Creatures are an aspect of fantasy writing that many people have different opinions on. You either love them or hate them. But writers, as I have said in a previous post, write what you want to write. If you want to include a blood hungry centaur or a loving land octopus in to your story then do so, but perhaps consider all the different aspects of your creature. Whether your creature is a creature of fables and myths or whether they are an original creation, try to think of them as if they were another character.
Appearance is a fairly obvious consideration but it is an aspect of creature creation none-the-less. I like to think of the appearances of real animals and combine them. How many legs do they have? Are they an insect/reptile/mammal/bird/fish? Are they furry/scaly/prickly? What colour are they? How big?
As an example I'll list the appearance for the keer from my novel, Sky Stone.
It helps to be able to design and draw the creature to formalise the image within your mind. If you don't like drawing then find images on the internet of any animals you are using to build your creature. It may also help to dot point the appearance in a similar way to how I did just above.
All animals have typical personality traits. Cats, for instance, are seen as being pompous and elegant. Think about how your creature will respond to different aspects of life. How do they react to threats? Do they run or fight? How do they react to strangers? Are they aggressive or placid? Are they easily frightened? Are they playful or lazy? Are they shy or self-assured? Of course, individuals may have their own layer of personality but you don't need to worry about that unless you have a creature as a recurring character.
Keer are very shy animals but become extremely aggressive if cornered. In this case, their appearance changes. They grow in size, their horns and fangs lengthen and their markings turn red. One keer, my character Ilyarahh, has an earring that allows her to control this transformation.
Habitat and Lifestyle
Where does your creature live? Appearance may give us some insight here (or vice versa). A creature with thick fur may live in cold areas while a fish, well, obviously lives in water. Do they live in snow/water/forest/mountains? Landscapes can affect what types of physical traits they will require in order to live.
What does your creature eat? Are they carnivores, vegetarian or omnivore? This may also affect what physical traits they require. Carnivores require sharp canines and claws while vegetarians don’t. Does your creature even eat? For instance, keer live by absorbing magic and hence live in areas of high magical concentration.
Other lifestyle aspects you may need to consider are:
How are they seen by humans?
How does your typical human react to these creatures? Perhaps they are fearful, curious, or friendly. Do they try to kill, capture or tame them? is the human able to use the creatures somehow? Are the creatures fearsome enough that humans must run from them? Can they cohabitate and work together?
In the case of my keer, most humans fear them due to their transformations. However, they are also curious.
What else? The above points are what I believe are the most important in defining your character but you can always add more dimensions. For instance, does the creature have special abilities? My keer are able to sprout wings and fly.
As always, writing is about enjoying your imagination. Revel in it and create something extraordinary!
If you have created a creature let me know about it in the comments section. See you next week.
Scarlett Van Dijk
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
Subscribe to my blog to receive email updates of my latest posts.