World Building II – The Creatures

Welcome back to part II of World Building! YAAAAYYYY!!!!!!

Today we’re covering my favorite part of world building- the creatures! (As the title of the post suggests.) When someone says fantasy, how many people think ‘dragon’? And when someone mentions Tolkien, we think about Elves and Dwarves and Hobbits. You say Narnia, I say talking beasts. The creatures in a fantasy novel are often what makes it memorable, makes it stand out. It’s always worth putting a little more effort into your creatures, sentient or not. Most people are sick of the usual cookie-cutter vampires and werewolves.

I’m not saying that you can’t have vampires and werewolves- by all means, put them in. I have vampires and werewolves galore. Same with dragons, fairies, dwarves, elves, goblins, ogres, unicorns- the list goes on and on. But putting a different spin on these creatures will give your story that much more depth.

For instance, I have werewolves in pretty much all my stories. Seriously. But how do I keep them from all being the same? One, they actually have- you know- a character. Just because creatures are the same race doesn’t mean they have the same personality. Of you applied that to nationalities, it would seem ridiculous, not to mention offensive. Two, I don’t just have one type of werewolf. Oooohhh no. I have thirteen. And they’re not just different colors. They have different abilities, cultures, features, histories, reputations. And when you have that many different subspecies, half breeds can add an interesting flair to stories as well.

And you can do this with any type of mythical creature. Different species of dragons? Heck yes. Different types of elves? I’m listening. Different species of unicorns that vary depending on region? I’ll read that book just for the world building.

Playing around with well known creatures shows that you went the extra step, that you put more thought into your creatures. And having complex creatures leads, of course, to complex characters.

But what if I don’t want to change an already well known creature? What if I want to make something completely unique? Well, I hate to tell you this, but nothing you do will ever, ever, EVER be completely unique. It’s just not possible. Somewhere, somehow, someone has written something with similar, characters, plot, creatures, world building, or style to yours. But that doesn’t matter. Because while there will always be another story with similarities to yours, no story will ever be exactly like yours. And if there is, something did some heavy plagiarizing.

Okay, thanks for the soap box. Now can you tell me how to make up creatures? Alright, alright, I’ll get down. There are two ways you can start creating a creature. Either you have a location that you need to populate, or you make the creature and then it’s environment. Personally, I think starting with the environment is easier. Lets say you want a creature for the frozen mountains that dominate the top of your world. Well, creatures that live in cold climates all have certain features that allow them to live there. Start by looking up animals that live in extreme cold. Examine the features they have, make note of ones that would be interesting to use. Then look up mythical creatures that live in snow. There’s a lot more than you think there are. Pull from half a dozen different cultures! Because why not?

It really helps to try and draw your creature. No, you’re not going to get it to look exactly the way you imagine. (Unless you’re a really, really good artist. In that case, kudos to you.) Now, if your creature isn’t sentient- hold on-

Generally, in law, a sentient being is one with the faculty of sensation and the power to to perceive, reason and think

Duhaime’s Law Dictionary

When I say sentient, I mean with human-like thinking capabilities. Technically, dogs are sentient, but they’re not going to start building houses or anything. I know it’s not technically the right word, but I don’t know another. (If someone does, let me know please.)

Anywho- if you’re creature isn’t sentient, you just need to figure out it’s habits and such. Just start researching animal behaviors. If it is sentient, you have a much harder task ahead of you. But that’s something we’ll cover next week.

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