Fantasy Writing Tips for Fantasy Fiction Writers 

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Creating Animals for your Fictional World
by Tina Morgan

Filling your fantasy or science fiction universe with creatures and plants can be a lot of fun but a little research is in order to keep your world from becoming a comic book.

Too many predators and too little prey is a common mistake for the beginning writer and one I confess to making in my first novel. Let's face it, vicious predators are more fun than goldfish in a sword and sorcery novel, but most medieval societies weren't vegetarian. Your inhabitants need some sort of livestock. Predators do NOT make good livestock and would have very specialized uses rather than being raised for food. Whatever the predator eats, your inhabitants will probably eat as well. Any society existing before the ability to can or refrigerate food lacked the ability to preserve food for an extended period of time unless it was dried, salted, smoked or they lived in a frozen tundra. Living in a cold climate is going to limit the amount of fruits and vegetables available and force your society to become meat eaters to survive.

Futuristic societies aren't necessarily going to follow our own current trends in animal rights and vegetarian diets. These decisions are up to you as a writer but if you chose to make your society a non-meat eating one, then you'll need natural predators to keep the herbivores from over running your farms and orchards.

A common statement I hear in a lot of crit groups is that if your animal "looks like a horse, acts like a horse then call it a horse". While this is a valid argument, it can be taken to extremes. One of the reasons I love reading fantasy is the variety of animals, creatures and humanoids that have been created by so many talented writers. If there are no basic differences between your creatures and those found on earth then use earth names. There's absolutely no "rule" that you have to create new animals to populate your world. However, if you're working with a setting that obviously isn't earth then take the time to create new creatures to compliment your unique world.

Follow a few simple guidelines and give your imagination free reign to run amok and play god/goddess/ultimate creator.

*  Make certain your ecology can support the animal you're creating. (No cold-blooded creatures on an ice planet, though a warm-blooded dragon with fur instead of scales would be justifiable.)

*  If there the plot doesn't support the invention and introduction of new creatures, think twice about including them.

*  Give your characters a valid reason for interacting with these creatures. Do they use them for food? (Remember non-lethal use such as milk and eggs.) Do they use their coats to create clothing? Do they use them for transportation or beasts of burden? What about pets?

* If your creatures are sentient, give them hands/tentacles that can actually work the equipment they're interacting with…no large slug like creatures flying space ships please.

While you're creating those pets and food animals, don't forget the little critters either. While most books aren't going to mention insects and pests, if you're working with a society ravaged with plagues then include these vermin as part of the setting. These types of creatures can also create conflict for your characters if they infest food stores and spoil winter provisions.

Creating every aspect of your ecology isn't necessary when you're world building but there are basic rules you can't avoid when creating your own creatures:

*  Everything eats – takes in sustenance.

*  Everything produces waste products.

*  Your predators have to be either smarter, faster and/or stronger than the prey they're hunting or they're not going to survive.

Doing a little research on our own world can give you an idea of how and what types of creatures you're world can support. There are several websites out there than can aid in your search for information.

The Discovery Channel offers information over geography and ecology as well as animals.

If English isn't your native language and you would prefer to research in another language, check out The Discovery Channels other sites: 

National Geographic Magazine

National Geographic also offers a very nice selection of sites in other languages:

Desert animals in the US

Net Vet offers a wide variety of links to animal sites

The BBC also has a nice site here:

If there is a zoo or marine facility in your area, do an online search and see if they have a website. Many will have information about the animals they house.

Copyright Tina Morgan


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