Mythical Creatures Creation Process
Updated: Nov 23, 2022
I've written about this before, but I find it's such an important post that I wanted to rewrite it and clean it up for you all to read. After all, it's a fun project and it's something I've been doing a lot with my fantasy series: Requiem of Stone.
Also, I would love to hear if you created your own mythical creature using these methods, or even just because. I mean, children do it all the time, so why can't we, as writers and creators? (After all, this can apply to writing, but also to artwork and other creative pursuits.)
Anyway, enough stalling, onto the blog post!
Creating Mythical creatures is a fascinating test of one's imagination and creativity. After all, there are tons of mythical creatures out there to choose from. So why not pick a creature like a dragon? Or orc? Or Unicorn?
Why create your own creature when you can choose one that many people would recognize? Why not pick a unique one from history that someone might NOT know and use that instead?
There's no easy answer to this question. However, I will do my best to explain it, at least, with the way I see things.
Firstly, it gives us a chance to flesh out the world that we want to convey, if you can't find something that both fits with the world and is easy for a reader to grasp, sometimes it's best to create our own being. Though, this is less likely to occur, simply because of the large amount of creatures already created to choose from. Thus, creating a new one with its own unique characteristics, abilities and thought process seems overwhelming.
But, you'll find, once you actually make one instead of shoe-horning an existing one into your story, it will add that much more to the environment and world. Of course, it's best to do your research first because you 'might' just find a creature that fits perfectly, but if not... It's time to create our own.
So, let's begin shall we?
Step 1: Come up with the REASON why you are creating a Mythical creature in the first place.
What is their objective? Their goal for the scene or story? Is the creature their to be a teammate or mascot? Or are they there to be an obstacle? Figuring out the reason you want to create one or add one into the story will help pinpoint what exactly you want to convey. An example I will be using throughout this post is one of my own creation.
Drega's, as you can probably guess from the name, are my worlds descendants of dragons. So, what was my reason for creating them? I had multiple actually:
I needed a creature who was both majestic and ferocious.
I needed a creature that held some similarities to common fantasy creatures so it didn't seem too difficult to visualize in a rather tense scene.
A traditional dragon wouldn't fit into my world due to their size, shape and abilities.
A dragon typically flies in light and open air, has either four legs (Western) or a long sinuous body (Eastern), and uses its sight to spot its prey... which doesn't work in a world mostly devoid of light and filled with endless underground caverns.
So, as you can see, there were a lot of reasons for why I needed to create my own mythical creature. While I would have loved to use a dragon and been done with it, the story would have more impact with a creature of my own and, honestly, makes more sense as well.
Step 2: Come up with the characteristics of your new creature.
So now we know the reasons behind why we are creating a new creature, let's come up with the characteristics that help this creature fit into the world you are creating.
This can be simple, like some tweaks to a creature that already 'exists' in our history or it can be inspired by a bunch of different creatures to create one new creature from the combination.
In my case, I actually went down the middle. I took a familiar dragon and made some substantial changes.
The type I chose was the western dragon with it's four legs, large wings and massive jaw.
The world I wanted to 'put' it in was a narrow space with almost no light and lots of hiding areas.
See the problem? So, that's where we come up with the characteristics of our creature. I kept the strong muscles and wings, to help it navigate the area, but instead of sight it uses echolocation and instead of four legs it has two for which it can help grab its prey while a long sinuous tail helps counterbalance the weight and also allows it to better wrap around areas and dig into hiding spaces.
When coming up with characteristics, it's best not to go overboard. They should be subtle but explainable in the world you have. if you overdo it with ten rows of teeth or something over the top you'll have a lot of trouble convincing your reader that it actually exists. Give yourself a limit, just like designing human characters. (Or even races of characters.)
Another example from a more recent story is, what are creatures you might find underwater? You'll notice you need a different idea and set of characteristics for something of that nature. For me, I wanted large amphibious beasts, the stuff of horror stories. (And I may or may not have been thinking of the sand eel from Star Wars...) But sometimes that's the point. You take inspiration from something you enjoy, or that sticks with you, and develop it into your own thing.
So what about you? What are some characteristics you can think of that fit with the world you're trying to tell? How can you take an already known creature and 'fit' it into your world with tweaks and new additions?
Step 3: Come up with a name for your new creation.
Honestly? You can either love this step... or hate it with a burning passion. I wouldn't blame you either way.
For me, I always enjoy naming, unless it's titles, so I don't have much problem with it. For you or someone else it might seem excruciatingly difficult or even just annoying.
So, how do you come up with a name for your new creature? Well, there are a couple things you can do:
You can take the name of the creature it came from and tweak it slightly, just like you did with the characteristics. I did that with the name: Drega. which, as you can tell, closely resembles the term: Dragon.
You can also just keep the name and say it's a variation of that type, this isn't as advised unless the 'new creations' characteristics are minimally different from the original source. (If it is, be my guest, since I do that as well.)
Lastly, and probably the most fun, come up with a brand new one all together by combining common words or phrases.
For this particular process I would advise either combining common words in your own language or a dead language, such as latin. Why do I say that? Mainly because that way it's either: a) easier to say or b) sounds similar to other creatures in which it is based on, which is often from past works.
Whichever one you decide to do, make sure it's not only readable, but understandable. It shouldn't be overly long or garbled and it should correlate in some ways to the creature you've created. I wouldn't call my drega creation something like uniceros. The two have nothing in common whatsoever.
So make sure to do your research, see what fits and then use it.
Those are my three steps to creating your own creature. As I stated before, it is both fun and challenging but, in the end, I find it quite rewarding to have something of your own that fits in the world you are trying to tell and isn't shoe-horned in.
So, go out there and make your own creature! Have fun with it and don't hold back. That's what writing fantasy is for after all, it's for allowing our thoughts to run wild.
What about you? Do you like creating your own creatures? Or do you prefer to place in already crafted creatures? Would you want to create your own or not bother? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
Let me know.
Julie Boglisch is an author and artist with an interest in all things creative. A musician and a dabbler in video games, she is well versed in all the different methods of sharing one's words and thoughts through different methods. A talented speaker, she is not afraid to let her words be known. Her first book: The Elifer Chronicles: Epidemic showcases this boldness with it's down to earth truths and convictions. If you are interested in reading any of her works, Click Here.