One of the biggest issues when I got to Storm in the Canyon was how to make the monsters seem threatening and real-- or whether to make them seem threatening and real. I have to admit I had some reluctance in dealing with monsters, just as I had had the first time I wrote about such a being. You know the-- if I make them real, hope they don't notice me-- kind of reluctance.
When creating a monster (fictionally speaking) you have to decide-- my own creation or one someone else already described. There are many fictional monsters. I opted to have mine come from Native American mythology. Do a search and you will find some great sites online that go into all the monsters, witches, gods and ghosts in the Native American stories.
In any paranormal/fantasy, you decide the rules of your universe-- which may not fit into that from another writer's universe. I decided the spirit realm, which meant spirit guides, angels and demons had one level it could operate on. There were rules in place and spirits only risked breaking them at a high cost.
Demons could influence, tempt, provide energy, but they could not do more than that. That meant spirit guides were in the same boat. They could provide energy and give tips through the small still voices (except for those rare humans who could see and converse with them). They had access to the Akashic records and could travel where they would to get information. In the end though, their powers to fight earthly evil were limited.For good or ill, each hoped to reach humans through the inner voice, where they had mixed results.
When I needed names for demons, I looked for traditional names in various religions especially Christianity. The spirit guides, who had generally had human lives at one time, I named as I pleased.
Then came these Native American mythological monsters, which had supernatural powers but were physical beings with limitations on what they could do. There was no code of behavior for them other than their own. As with the humans, they could be killed although not as easily.
In the varying traditions, there are a lot of these monsters and gods, some of which you can discern from where their origin came out of nature and others clearly were imaginary. Besides doing a lot of research, I have been fortunate enough to hear some of these stories from storytellers.
One such storyteller, Lelooska, lived in Washington, had built a big longhouse where people could pay to come and watch the dances and the retelling of the stories by himself and his family, much as it might have been back in the times where it was often the center of a culture, a way to hold onto their history and identity as a people.
Lelooska was Native American but not from any of the Pacific Northwest tribes. Theirs were the stories he learned, received permission, and chose to use. He was very impressive as a figure with his robes and the masks they used which were carved from wood. The foundation and the stories live on though he has since died. Lelooska Foundation
Pacific Northwest masks are in many museums and impressive. To see them used by the storyteller, the dancers, the music, and with the night air beyond, a bonfire in the center of the longhouse, it created an unforgettable experience. The audience sat on benches and became much like at one time the people would have been.
Often Native American monsters served a purpose to frighten children into obeying. There is some of that in every religion-- at least on fundamentalist levels. The masks are impressive and scary. You see the same in petroglyphs where some of the characters are heroes or animals and some are clearly monster figures.
I had seen the following Columbia River petroglyph many times, even have a little rubber stamp of it but had no idea until I researched it that there are bird monsters and one is an owl. Now it might not be what this drawing depicts... or then again... Petroglyphs always leave you guessing. There are plenty of stories to excite the imagination if you get into reading the mythologies.
Humankind has always wanted to know why something happened, to find rhyme and reason to tragedy. Monsters can provide such a reason that doesn't relate to man making a mistake or something that can get us all but more something that is haphazard, and it is luck that might protect us from running into.
Sorting through all the Native American monsters was certainly interesting. There are many of diverse types. I ruled out water monsters as this story takes place in the country around Billings Montana. Yes, there are rivers but nothing that really suits the idea of a water dragon. I also didn't want any that went after children. That left cannibals, monster bears, ogres, fairylike beings, and even a werewolf type character who might've been impacted by French mythologies but still made a great monster.
There were many similar types spread across the continent where the names would change but the descriptions sounded the same. I narrowed it down to eight types for Storm in the Canyon. I even gave them some of their own scenes where they got a point of view. It allowed me to give them a purpose. The problem is their purpose is at odds to what humans want. Obviously they feel totally justified in their position...
It was fun to look for possible images at the royalty free sites where I had subscriptions for a time. I bought a few that didn't work at all but hey, maybe some later book ;)... okay probably not unless I get into writing comedies (unlikely), but the following does sort of represent the size difference between say the Pains (fairy like beings) and Stonecoats (stone giants and cannibals)-- both of whom are in Storm in the Canyon but don't look much like this image-- in my imagination anyway.