Cover Photo: This is an illustration in blue and pink watercolor of a person under a blanket shining a flashlight on a book. In their eyeglasses are the reflections of ghosts. It is a dark image.
Illustration by Eliza Harris

Invite the Vampires Inside (and Other Rules for Genre Writing)

In defining your monster, you’re also building your world. By saying what the big, spooky creature can and can’t do, you’re eliminating convenient and easy plot mechanics your protagonist will inevitably exploit.

The Ring


R. L. Stinethat



  1. anything

  2. isnownow

  3. Se7en

  1. NOS4A2to him

So what the hell am I talking about? I’m saying that rules for monsters are more than that. They’re limitations for your plot, restrictions for your protagonist, and when you sit down as a writer they’re forcing you to focus. What nobody will tell you is that genre writing requires discipline. Whether it’s a pulpy crime thriller, a romance, a clown with a chainsaw, or a swords-and-sorcery epic, there are certain indulgences that a genre writer has to deny themselves in order to follow the rules. This isn’t a pro or con; it’s just the nature of the game. Vampires have to get invited in. Now it’s your job to build the house.

Alex Gonzalez is the author of Land Shark and the co-creator of horror zine You Are Not Alone. He's been published by Death's Head Press and People Holding. He's also a WGA screenwriter with representation, and his fiction is represented by FinePrint Lit. He is currently working on his second novel.