Creating Animals for your Fictional
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
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
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
* 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.
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.
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