I'm writing about a creature who's near godlike, has a twisted sense of humor, and can basically take any shape he desires, but usually rotates between an anthropomorphic red panda, a bunch of glowing pixels and a totally awesome combat body, that constantly shifts its shape. My fear is what if the reader gets to page x, laughs out loud and drops it because of the events are too much for his willing suspension of disbelief?

In case it isn't obvious, my main character is basically Pennywise from IT, but instead of slaughtering toddlers, he just tells badly timed holocaust jokes among many other Earth references.

Pennywise should not be taken seriously by anyone, yet no one laughs out loud when It's on the screen, despite the fact that:

  • He outlived the dinosaurs and Princess Diana, but somehow the Losers' Club managed to defeat It.
  • He can be defeated with anything, as long as you believe that it's capable of defeating Pennywise.
  • Clowns aren't that scary (a mass shooting is scary), this leaves us no logical thing to work with, as there are no horror films about mass shooters.

So, somehow Stephen King has managed to make a completely ridiculous character that people still for some reason take seriously (there are also other links that showcase beings with the characteristics, described in the blue text, who aren't laughable or disbelief-suspension breaking).

So, (if there's any general technique for it) how can I achieve this "Pennywise effect" for my characters?

  • 3
    You can't. Stephen King used nightmare imagery, real phobias and fears, and real violence. You cannot subtract the eggs and flour and sugar from a cake and still bake a cake.
    – Amadeus
    Sep 30, 2017 at 21:07
  • 3
    If you have a genuine writing question, then please edit this into a plain clear straightforward question.
    – user16226
    Oct 1, 2017 at 0:35
  • @MarkBaker Okay. Oct 1, 2017 at 10:06
  • 1
    I think the question in it's current state is mostly answerable. If I could write one it would be about introducing all the crazy stuff in the first act, and showing how the antagonist is just toying with the protagonist to extend his suffering
    – Andrey
    Oct 2, 2017 at 19:48
  • 2
    I think @Thomo has done an admirable job pulling this one out of the fire. Reopened.
    – user16226
    Oct 3, 2017 at 23:19

1 Answer 1


The best way to go about it would be for your characters to react like a real person would.(Well you should mostly always do that eitherway). If you want your characters to be scared then the threat must be scary. The quickest way you will lose your reader is if your characters don't respond as expected. (Mind that each character will have a different reaction). If you want them to be scared of your monster, and by extension your readers, your monster must do something scary but as you said correctly it must not break their supsension of disbelief.

One way of breaking the supsension is by breaking rules you have already established.(Characters misunderstanding rules and learning they were wrong doesn't belong in thiscase, but such cases should handled with care).Since your world doesn't have any rules or expections of thereof, since its basically earth(if I understand correctly) + a monster , you won't have that issue unless you go in winded explanations without reason.

A bit mystery about a scary monster isn't just good practise , it's necessary. Fear stems from the unknown.

Another way of breaking it I'd say , is if it's abilities seem too tailored for the plot, too convenient.

Lastly from your explanation in my mind the monster, could very well be something out of Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy. A series so ripe with absurd things that not once felt like breaking my immersion. Probably because of constitency. Everything is absurd all the time so they don't strike off as something not possible in the mind of the reader.

Lastly I'd say you are presented with a nice option here. People from my experience are more easily immersed in a comedic world, because their expectations of consistency and realism take a seat in favor of the jokes. So if you are going for an IT ,scary story you could start off light hearted and comedy like and then subvert everything and go full cosmic horror, revealing the true nature of your world.

To sum it up

Be consistent in your world

Realistic reactions from your characters

Go for a comedic approach at the start at least

And for god sake don't explain too much about the monster, or too little in that regard, find a balance that allows your protaginsts to interact in interesting ways with it while keeping an air of mystery to its true nature.

Easy right? Well no. Fun and Interesting ? Hell yeah!

  • Well, the described character is supposed to be a protagonist, but most of the stuff you wrote still applies, +1 Oct 4, 2017 at 18:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.