Storytelling: Creating a Monster
Monster is a word that is often left for the goliaths and the behemoths; a word that can incite fear in even the bravest of soul. But, whether or not you believe in monsters, in storytelling, a monster can be more than just a beast. It can be something very human indeed – and in fact, in this article, I’m going to look at a fantastic story being told in the realm of professional wrestling right now: Braun Strowman. Yes, there will be talk of wrestling, but we’ll focus this article on the storytelling aspect behind it. Trust me – There’s a lot we can learn here.
First and foremost, let’s get this bit out of the way with – Pro Wrestling, or WWE, NJPW, TNA etc, they’re all a form of entertainment, no different to your Game of Thrones or anime of choice. Indeed, it’s all a bit silly and surreal – and that’s what it’s supposed to be! It’s supposed to be crazy and unbelievable – It feeds into everything you’d want from a story: convoluted storylines, ridiculous characters and really cool theme songs. Okay, that last one might not be that important.
When Braun Strowman first hit the scene, I remember having a chat with my fellow wrestling friends. They were all unanimous that he was rubbish; he shouldn’t have been called to the main roster, he shouldn’t be there. He wasn’t a good big man – He was just really, really big. And that is what I enjoyed about him immediately. I knew he didn’t have much experience behind him, but I knew he had at least enough to make his job look brutal. He was a good big man (but not spectacular, yet).
We had a taste that the man was strong, but we didn’t know how strong. Any quick Google search would have told you that he was a former strongman, which automatically makes you want to see some freakishly strong feats. Heck, the last proper strongman who wrestled for WWE was arguably Mark Henry, who was known for doing segments where he’s pulling trucks along with just his raw strength.
Enter 2016, the year that the man became the Monster Among Men. We should note that to begin with, Braun was given weak foes to beat up, including the now infamous James Ellsworth (He’s a whole other bag of worms). Step one creating a monster and to getting rid of the stigma Braun started off with, was to make him look strong – and what better way than to let him have a nice undefeated streak for some time? This is especially true in fantasy – A monster can only be a monster if it’s booked (or written) like a monster.
Braun was given win after win after win, a sign that management was high on him. Now, from a storytelling narrative, if we ignore the backstage shenanigans of pro wrestling, it showed that Braun was nothing more than an absolute monster. He was a being who shouldn’t be trifled with. He was big, he was bad, he was freakishly strong – and then he met Roman Reigns – A man who kicks butt, often with ease (for the sake of storytelling). He looks bad, he strikes hard, he’s quick – He’s a real predator.
So what did Braun do with his opportunities against Roman Reigns? He beat him up. A lot. He ragdolled the man. He made Roman Reigns look mortal again – A feat that many wrestling fans didn’t think was possible – and the two put on incredible matches. This is step two for creating a monster: Have the good guy tumble and fall. We won’t dislike the good guy for it, but rather we may feel an ounce of sympathy for them (although many in this case did dislike Roman Reigns, but again, let’s ignore the politics of the industry).
Braun was made to look like even more of a monster when they decided to showcase his freaky strength. Using some very clever camera and machine work, the Monster Among Men laid Roman Reigns out, had him put on a stretcher, beat him up some more before he was put in an ambulance. And then what did Strowman do? The one thing every good monster should do – He tipped that ambulance over. Step three to creating a monster: A herculean show of strength.
The infamous beating of Roman Reigns, followed by the ambulance tipping scene. Seriously, watch this. It’s surreal (as it’s supposed to be). No, we all know, Strowman didn’t actually tip the ambulance. Stop it. It’s real to me, damn it!
In 2017, we saw Braun get bigger and badder throughout the year. However, it was momentarily stifled when he suffered a weird loss in a title match to Brock Lesnar, which really put a dampener on the monster story. Now in 2018, we’ve been given the Braun Strowman we’ve been enjoying all along. The Monster Among Men, the huge brute who could and would do anything he wanted. This should be Braun’s time and hopefully WWE recognise this and reward the man with a championship at the Royal Rumble (as unlikely as it is).
Step four to creating a monster: Give it a legacy. Give it something which makes people want to come after the monster. Don’t make the monster just flounder and appear randomly, tipping ambulances and telling people it’s not finished with them. No, instead you need to make the monster not only a believable threat, but you need to make it into a threat that has something the heroes need.
Whilst your story may not feature ambulance tipping, it may feature dragons. Whilst your story may not have championships, it may have treasures. Whilst your story may not feature a really big dog, it may have a Cerberus. Whatever your story, if you want to build up a monster, check out the story of Braun Strowman – This man is a showcase for how to create a monster. Now, if you’ve ever built a monster in a story, let us know – How did you do it? What makes your monster so special? Let us know more – (and share a link with us, if you can) – in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.