiction or even fantasy one of the tools that is sometimes underused are lovecraftian creatures. These can be left out because they are thought of as a purely horror monster or because writing about them breaks many of the basic rules that writers have been taught or simply because they are unusual. But with some effort creating a lovecraftian creature .


To start lets look at what a lovecraftian monster is, and isn't. A Lovecraftian monster is at its core something that is so alien to the human experience it can not be understood by humans. It may be from a different world, a different dimension, created by different gods or have no understandable origin. In my opinion what it doesn't have to be is huge, singular, powerful or even entirely central to your story. Though they can, and typically have been all of those things. Imagine a race of primitive creatures on an alien planet. They are so unlike anything on Earth that humans are on the planet for month before they even realize they are alive and even once they know they can't fine any common ground to interact. I would describe those as Lovecraftian, but they aren't horror monsters.


The primary problem with trying to write a Lovecraftian monster is that by definition they can no be understood. This does limit their place in a story in a few ways. First while you my not be technically breaking the rule that every villain is the hero of their own story, since you have no idea what that creature wants is it doesn't matter. You also generally can't ask what the motivation of the creature is, or even have it act directly against the protagonist. But there are a few ways to deal with this.


One of the first things you want to do is keep the Lovecraftian creature at a distance from the reader. This is useful for most monsters or anything you want to keep strange, but far more important for the Lovecraftian monster. You can understand Dracula and still find him scary, he is scary in part because you understand him. But the moment you understand a Lovecraftian monster they are no longer Lovecratian. There are a few tricks used for this. One of the ones Lovecraft himself used was making contact indirect. That is to say that rather than seeing the creature directly the hero reads about him, or the entire story is told second or even third hand.


Once you do come in contact you will need some description of the creature, but a straightforward description is going to be lacking. Lovecraft often used words like unspeakable, unimaginable to make it clear the description isn't possible. Another way to do this is what I call vague specificity. That is, to describe something specific about the creature which gives the reader something that informs the whole while leaving most of it unexplained. One of my favorite examples is "its eyes had teeth." I'm honestly not sure what that means or how it would be of any use to anything, but it paints a picture of far more than the eye and it's creepy.


Another way to explore how difficult it is to convey information about the creature is to use contradictions. If you describe the creature using two terms together that contradict each other it can create something that doesn't fit quite right in the mind. Something that is both dry and slimy, or large and small. The idea is that it simply doesn't fit the normal way that humans think of things. This is also important for the way that the creature thinks. Something that seems intelligent but yet clearly doesn't understand something obvious to humans can be both strange and even scary depending on what it is.


The final and perhaps the most important key to writing a lovecraftian monster is the reaction of those who see it. In a Lovecraft story a common reaction is often fainting, but it can be fear, revulsion or something else entirely depending on the creature. What matters is that there is a strong reaction. Of course that reaction will mean more if you are able to build up your character first. A hardened soldier who has fought battles across half the world who runs away in panic at the first glimpse of your monster will have more impact than some random person doing the same. If that effect is permanent or at least long term that will help.


Another way to show the effect it has on humans is to give it some type of human followers. In Lovecraft the monsters often have a cult that is either trying to awaken it or worship it in some other way. This serves two purposes. First it shows the range of reactions to the creature. Some people break and run away while others break and worship it. But perhaps more importantly it gives your protagonist something to fight. Stopping a cult like group from waking the monster or even just sacrificing themselves to it will let him interact indirectly with the abomination.


One of the things that makes a lovecraftian creature so interesting is that it doesn't fit into normal conventions and exist at least in part outside of the typical story telling which includes far more territory than that limited by human understanding. But it will still take some time and practice because more than almost any creature the lovecraftian creature has to be a collaboration between writer and reader, but using the readers imagination to write the story is one of the more advanced skilled in writing.