Q&A

How Do I Create a Monster School?

questions and answer talk bubbles

Hello. I’m currently working on a newish story idea that I only recently figured out the plot for, which has made me realize that I ought to work on setting more. The story involves another “magic school”-esque setting, but different in that it’s a school for monsters and monstrous beings. I read your guide to writing a magic school, and I found it interesting and relatively useful, but the heavy focus on magic and performing and learning magic isn’t relevant to my setting. I have searched for “writing a monster school” articles and books, but I’m afraid none seem to exist.

So my question is this: what would be some advice for writing a book with that setting? I’m afraid I have no way of making that question any more specific; I would very much appreciate any advice that you have to offer, no matter if it’s in-depth or not.

-Victorine

Hey Victorine, thanks for writing in!

I suspect the reason you’re having trouble finding articles about monster schools specifically is that the requirements will change a lot based on what kind of monsters you’re planning to include. There are many different types of magic systems, but most have a few things in common, whereas the number of monster types out there is nearly infinite. It also probably helps that there’s a hugely popular novel and film series about a magic school, but I digress.

Assuming you’re planning on a relatively standard lineup of beasties like werewolves, vampires, ghosts, etc., a monster school actually has a major advantage over a magic school: the novelty can come from the characters themselves. In a magic school story, the main attraction is watching kids learn magic. This necessitates a really robust magic system since it has to produce new content for every class. No one wants to read about mage kids learning algebra unless it’s magic algebra.

But with a monster school, the monsters are novel all on their own. A vampire taking history? Oh yeah, sign me up. A werewolf in health class? I am excited for the awkward questions that will create. Monsters are just super cool, and putting them in a school environment creates excellent contrast. Plus, then you can use a lot of school related tropes that so many people connect with. For an excellent example, I recommend the show Teen Wolf. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’ll give you an idea of how monsters in high school can work.

If you’re digging a little deeper, you could think about what special classes monsters would take or what accommodations they would need. Is there a special set of classes for catching ancient vampires up on modern culture? Do ghost students need note takers since their hands go through the paper, or do they have special ecto-laptops? Do werewolves get mandatory counseling sessions to help them handle the effects of the full moon?

Beyond that, you’ll mostly want to consider the standard list of storytelling and worldbuilding best practices. What abilities the monsters have will affect both your story and how the school works. If vampires can read minds, for example, there will probably be safeguards against that to prevent cheating. You’ll also want to consider how balanced the monsters’ powers are compared to each other’s, the same way you would for superpowers. If werewolves turn into invincible killing machines at will, but banshees can only scream a little louder than normal, that might be a problem.

Then there’s the larger world to consider. If this setting has a masquerade, you’ll need to consider how the monsters stay hidden. If it doesn’t, you’ll want to think about how the various types of monsters fit into society. Is anyone even afraid of death if they know they can come back as a ghost and keep taking classes?

Finally, it’s good to consider which school tropes you want to use. They often have broad appeal, but some of them can actually hurt your story. We’ve all seen stories where the attractive main character is bullied for no reason, but that’s not how bullying actually works, and it can be harmful to pretend otherwise. Similarly, a lot of high school romances depend on sexist tropes like a boy needing to wear down a girl’s resistance, or even just that it’s weird and wrong for girls to ask boys out.

Whatever you decide to do, I think there’s a lot of potential in your monster school idea, and I wish you good luck with writing it!

Do you have a question you’d like answered by Oren or Chris? Submit it here. Q&As are only made public if you give your permission and we decide to feature it. If you’d like more than an answer to a general question, you can hire us to look over your story.

 

Comments

  1. Cay Reet

    I’m first going to address the ghoulish elephant in the room, which Oren didn’t mention: Monster High. I know, the series has only be created to sell the dolls and, yes, it’s a kids’ show, so the plots are hardly very twisty and complicated, but it does well with the school setting and with bringing various monsters together. Since they put in new characters for every new movie, too, the amount of different monsters grows steadily and gives more to look at as well. Masquerade seems to be very low in Monster High – the monsters and humans don’t mix, but the monsters also don’t seem to need to hide what or who they are.

    Apart from that, as Oren mentioned superpowers as well (and I agree, that’s also an interesting setting), the movie “Sky High” (with Lynda “Wonder Woman” Carter as headmistress) has a superhero school as its setting and does well with the usual chemistry between the students.

    What I also find interesting about a monster school setting, is how to handle feuds between different types of monsters (vampires vs. werewolves is a regular mainstay in horror, so how would a school setting handle having both?) or different monster needs. Would gorgons be allowed at the school (because of the whole ‘turning people to stone’ thing, which also would work on monsters)? Would zombie students need to clean up behind themselves? Would there be specific classes (such as haunting 101 for ghosts)? What about electives? What kinds of teachers would teach at the school and which classes (HP did well with a ghost teaching history, of course)? How would students get to school each morning (or is it a boarding school)? Would there be school uniforms and how would those handle the different bodies of different monsters? Is the school open to aquatic beings like mermaids or sea monsters? Many, many questions to ask, but surely a very interesting setting.

  2. Sam Victors

    I created my own magic school, called a Scholomance (based a Romanian legend).

    These Magic Schools are divided into three magical practices; white magic, grey magic, and black magic.

    White Magic Schools teach holy magic, or at least benevolent magic that is dedicated to virtue, benevolence, and altruism. Magic ingredients consist of solely plants, herbs, seeds, and roots.

    Grey Magic Schools is dedicated to grey witches (the common or average witch, a civilian if you will). Magic ingredients consist of both plant and ‘clean’ anatomy parts (nails, feathers, teeth, mucus, phlegm).

    Black Magic Schools are dedicated to black witches, the criminals and malefactors of the witch community. Their ingredients consist of narcotics, poisons, and ‘unclean’ anatomy parts (body parts like fingers or tongues, blood, bones, graveyard dirt, afterbirth, skins).

  3. Tifa

    This is a really interesting question. It’s given me a lot to think about, too, for sure.

  4. Matt

    I’d love to hear more details about your worldbuilding. What kinds of classes you have, what kinds of monsters, what interesting characters you have… Please tell me more.

  5. Yog-Sothoth

    If you are open to some not too distant Anime titles that involve monsters and High school settings you can look at “Rosario to Vampire” about a normal boy who gets mistakenly sent to a high school for Western and Asian monsters in the monster realm and has to hide it so these dangerous monsters don’t kill and eat a weak and vulnerable human.

    Another, “Is This a Zombie,” about a boy who lives with a necromancer, is a zombie and accidentally becomes a magical girl, goes to high school with normal humans, and clan of vampire ninjas also show up, shenanigans ensue. This is a normal high school but non-normals show up there.

    “Interview with a monster girl” is about integrating monster species into a human high school with a protected status with a government program. Follows the teacher who coordinates the program for these girls to help them fit in and deal with their unique quirks based on species.

    Lastly, “A Centaur’s Life” is a great example. It is about a cute female centaur and her high school friends in an alternate earth where demi-humans (centaurs, angel like beings, a snake race, mermaids, some human animal races too) populate the world and it deals with racism using these fictional races and tweaking our world history to fit their setting.

    Sorry if you are dead set against anime, but these are some things that really fit if you are not aware of them.

  6. Kalani

    Wow! What a cool idea. This gives me an idea…

    • Cay Reet

      Yeah, it’s a cool and interesting setting. Magic schools have been around for a while and there’s quite some to choose from, but monster schools aren’t that common.

Leave a Comment

By submitting a comment, you confirm that you have read and agree to our comments policy (updated 9/3/18). We send comment data to outside parties for spam filtering and other services. See our privacy policy for details.

Follow Us

Facebooktwitterpinterestrsstumblr

Get Our Email Newsletter

We'll send our best work every month.