Behind-the-scenes: or, How the Stick Monster got into my Brain

You have no idea how much effort that picture took.

Maybe this is a bit self-indulgent* and/or self-devouring, but I wanted to do a little post on the creation of my first #TheObjects short story, ‘A Short Presentation on the Anatomy of the Stick Monster‘ (hereafter just ‘Stick monster’). I thought it might be fun to throw a little light on the creative process (#pretentious), or even just to give a bit of background on how the story came about. In any case, if you find this sort of navel-gazing really annoying, let me know in the comments and I’ll maybe cut it out in future. Or just ignore you and continue indulging myself. One of the two.

I found the stick while walking my dog, Pablo – and, if he’d had his way, I would’ve then thrown it for him to destroy. (This almost happened after I’d brought it back – my girlfriend saw it on the bookshelf and thought it was a toy I’d brought back specifically for Pablo to chew on, so she threw it on the floor for him. I squealed and scooped it up before he could get his teeth round it). I’m not sure what species of tree it comes from – I want to say Hawthorn, but that’s just because I like the name so much. (If anyone can identify what plant it hails from, please, let me know). The knobbliness of it immediately made me think of the vertebrae on a spine or insect – with that core image in mind, the rest of the ideas (eg the burrowing motion, the legs that jettison themselves, the tail-flower for attracting prey) flowed from the stick itself. The crude snap at the ‘neck’ was a bit of a gift in terms of theorising how it came to be on the ground – if it had fallen from a tree naturally, I probably wouldn’t have come up with something as entertaining (to me anyway) as decapitation-by-squirrel.

I wanted to write something properly gruesome with a real element of body horror to it – there’s a lot of Cronenberg in ‘Stick monster’ (especially with the initial academic tone), not to mention a liberal heap of Roald Dahl, though I maybe made it a bit too graphic for kiddie audiences (not something Dahl himself ever worried about, admittedly). Nonetheless, I’ll probably use the stick (which I still own – no joy to Pablo) as a visual aide when telling a slightly sanitised version of the story to my nieces and nephews.

As ever with #TheObjects, I’m happy to receive submissions – if you find something on the street you think is begging for a story, or you have an object of your own you’d like immortalised in fiction, send me a pic of it ( and I’ll see what I can do. This’ll become more apparent as I go on, but I’m not purely a horror writer, so don’t worry about me transforming your wedding ring into some Lovecraftian finger-devourer (although now I’ve mentioned it…)

*Hi. It’s a blog.


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