Hi, everyone! This is Alana, but I’m now Madeleine. First off, I want to say that I am really, really, really sorry that I haven’t replied to any of the comments on my previous post “How I Brainstorm Ideas”. I plan to have all of the comments posted and replied on both that post and this one by the end of this week.
Now about the post. I am currently working on a writing project that has many animals in it. Some of the animals are real animals that exist in our world and other are animals in mythology / folktale stories or what I have made up. My favorite part is creating my own mythical creatures. Creating your own magical creatures helps to make your fantasy world your own. So I decided to write a post to give tips on creating your own magical creatures.
*fun fact: an animal called a unicorn is mention in the King James Bible 9 times. Scientists have discovered a fossil of a rhino-like animal with one horn. The Elasmotherium sibiricum, or the “Siberian Unicorn”, looks more like the unicorn that is describe in the Bible than the mythical unicorn.*
1. Deciding what Animal Group your Creature is in.
What I find to be the most helpful when creating my own creature is deciding what classification group the animal is in. Animal groups are mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, arthropods (like spiders and crabs), and mollusks (such as octopus and slugs). There are many more but I don’t know all of them. This part might require some research to determine what makes a mammal, bird, reptile, etc. I know, it probably doesn’t make sense since magical creatures are just made up and are not like real animals. But actually, even though they’re make-believe, magical creatures can still have the body and characteristic that our everyday ordinary animals have. It’s good to ask yourself questions about your creatures, such as does your animal give birth to live young or does it lay eggs? Does it have fur, feathers, or scales? How many legs does it have? Does it have any bones? Can it breathe underwater? These kind of questions and many others is what helps to determine if an animal is a mammal, bird, reptile, fish, etc. After answering the harder questions you can ask yourself easier question about your animal like if it eats meat, plants, or both. By knowing what classification group your animal is in can easily help you create your creature.
2. Combining One-Half of an Animal / Human to Half of another Animal / Human.
Something that is common in creating a mythical creature is combining a half of two different animals together. Two examples are griffins and hippogriffs. A griffin is part lion, part eagle and the hippogriff is part eagle, part horse. Both the griffin and the hippogriff have an eagle’s head, claws, and wings. The griffin has the hind legs and tail of the lion, while the hippogriff’s hind legs and tail belong to a horse. You don’t always have to use the front half of one animal and the back half of another animal. You can also use the skin or the voice of one animal to add to another animal. For instance a zebra could have the scales of an alligator, or a bluebird could roar like a lion. A niffler is an animal created by J.K. Rowling. It is a creature that looks like a baby echidna, but has the snout of a platyplus. There are also many creatures that add humans to an animal, like mermaids (part-human & fish) and centaurs (human & horse). Fairies are tiny humans that have wings. There are millions of animals in the world to use as you create your magical creature.
3. Adding a Special Feature to a Normal Animal.
This tip might seem similar to number 2, but it is different. Instead of combining two animals together, you can use a completely ordinary animal and give it a special power or feature to make it extraordinary. For example, a unicorn is a pure, white horse, but has a horn and is strong. If you take away the horn and give it wings, it becomes a pegasus. Or you can leave the horn with the wings to make it an alicorn. Dragons are just gigantic lizards that can fly and breathe fire. A phoenix is a bright red parrot, but burns in flames to die and is reborn again in the ashes. Some ideas could be an elephant that shrinks to fit in small spaces. Or a fish that travels in the dirt to get from one body of water to another. If you have a favorite animal, you can use that animal and give it unique ability or feature to become a fantastical magical creature.
4. Creating Good, Bad, and Lovable Pet Magical Creatures.
An advice is that if you’re writing a fantasy world where there are magical creatures, is to make sure that there are both friendly and dangerous beasts. This is a bit hard for me because I love animals and I like it when all the animals are good, friendly creatures. This tip can actually help along with the story. Let’s say that your protagonist is in the enemy’s territory and there is a monster that he/she has to fight off to survive. Or your protagonist could find an injure creature and help it, and because of the good deed your protagonist did for the gentle creature, the animal could back and help save him/her. These are some cliche examples, but you get the point. If you want your protagonist to have a lovable, furry sidekick but don’t want to use a normal animal, you can create a fantasy pet. Creating a make-believe pet would be the exact same way as you would create any other magical creature, just make sure that the animal acts like a pet. For instance, in one of my novels, I have created animals that are look like small bears, but colorful (sort of like live-teddy bears) who love to eat, play, and be petted by humans. Creating good, bad, and/or pet animals can make the story fun, sweet, and/or exciting.
5. Naming the Animal.
And the very last tip, probably the most important one of all, is giving a name to your magical creature. Every animal must have a name. I’m not talking about giving them a personal name, like Mary or John, I’m talking about giving them an animal group name, like lion, tiger, or bear (oh my!). Sorry, I just had to. This is the hardest thing to do when creating a magical creature. Names can be pretty tricky. When picking a name for your creature, should fit your creature. For instance, if you had a creature that has such a strong sense of smell and spends a lot of time sniffing things out, you could call it sniffler. Another tip is that you can use words that mean something which describes your creature, like the word dragon means “huge serpent”. Combining different root, Latin, and/or Greek words to make one word is something that has happen for centuries and is a good strategy to use as you name your animals. An example is the common magical creature, the unicorn. The word unicorn means “having one horn”, because it is a horse with one horn. It is derived from the Latin word, unicornis, which was combined by the two root words uni, meaning “one”, and cornu, meaning “horn”. These are some great ways in creating a word for your creature.
6. It doesn’t have to be Magical.
One more thing I want to add is that you don’t have to make your fantasy creature magical. Most of the stories I have read that have magical creatures don’t possess any magical qualities. They’re just made-up animals, created for a fantasy novel. They live, eat, and act like normal animals, but are not real. If you think about, we have many animals in the world that are so unique, that they could even be part of a fantasy novel. There is a pink dolphin, a lizard that runs on water, an okapi that looks part giraffe-part zebra, and a frog where you can see the inside of its body. There is even a fish that walks on land, called a mudskipper. So if you don’t’ want to, you don’t have to give your animal a magical power. You can make it as ordinary as possible and it will still give off the fantasy feel because it is something that you created.
So there are my six tips on creating your magical creatures. I hope that you find it helpful as you start to create your own mythical animals for your novels.