PDA

View Full Version : Creating new creatures vs using the old classics



mdin
03-17-2005, 08:32 AM
Which approach do you prefer? Is your WIP filled with unicorns, elves and dwarves? Or have you made something up completely from scratch?

I like to borrow from mythology, but I tend to tweak the creatures somewhat.

Hummingbird
03-17-2005, 09:14 AM
Depends on the story. Alot of my ideas (newbie writer) have unicorns or dragons. They have been tweaked a little. But, in a few of mine I have creatures I've made up. It's so much fun!

Pthom
03-17-2005, 10:32 AM
My WIP deals with humans who have been sequestered in a giant space station for a millenium and their subsequent rediscovery of Earth. No unicorns. No dragons. And the wizards turn out to be rather misguided twits. ;)

SeanDSchaffer
03-17-2005, 10:45 AM
I usually use characters that are established classics such as dragons and unicorns, but I tend to give them mannerisms and personalities that are unusual to their particular kind. It adds a bit of creativity, without having to reinvent the wheel with my characters.

I have tried my hand at creating new and bizarre creatures, but it's a very difficult task for me at best. I generally, because of my love for dragons, will end up incorporating dragon-like features into creatures I'm trying to build from scratch. Sometimes also, I'll combine dragon with human or something to that effect, but I almost always personally end up using a creature that is already known to people and then change it around so as to be slightly different from the norm.

preyer
03-17-2005, 02:24 PM
i try to avoid using stock creatures as much as possible. talking dragons, elves with pointy ears, who are all slender and live in beautiful forest settings, dwarves who live in the mines, out of control orcs/goblins running around spreading disease and wielding crude weapons... in a movie those are fine, but stretched out over a bunch of books, it's just kinda blah anymore. i simply got burnt out on that type of thing. nothing wrong with 'em, just not where my tastes are now.

my one fantasy that i did in earnest, 'preyers,' the bad guys are called the Aru. the premise of the book is that the world had previously died to the last man, time passed, and now the dead have arisen to fight the final battle of good and evil on earth. pretty simple, eh? the good guys came back pretty much as they were in life, but the bad guys came back rather singed and gaunt and smaller, rather burnt looking, with tough skin and shallow features. i thought about how some readers might view this as a racial slur, but since it's not intended that way one iota, i decided to take my chances. i used a classic version of the one angel who's got a cameo, and a few giant troll-type creatures. there's a gladiator form of entertainment, and the creatures there are bizarre without any real basis. there's a succubi in generic form. in fact, the only reason i put strange creatures in there at all is because i feel that satisfied a lot of people's desire for that kind of thing, trying to tell the story i wanted to tell yet trying to give people what i think they want at the same time, too.

not that i'm an authority on the subject by any means, but i've delved into the arthur legend quite a bit. looking at a lot of the arthur-inspired paintings illustrates how fantasy stories evolved over time to where there were so many fairies and elvish creatures abounding that it was nearly impossible to travel through the woods with them swarming around your head. i seem to recall one painting where two knights trying to pass through a woods are somewhat ducking from all the tinkerbell-like fairies. (arthur's death is another heavily done theme.)

those stories i've done where there are classic creatures, i try to poke fun of them more than anything for my own amusement as i certainly can't add anything new to them by now. what could i tell you about a dragon that you don't already know? from that standpoint, there has to be one helluva reason for a dragon to exist in one of my stories. if i did one today, it would be a mindless beast rather like a dinosaur, which i think makes good basises for fantastic creatures. actually, were the lands populated with an abundance of various types of wild critters, that might be kinda cool. as it is, dragon sighting is rather an event to most fantasy characters. might be interesting for dragons not to want to eat or help humans for a change: maybe people might trek up a mountain in a group to 'dragon watch' like they go whale watching, eh?

unicorns and flying horses, three-headed dogs and talking serpents... nah, not my thing. sitting here right at this exact moment, the one idea i've got for a talking dragon story involves the dragon's ghost in a mystery-type of deal. whoo... awful. different, but just not good, lol. (i should mention that as far as fantasies go, i can no longer read another 'great war' drawn-out over a trilogy where it's pretty bloodless, one or two of the ragtag band dies in the end, etc. etc. etc.. i'm at a point where individual struggle doesn't have to be on an epic scale. that said, today i'd not be interested in writing 'preyers.' i'm much more a 'slice of life' person now.)

Andrew Jameson
03-17-2005, 05:06 PM
No offense to the rest of you, but as a reader, I agree with preyer. I've read enough classical fantasy that elves and dwarves and unicorns and dragons just leave me cold. I've seen them too much already. When I pick up a book, I want to read about a *new* and *interesting* world, not another interpretation of pointy-eared elves. It's got so I'll read the back cover blurb, and if I see the word "elf" or "dragon" I'll just put the book back on the shelf without reading farther.

I know other people that think the same way -- but then, there are also people that are fascinated with elves or dragons or whatever. Nothing wrong with that; just not my current cup o' tea.

When I started my current WIP, I had a race of sort-of-Gnomish tribesmen that played the heavies in the first third of the book. Squat, ugly, rode ponies, used iron swords, had a bad attitude. Stuff like that. Then I got to thinking... wouldn't it be more interesting if this race had some redeeming qualities? So I made a few of them traders, and now there were good sort-of-Gnomes and bad sort-of-Gnomes. And I made them less ugly, because ugly = bad is so cliche. And I gave them a more complex social structure (only hinted at) because there now needed to be room for different professions of sort-of-Gnomes.

And I realized something.

My sort-of-Gnomes had turned into humans.

So the moral of the story is that I'm lousy at using any type of creatures in my stories.

The End.

DaveKuzminski
03-17-2005, 05:24 PM
One of the things that many writers leave out is that even warrior races need an economic base. You can't have a city of warriors without traders, farmers, builders, and such. I think this is the problem that many writers ignore when they use orcs and other creatures in their stories. Still, they can be fun, but I think that an imaginative writer could feature a more complete society of orcs and such other creatures. And no, I haven't seen Shrek, so if that has such a background, then it only illustrates that I'm right about this.

When it comes to creatures, though, I like creating new beasts more. One of the best ways to do that is to take some creature that's generally harmless, meaning it's not a predator in the traditional sense, and then give it a tweak so that it becomes one. One of my favorites is the sabre tooth rabbit I created for one story. Of course, I pitted it only against similar sized creatures.

preyer
03-17-2005, 10:39 PM
that's a good point about ugly equating to bad. that's why i delved into the aru way of life, to show that they're not necessarily as evil or 'worse' as supposed.

the idea of giving them an economic base is good, too. what is the basic orc soldier's motivation for fighting? difficult to say it's for pride given the way they present themselves. they're always this beserker horde without much organization, too (hell, even the 'barbarian' mongol hordes were organized). i think it's as much a mistake now to assume evil has this unquenchable bloodlust that can only be sated with impressive deathtolls. sure, some evil is like that, but it's like every single baddie is like that sometimes. at least tell me orcs consider humans to be game, heh heh, and their invasion is like a safari for them. gimme a reason to believe, will ya? is that asking too much for one or two paragraphs out of 120,000 words? :) ransacking a slain orcs body for information could yield tons of subtext, eh? evil also tends to be absolutely filthy or ultra-clean.

i really go in for realism more than funk. i think it was a dragonlance series i read a couple years back that was pretty good because the characters had motivations i could buy into despite my opinion that lizard men are the new orcs, which was distracting. but, hey, at least they weren't orcs. but that lizard dude kirk fought (gorn?) was cool as ****.

i find that my least favourite type of sci-fi creature are ones made out of light, string 'em together and you're set for x-mas. (in an alternate universe, would that be 'z-mas'?) when 'creating' creatures, i tend to think along the lines of beastmen than a horse's body with serpent legs and a cat's head (can you guess i hate anime? lol).

WVWriterGirl
03-18-2005, 07:50 AM
I agree with ya'll. After years of reading fantasy, I can't get into a story with talking animals, or filled to running over with dragons and elves and such. But sometimes, the mood *does* strike me...

Anyway, I decided to go the "tweak" route with my WIP. Most of the strange creatures are somewhat confined to an enormous valley, and are mostly just regular animals that have become twisted in some way (along the lines of mutation). They aren't encountered much outside that valley, either. I did throw dwarven miners into the fray, but they play a minor part in the story (so far only mentioned in passing - we haven't even seen one yet) and have nothing at all to do with the general action. I suppose I felt like I couldn't write a fantasy without throwing a *few* cliches into the mix.

All this rambling is leading to the same point - I have a few classic animals/creatures, but for the most part create my own by "tweaking" known anmials.

WVWG

HConn
03-18-2005, 08:52 AM
I've read enough classical fantasy that elves and dwarves and unicorns and dragons just leave me cold. I've seen them too much already. When I pick up a book, I want to read about a *new* and *interesting* world, not another interpretation of pointy-eared elves. It's got so I'll read the back cover blurb, and if I see the word "elf" or "dragon" I'll just put the book back on the shelf without reading farther.

I used to feel the same way, until I read Dragon Weather (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0312869789/ref=lpr_g_1/103-0394229-3912668?v=glance&s=books) It turns out that I don't care much if the creatures are cliche, as long as the story is strong enough.

However, elf rock stars make a book jump out of my hands and back onto the shelf.

MacAllister
03-18-2005, 08:54 AM
elf rock stars make a book jump out of my hands and back onto the shelf

Wow! Mine, too! Coincidence, or just really strong aversion-wards?

mdin
03-18-2005, 09:32 AM
Damn, that's the plot for my next book!

Maybe I should make him a vampire instead. I'm keeping the bass player as a centaur, though.

HConn
03-18-2005, 10:10 PM
Nav, I don't buy enough books for you to worry about whether I'd like something or hate it. In truth, I tend to avoid *all* books with rock star characters. The Armageddon Rag (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0553383078/qid=1111169356/sr=8-1/ref=pd_ka_1/103-0394229-3912668?v=glance&s=books&n=507846) is the only good one I've ever read.

:)

DaveKuzminski
03-18-2005, 10:38 PM
I think part of the problem the writer faces when including a "rock star" as a character is the tendency most have of trying to also present appropriate lyrics for the character to mouth in some scenes as if those were actually from a popular song.

In some books I recently wrote, I included some minstrels in order to show more of the culture present in the main character's society. However, the only lyrics I used was a single line mouthed by a drunk who another character remarked got the lyrics wrong. I think it worked well because it gave another face to the culture and it brought two characters into a mutual trust and understanding because one character didn't know that he was also mentioned in the song and had wanted recognition. He learned of his inclusion just moments after hearing that one line and his whole attitude and behavior then had a solid basis for change.

The other reason that such made-up songs should be avoided is because there's no way for the author to indicate what the melody sounds like. Likewise, most readers don't know how to compose, so their efforts are likely to fall very short. Giving a hint in a footnote or in parenthesis as to some actual song melody to substitute might solve that, but then it risks losing the reader's belief in the world the author has constructed.

Torin
03-18-2005, 10:41 PM
I have my Forest Folk, who are born wolf and learn to take human form as they grow older. Their society has been fun to play with. Their intelligence and personalities remain the same regardless of form, they age a little differently and I'm very, VERY fond of them. :)

Hummingbird
03-20-2005, 06:09 AM
I like the classics, but I do really like finding created creatures in books too.

I guess since everyone else is giving an example of what they made, I can too. ;)

A few of the ones I've made up, were based off of wolves, foxes, and birds that I decided an element for and changed their appearance to match the element. ie: Light blue colored crow with pointed crest and long talons.
Or I placed different parts of animals together and colored them different. Like a dog/fox with green stripes. ;)
Though... I have thrown out a bunch because they just look weird.

preyer
03-20-2005, 06:23 AM
i'll be honest, i hate reading books that have cat people as main side characters. or lion-headed people. if i pick up a book whose cover depicts a truly bizarre litany of characters, i'll put it down without even looking further.

mdin
03-20-2005, 02:17 PM
Just for the record, I was joking about the elf/vampire rock star thing. (A vampire elf! Muhawahaha! I'm going to make more money than Stephen King with that one!)

I truly enjoy books with a wide array of creatures/races. I don't like it when every single creature of a particular species is a clone of each other.

JPSpideyCJ
03-04-2007, 01:53 AM
I usually pick up a book, and I am quite the opposite, I look to see if there are unicorns, dragons, dwarves, goblins, trolls and elves, and if there are, I usually buy the book. I am using classic mythology creatures in my five part fantasy series, 'The Lords', some are well known, others not, though there are a little made up beasts in as well.

My first book's title began as 'Lord Harfendale and the Manhunt', then I changed it to 'Lords of Harfendale and the Manhunt', 'The Lords of Harfendale: Manhunt', and now I have settled on a title, 'The Lords: The Manhunt'

Evaine
03-04-2007, 04:36 PM
So far, over five stories, I've had one unicorn horn (and that's 200 years old), one dragon and selkies (seal people). I try to imply that magic is rare in my world, so that it's more impressive when you come across it - 'oh, wow, it's a real selkie!' rather than 'oh, it's just the selkies again'.

EngineerTiger
03-04-2007, 05:32 PM
I tend to mix and match. While I use "classics", I create new creatures or variations of existing.

Michael Dracon
03-04-2007, 06:53 PM
I write Urban Fantasy and I try to avoid the two biggest cliches out there, which are Vampires and Werewolves.

I do however try to put in creatures from which the stories came about them. I ended up with Shapeshifters (a working name until I find a less stereotypical name). Each Shapeshifter is linked to a single animal and can choose to fully or partially change into that animal.

Vampires stories come not only from bat Shapeshifters, but also snakes and other vicious animals. The old Egyptian gods also are the same type of Shapeshifters.

MattW
03-04-2007, 07:42 PM
I've got something that's almost a cross between a bear and a lion. Fast attack bear, if you will.

It hasn't made it into a story, but it would only be as exotic fauna - not a sentient main character or anything.

ChaosTitan
03-04-2007, 08:50 PM
I write Urban Fantasy and I try to avoid the two biggest cliches out there, which are Vampires and Werewolves.


Ditto. I've managed to avoid the to biggest "old classics" in current UF trends...until now. My muse has smacked me across the head with an idea that involves....*whimpers*....vampires. *hides*

I smacked her right back and put the idea in a box until I finish the WIP. I'm getting so much better at that. :D

Of course, in current UF novels, I'd love to see something starring the old Universal classic monsters. Mummies or black lagoon creatures or the invisible man....

Zoombie
03-04-2007, 08:51 PM
I've tried to make up new races for my fantasies. So far my hands down favoret have been this race I called the Souless. They look like green glowing dots, live under ground untill dawn, and when they come up they float around till they find a nose. Then they go up the nose and suck out your brains!

Nicole_Gestalt
03-04-2007, 09:07 PM
Just for the record, I was joking about the elf/vampire rock star thing. (A vampire elf! Muhawahaha! I'm going to make more money than Stephen King with that one!)


There are actually books that have elven vampires in them.

As someone else has said it doesn't mater what creatures are as long as the whole story works and nothing jars it then it will fit.

write2livelive2write
03-05-2007, 04:22 AM
I made up all races and creatures in my book, except, of course, humans. But humans aren't humans any more either. I just do not like to copy any ideas from anyone.

Qelenhn
03-05-2007, 06:28 AM
I do both. My world originally had elves and dwarves, but they were boring. So I turned them into humans, where the races of humans differ in stature as well as the skin color and facial feature divisions that real humans have. I like the way the society has to be inclusive of a variety of statures in places where many races live together, but I don't intend to do anything with longevity, or have any inherent "magicalness" in these races, so I changed their names and natures.

My world is populated by several races of humans, a few species with a shared evolutionary ancestor with humans but who have evolved features common to other creatures (wings, wolf-like heads, etc) and magical creatures, as well as common animals. Some of the latter are directly from mythology, like dragons and gryphons. I also have creatures who are something like a cross between a pegasus and a hippogriff and a pteranodon, who speak telepathically with their riders.

And all of my book ideas take place in the same world, so I spread out all of the above rather than stuffing them into the same novel.

lilmizflashythang
06-01-2009, 07:28 PM
Okay now I'm depressed. I hadn't ran across many unicorn books, nor many where dragons weren't eating everyone in sight. But then again, those are archtypes not cliches so I guess I shouldn't worry about it?

Rebekah7
06-01-2009, 11:57 PM
I just have humans in my WIP, and I've put a demon in some flash fiction I've written (a demon in a tangerine suit who has a stressful family life...I'm odd.) I like coming up with my own creatures and races, but I haven't found any story for them yet.

It would be interesting to have a book about unicorns that were eating everyone in sight.:)

tarcanus
06-02-2009, 12:27 AM
Okay now I'm depressed. I hadn't ran across many unicorn books, nor many where dragons weren't eating everyone in sight. But then again, those are archtypes not cliches so I guess I shouldn't worry about it?


I don't think you should be depressed quite yet. Like other posters in this thread have said, there is a definite market for the standard fantasy fare of dragons, unicorns, elves, etc.

That being said, though, I feel like to pull that off you need to write it amazingly well, or find a new spin on it - and lets face it, a ton of those spins have been done and/or tried already.

My WIP has no humans whatsoever, and few mammals at all(none that could ever be considered threatening predators). I've been hoping that the feeling of yuck towards plotlines like: 'humans doing the same old fantasy things and elves and dwarves do the same rehashed things over and over' is starting to grow and that by the time I get my works out there there'll be a large market ready for anything deviating from the fantasy tropes.

Lhun
06-02-2009, 02:05 AM
One of the things that many writers leave out is that even warrior races need an economic base. You can't have a city of warriors without traders, farmers, builders, and such. I think this is the problem that many writers ignore when they use orcs and other creatures in their stories.Heh, one of my pet peeves as well. Along with psychotically violent and suicidal (sorry, proud and warlike) cultures. Take the drows in D&D (and that stuff salvatore writes) for the most extreme example i know of.
Anyway, the way he describes them, they're the spartans times ten. Only one out of ten or so warriors survives the "training". And that's not counting all the treachery and backstabbing going on. And that in a species where it takes 50 or so years to reach adulthood. I always wonder how the heck they manage not to die out within a generation or at most two? Especially since there is no shortage of enemies to cause even more losses. I mean, an evil overlord killing one of his henchmen for bringing bad news or failing an impossible task is a little over the top, but shows he's really evil in a kick-a-puppy (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/KickTheDog[/quote) kind of way but a whole culture of guys like that is ridiculous. And it's seen pretty often, whenever a writers tries to make a whole culture/species really, REALLY evil.

Indirectly
06-02-2009, 04:10 AM
I tend to make stuff up loosely based on various mythologies. One of the things I enjoyed doing in my current WIP is the mythos-inspired human types. So there are human phoenixes, human banshees, etc. There are also ghosts, Ingenaires, dragonborn, and so forth.

One of the things I was really tired of, honestly, was less the creatures and more the generica sort of feel. It was all this sort of european-esque set up. So the current world I'm working in has cultures inspired by various real world cultures including Japanese, Korean, Persian, Chewa, and others, and I pulled from these various mythologies and customs to create something new. I think it ends up feeling interesting and rich (I hope) and filled with a variety of peoples and values to write within. There aren't any wood-dwelling elves, underground-dwelling dwarves, etc. Or elves or dwarves in any recognizeable way.

The UF has muses that look vaguely like giant sickly frogs. I don't even know where that came from.

Gynn
06-02-2009, 08:06 AM
Which approach do you prefer? Is your WIP filled with unicorns, elves and dwarves? Or have you made something up completely from scratch?

I like to borrow from mythology, but I tend to tweak the creatures somewhat.

No elves, dwarves and unicorns. I'm trying to make my reader experience wonder with my creations, and it seems like using the old classics might take that away and replace it with something too familiar.

That aside, I've done some borrowing from Welsh mythology :D

Feidb
06-02-2009, 07:46 PM
Since I based my fantasy on a D&D type world, I included Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs. I give them my own twists, but they are still basically those type characters. Now I hear that is a big no no in the world of fantasy. Uh... I always thought they were kind of the mark of fantasy, but apparently, just like lots of other trends, they seem to be out of favor. I could do a word search and replace them all with some other critters, but why? In a sci-fi story, is it cliche to have an off-planet setting? Is it cliche to have a red herring in a murder mystery? What gives?

My fantasy world is polulated with all kinds of creatures, from the mundane to the ultra-weird. However any cynic can read into it and find a similarity to something else. Fuck it. I have to write what I want to write, what inspires me, and if it includes a few cliched creatures, so be it.

Etola
06-02-2009, 08:05 PM
Since I based my fantasy on a D&D type world, I included Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs. I give them my own twists, but they are still basically those type characters. Now I hear that is a big no no in the world of fantasy. Uh... I always thought they were kind of the mark of fantasy, but apparently, just like lots of other trends, they seem to be out of favor. I could do a word search and replace them all with some other critters, but why? In a sci-fi story, is it cliche to have an off-planet setting? Is it cliche to have a red herring in a murder mystery? What gives?

Having a D&D type world isn't necessarily the "mark" of fantasy. There are as many different kinds of fantasy as, well...as can be imagined, really. Everything from Tolkein to Susan Cooper to Jeffrey Ford to Salman Rushdie--it's anything that doesn't subscribe 100% to what would be considered realistically possible in our own reality. Sure, D&D-style stuff is a substantial part of fantasy lit, but it isn't all or even most of what's out there.


My fantasy world is polulated with all kinds of creatures, from the mundane to the ultra-weird. However any cynic can read into it and find a similarity to something else. Fuck it. I have to write what I want to write, what inspires me, and if it includes a few cliched creatures, so be it.

As Jane Yolen says, write the book you want to read :) Personally I'm not so much for the D&D-style worlds (and that's just my humble opinion), and a lot of the fantasy short story markets suggest against them (depends on the market), but there seem to be enough of them out on the bookshelves that I believe there will continue to be a paying market for them. So write what makes you happy.

Etola
06-02-2009, 08:15 PM
I tend to include dragons in a lot of my fantasy, and I had one nanowrimo that involved Faery. But most of the time, if I include some classic creature, I try to do something new with it--either approach it from a different perspective, or poke fun at it outright.

My latest WIP has been drawing primarily from American folk tales and tall tales, which has allowed me to work with under-used and forgotten critters like wousers and snipes. If I make up a critter from scratch (and I don't do it too often), I try to fit it in stylistically with the rest of the world.

tarcanus
06-02-2009, 08:59 PM
I tend to make stuff up loosely based on various mythologies. One of the things I enjoyed doing in my current WIP is the mythos-inspired human types. So there are human phoenixes, human banshees, etc. There are also ghosts, Ingenaires, dragonborn, and so forth


I really like that idea. I would read your book just to see how you handled that.

ChaosTitan
06-03-2009, 12:23 AM
Ditto. I've managed to avoid the to biggest "old classics" in current UF trends...until now. My muse has smacked me across the head with an idea that involves....*whimpers*....vampires. *hides*


:ROFL:

Thank you for resurrecting this thread. Seeing my old post gave me the giggles.

Why?

It was the first book I sold. :D

I suppose there is something to be said for the classics, no?

Paichka
06-03-2009, 12:58 AM
I don't like elves**. I'm not sure why. I think D&D might have ruined them for me.

I have a bias against vampires too -- I think it's because I'm sick of reading books about how dark and sexual and awesome they are, because ewwww they suck blood and are dead. A vampire book has to be done really well for me to want to read it, because I tend to zone out while I'm reading them. I think Anne Rice ruined vampires for me. My husband loves vampires, and devours each Anita Blake novel when it comes out. I want to bash Anita Blake over the head. But that's a topic for another day.

**The tall, blonde and woodsy kind.

JimmyB27
06-03-2009, 01:34 AM
I started off with a fantasy world horrendously clichéd in every way. I even had a D&D style 'party' consisting of a dour, axe wielding dwarf, and elven ranger, a halfling thief, an old, greying human mage...and so on. As time has passed, I've changed, added or removed bits here and there and slowly it's become something far more original.
I still have elves, but they are self-proclaimed gods who were banished to another dimension millenia ago and now plot to return and subjugate the human race. I might still change the name from elf to something else, but I have no idea what. I also have trolls and an 'elemental' shapeshifting type thing, which may or may not be 'standard'. And I have the Imansi, a race of human/bear hybrids.
Other than that, I think everything is standard Earth fare, humans/horses/rabbits/dogs and so on.

Fenika
06-03-2009, 07:28 AM
Oh, another thing to quote CT on :D

Oh, wait. Can I have that in my signed copy plz?

Sorry, couldn't help myself ;)

IanMorrison
06-03-2009, 08:24 AM
I've found in my own stuff that I tend to avoid the fantasy staples. Of the four races that make up the majority of my characters, two are for all intents and purposes human with differing ethnic traits, another is more lizard-like, and only the last one could even be interpreted as "elves"... except that the similarities end with the pointed ears and slim figures. They go by a different name, act differently, and have no particular affinity for nature, trees, or mystical whatchamicallits. The only other "staple" creature I use are dragons... and even then, they've more mythology than reality, much like they are in our world. They've got significance as religious symbols, and nothing more.

I personally think that the dwarf/elf/orc/dragon/goblin/ogre menagerie is really overdone. Rarely are they given a unique treatment these days, given how often they're used, and it strikes me as profoundly unimaginative that they keep being used without really considering what the point is. Why? Because they're safe and familiar to your readers? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of writing fantasy? It seems like the stock creatures are used "just because".

Tolkien had a nice spin on fairies, dwarves, orcs, and dragons that built off of the classical mythology of those creatures and turned them into something new... his twists on the classical mythology were copied to death and became "standard", oddly enough. I think that if you're really intent on falling back on tradition, you'd be well advised to look at the original mythology and extrapolate from there, instead of building off of someone elses extrapolation of those old myths!

ChaosTitan
06-03-2009, 05:23 PM
Oh, another thing to quote CT on :D

Oh, wait. Can I have that in my signed copy plz?

Sorry, couldn't help myself ;)

"Dear Baha - I wrote about vampires and look what happened. Oh well.

:heart: Chaos"


<--promises to stop derailing thread now

Fenika
06-03-2009, 05:28 PM
Awesomesauce :)

Who said vampires were dead?

No, wait...

Imbroglio
06-03-2009, 06:07 PM
Vampires can be insanely bad-ass, depending on the writer.

I'm not really into vampire writing myself, or werewolves for that matter. I think they're cool, I've never actually written anything about them before.

But for me, I always WANT to make up creatures, and stuff, but by the time I finish fleshing everything out, it all seems just a bit generic. In my latest WIP which is my first genuine attempt at a novel, hopefully a series, I've got a three races, one of which is human. The other two are different in some ways, but more or less, humans. I figure there are going to be some creatures that must be created along the way, but that will happen when it happens.

I actually mention some sort of enormous sea creature at one point, that's basically just like a giant squid with a little twist on it. Actually it's more like a squid/whale now that I think about it...

JimmyB27
06-03-2009, 06:37 PM
One thing that often strikes me about a lot of fantasy, is that the non-human sentient races are often just humans in fancy getups. So, you might have a race of bipedal lizardmen, and their entire culture is just like that of humans - or, even worse imho, just like a particular subset of human culture.
I'd love to see a sentient race setup to be entirely alien to human culture for once.

Hmm.

*Ponders*

Eeek!

*Is swept away under a rising tide of plot bunnies.*

Etola
06-03-2009, 08:14 PM
One thing that often strikes me about a lot of fantasy, is that the non-human sentient races are often just humans in fancy getups. So, you might have a race of bipedal lizardmen, and their entire culture is just like that of humans - or, even worse imho, just like a particular subset of human culture.
I'd love to see a sentient race setup to be entirely alien to human culture for once.


Ah, the classic "entire race is culturally homogenous." Yeah. That was used to great effect, I think, in Star Trek. But the point was that these different "alien" races were used as pretty overt metaphors to examine particular human problems. I think in science fiction lit in general, it's easy shorthand to create a planet dictated by one particular geographic feature (the ice planet, the ocean planet, the desert planet, etc.) and create a culturally unified alien race to fit a particular role in the plot. It's much harder to say, "Bob's friend Xarn was a Fleelf. But he was from agrarian Southern Fleelftopia, and had a farmer's sensibilities coupled with that ancient pride particular to the old Flee Baronies. Xarn had a thing for those cosmopolitan Fleelf-women from North Fleelfland, with their bulbous eyes, colorful neck flaps and loose spending habits." I mean, if an alien is going to fit a minor role, it's easy to want to create something simple rather than create a whole planet's cultural and social history and conflicts and variations.

To put it from another perspective, if other alien/fantastic races were to stereotype humans, what would they say? "Oh, my friend Bob is a human. You know how they all tend to be _____."

Feidb
06-03-2009, 08:55 PM
It seems to me most human-like races are that way so not only the author, but the reader can relate to them in some way. I like the idea of some totally different race with their own set of rules, customs, and culture, but if they are so far out nobody can relate to them, you're going to lose the reader.

As for Elves Dwarfs and Orcs, well, I guess I'm pretty screwed when it comes to the fantasy genre. That's just how I see things. I could totally change them around as I've alluded to before, but am not sure I should. Good thing I write in other genres!

Paichka
06-03-2009, 09:43 PM
Awesomesauce :)

Who said vampires were dead?

No, wait...

I did, and I'd like to clarify what I meant because I've been feeling bad, like my comment might have been taken as a slight. :(

I like my vampires to be monsters. You know the movie "30 days of night"? I like my vampires to be like THAT. Monstery. Eeeeevil. Dead monstery eeeeevil that doesn't try to SEDUCE its meat, it just rips its head off. An awesome-sauce predator.

I DON'T like my vampires to be angsty brooders with massive sex appeal, a la Jean-Claude from the Anita Blake books. That doesn't mean that if a book includes a vampire that IS broody-sex-on-a-coffin, that I won't like it. I worship Buffy, after all.

Etola
06-03-2009, 10:20 PM
I did, and I'd like to clarify what I meant because I've been feeling bad, like my comment might have been taken as a slight. :(

I like my vampires to be monsters. You know the movie "30 days of night"? I like my vampires to be like THAT. Monstery. Eeeeevil. Dead monstery eeeeevil that doesn't try to SEDUCE its meat, it just rips its head off. An awesome-sauce predator.

I DON'T like my vampires to be angsty brooders with massive sex appeal, a la Jean-Claude from the Anita Blake books. That doesn't mean that if a book includes a vampire that IS broody-sex-on-a-coffin, that I won't like it. I worship Buffy, after all.

I have to agree with this. I read an article somewhere about trends in different genres, and the article talked about the growing boom in paranormal romance (you see them everywhere nowadays!), explaining that vampires were the new alpha male for romance. But in making them so, I think the sheer horror of vampirism has been romanticized and watered down. Often you will even see stories where vampires get all the benefits but none of the drawbacks, which feels like a cheat to me.

One woman I talked to in a convention said it best, I think: "They're vampires, not bloodsucking fairies!"

JimmyB27
06-03-2009, 11:03 PM
I think in science fiction lit in general, it's easy shorthand to create a planet dictated by one particular geographic feature (the ice planet, the ocean planet, the desert planet, etc.) and create a culturally unified alien race to fit a particular role in the plot.
And that's exactly my problem with it. Taking such shortcuts rarely results in the best possible end product, imho.


It seems to me most human-like races are that way so not only the author, but the reader can relate to them in some way. I like the idea of some totally different race with their own set of rules, customs, and culture, but if they are so far out nobody can relate to them, you're going to lose the reader.
I see what you're saying, and I agree - up to a point. You are right in that, as a main character, such a truly alien being probably wouldn't work very well. But, as a side character, from a more normal character's POV, it should work ok, I think. I hope so, anyway, because I intend to play around with this a little in my world. I've just realised, I already have one character that fits the 'truly alien' bill - a twisted elemental - and I think I might have a bash at creating an entire race of something very other.

Feidb
06-04-2009, 12:53 AM
JimmyB27,

Absolutely! Seeing a totally alien character through the eyes of a more normal character that people can relate to is the way to go. I do that with several races in my fantasy story, even though there are the "politically incorrect" Elves, Dwarves and Orcs also. In fact, the entire story is in the protagonists POV until the very last chapter and everything is the way she sees it and interprets it. Third person, past tense, by the way.

Chasing the Horizon
06-04-2009, 06:59 AM
Judging by my books, I like both 'classic' creatures and new, weird ones. I'm forced into creativity to some extent because all my books take place on alien worlds (I only recently realized that I world-build like a sci-fi writer, even though I write fantasy). So all the animals are made-up, except for the humans, who came to my fantasy world from Earth many, many thousands of years before the stories start. I have dragons and briefly mention fairies, then everything else is 'original' (except, knowing my luck, some book I've never read has probably already featured them).

My best creature came from misreading another writer's description. As I was reading this incredibly cool thing popped into my head, but the writer was actually describing a giant spider, so I took the cool thing and put it in my book. They're really hard to describe without just pasting the long description from my book, but the heroine thinks of them as centipede-spider-grubs. They're incredibly horrific to look at, communicate telepathically, live underground, and can get anywhere almost instantly by using a special form of magic to teleport through the core of the planet. They're kind of evil, but the heroine makes friends with them anyway (she's kind of evil too, lol). They only have a small part in the books, but are definitely memorable.

I'm working on the concept for a series now about caterpillar-people and airships on a planet orbiting a blue giant star. Is that too weird?

Dragonfly352006
06-04-2009, 08:16 AM
How can we create something completely new? Aren't we all just writing what we know? Do we really know anything other than the "human" way? Wouldn't we have to be truly ailen to write something completely ailen? How can you create a race or creature that hasn't been done before or based in some way on human/earth like qualities when it all comes down to the simple fact that whatever you create it will be based on what we know as humans/inhabitants of the Earth?

defcon6000
06-04-2009, 04:00 PM
One woman I talked to in a convention said it best, I think: "They're vampires, not bloodsucking fairies!"

That's a smart lady. :tongue

I think tweaking old monsters is okay, but if it has to in a REALLY unique direction, otherwise it'll just be same old, same old. Like instead of vampires being damned, maybe they're the holy ones and humans are the damned (not sure if this has been done before). OR werewolves that change under a solar eclipse. At least it makes me curious again in the monster, breaking some of my assumptions about it.

However, I always enjoy new made up creatures (if done right and aren't silly). They'll be a mystery and if made to look interesting, your reader will be curious to find out about them.

Euan H.
06-04-2009, 04:19 PM
I think tweaking old monsters is okay, but if it has to in a REALLY unique direction, otherwise it'll just be same old, same old. Like instead of vampires being damned, maybe they're the holy ones and humans are the damned (not sure if this has been done before). OR werewolves that change under a solar eclipse.
I sold a story to Realms of Fantasy (not published yet) that did something like this: a werewolf short set in the 15thC. with werewolves as templars/religious knights (religious vows give order and structure allowing them to gain control of the bestial aspect of their nature, etc. etc.)

There's a lot of life left in vampires and werewolves. I think my favorite movie retake on vamps is 30 Days of Night (just full of awesome), and a literary take would be the Anno Dracula series. The key to it is, IMO, to go back to the original source material; scrape off all the associated semiotic crud that's accumulated and look at the primal stuff underneath: the 'wolf-strap' for example--just when did the moon become the thing that drives lycanthropy? Also: baresarks being related to werewolves, the idea of Odin entering people and driving them wild/turning them into wolves, etc. For vamps, follow the 'strega' and associated things. Vampies as sexual beings? Meh. Give them teeth and make them drink blood: they're just dogs who hunt at night, that's all.

Wark
06-04-2009, 05:21 PM
Disclaimer: I skipped everything after page one.

My most hated modern fantasy cliche is the Vampire Mafia. Sure, it's not called that, but that's what "our coven" is.

My most hated sci-fi chiche is the Space Marines. I roll my eyes at all Ridley Scott Flavored Space Marines. And yes, Starship Troopers did it first, and others as well, but that's not what people are aping.

Though, I would read a short story called Vampire Mafia vs Space Marines.

Etola
06-04-2009, 05:42 PM
That's a smart lady. :tongue

I think tweaking old monsters is okay, but if it has to in a REALLY unique direction, otherwise it'll just be same old, same old. Like instead of vampires being damned, maybe they're the holy ones and humans are the damned (not sure if this has been done before). OR werewolves that change under a solar eclipse. At least it makes me curious again in the monster, breaking some of my assumptions about it.

See, it's that kind of twist that I would find interesting--instead of "he has to avoid sunlight because he sparkles, and did I mention he's handsome and perfect?"

Etola
06-04-2009, 05:50 PM
There's a lot of life left in vampires and werewolves. I think my favorite movie retake on vamps is 30 Days of Night (just full of awesome), and literary would be the Anno Dracula series. The key to it is, IMO, to go back to the original source material, scrape off all the associated semiotic crud that's accumlated and look at the primal stuff underneath: the 'wolf-strap' for example--just when did the moon become the thing that drives lycanthropy? Also: baresarks beign related to werewolves, the idea of Odin entering people and driving them wild/turning them into wolves, etc. For vamps, follow the 'strega' and associated things. Vampies as sexual beings? Meh. Give them teeth and make them drink blood: they're just dogs who hunt at night, that's all.

Definitely :) Building on only later developments seems to end up with a watered-down critter, far removed from the original ideas that made the critter in question so compelling to people in the first place. My favorite werewolf stories tend to actually involve the werewolf's skin as key to the transformation (either putting on a wolf skin, or in one pretty awesome short story, peeling off their human skin).

The fact that I took a graduate course on the history of lycanthropy didn't hurt ;)

Euan H.
06-04-2009, 06:35 PM
peeling off their human skin
Yup. That's a horrible image even without reading the rest of the story. Traditional beliefs => source of powerful horror (IMO). The rationalizations that people paste on top are attempts to reduce/understand/render lawful the old beliefs, the ones that make the hairs on people's arms stand up when they listen to them.

Dragonfly352006
06-04-2009, 06:50 PM
I agree with the fact that you don't have to create vamps and werewolves or any other "traditional" fantasy character the way everyone else has done it. We want our stories to be different from every other. Who said Vampires have to stay out of the sunlight or that silver bullets kills the werewolves. In order to be original, don't you have to stray from the norm?

Red-Green
06-04-2009, 07:19 PM
I prefer creating new creatures, and had a ton of fun in one of my stories creating this scary soul-sucking "monster." Later, it turned out he was the "god" everybody in the book had been worshiping for a few thousand years. Like finding out that Jesus was a big hairy creature with sharp teeth, too many fingers, and some ambivalence about human life. (After all, the debate rages about what Jesus looked like. :D)

Etola
06-04-2009, 07:44 PM
I agree with the fact that you don't have to create vamps and werewolves or any other "traditional" fantasy character the way everyone else has done it. We want our stories to be different from every other. Who said Vampires have to stay out of the sunlight or that silver bullets kills the werewolves. In order to be original, don't you have to stray from the norm?

Well, silver bullets didn't originally kill werewolves--they've been around a lot longer than bullets have ;)

Originality is good, since these critters have been around for so long, and written about so many times. But ideally, if I were to read a story involving a classic critter, I'd prefer if the author struck a balance between originality and "remembering the roots" of the creature. Too much originality, and you might as well create a new creature. If an author creates a vampire that isn't killed by sunlight, and for whom drinking blood is optional, my response is, "Then why call it a vampire at all?"

Euan H. said it best, I think.

Dragonfly352006
06-04-2009, 08:52 PM
I guess what it comes down to is what someone has already said here somewhere, that the original creatures have been so romanticized that what they truly are has been lost. So, I too must agree with Euan H. However, if you fear people won't read it because the original creatures have been so over played, then I say make up a completely new one.

Etola
06-04-2009, 10:23 PM
Hmmm...I wonder what would happen if you wrote a story that involved something that was an exact stereotyped version of a particular critter--but you didn't call it by its old name? Like, having a race of immortal bloodsucking humans who were repelled by crosses and sunlight, but you called them smeerps.

Has anyone ever read the Johnen Vasquez short comic about the kid who is vampirized, and finds out that it takes hundreds of years to actually become beautiful and powerful, and in the meantime he becomes incredibly dorky-looking, with a huge head and fangs the size of bananas and children staring at him through his living room window? I think one of his victims also comments that his breath smells like cheese.

ManWithTheMetalArm
01-22-2017, 10:26 AM
My philosophy is, if you're going to use the classics, go unorthodox, or at the very least, give them reasons why they would act like stereotypical orcs/elves/dwarves/etc. In my fantasy world of Icarus, there are four main ethnicities of orcs, the Dulesh, the Krek, the Muban, and the Lashri. The Dulesh orcs seem like your stereotypicals orcs, tall, green, muscular, protruding lower jaws full of huge tusks, very violent and warlike, the usual. However, a sizable amount of Dulesh orcs have adopted the cultures, customs, and traditions of species to the south such as humans, unicorns, and telkhines, looking upon their more "traditionalist" kin as backwards savages that are the very antithesis of progress. On the other hand, traditionalists see these orcs as destroying their way of life for one that coddles the weak and the rewards the fool. Needless to say, asking these two groups to get along is like trying to mix vinegar and bleach, and a civil war has started because of that fact.

Another one of my fantasy "races" (although, I feel "species" is the more accurate word) are the telkhines (tell-key-nays), short, furry, dog-like humanoids who are renowned for their ingenuity and craftsmanship, often developing technologies such as steel, steam power, and personal firearms before any of the other nations/species were able to either develop those technologies themselves, or copy the designs of the telkhines. So yeah, they are kind of dwarves-in-all-but-name, but they also have webbed fingers and toes, have a large lung capacity, and their fur is a lot like a seal's, so they're pretty good in the water as well. It's even rumored they once built cities at the bottom of the sea, but since submarines aren't really a thing on Icarus yet, nobody knows. I actually got these guys from Greek mythology, who were the gods' blacksmiths, primarily working for Poseidon, before they rebelled and got sent to Tartarus. I'll admit, their design is based a bit on their portrayal in the fourth Percy Jackson book, but depending on the source you read, they looked like that in Geek mythology too.

So, yes, you can use the classics, but just try to be creative with them.

Underdawg47
01-22-2017, 12:26 PM
I like creatures from old myths from obscure cultures. I like writing about stone age men, giants, ghosts, shape shifters, and space aliens. I never get tired of vampires or werewolves. You think you have seen every kind of vampire and werewolves and then someone comes up with something new for example those vampires in "The Strain" are not sexy, but they sure scare me. Diseases and plagues are pretty nasty terrifying creatures to write about also.

I don't mind elves, dwarves, dragons, or unicorns. I just don't have any desire to read or write any stories that sounds like a Dungeon's and Dragons episode or video game. They can be fun to play, but non stop action adventure bores me. I like my monsters to be more subtle and rare. Tired of quests, fighter/thieves, half orc magic user running through dungeons and fighting other mythical beasts and where everything takes place in medieval times. That is what I hated about the Hobbit movie compared to the book.

SillyLittleTwit
01-22-2017, 05:49 PM
I prefer new critters (so long as they're not merely humans in rubber suits). I had a lot of fun coming up with the Mnomo, whose most notable feature is that boredom causes the secretion of a toxic brain chemical - they are thus incredibly creative and hedonistic.

Simpson17866
01-25-2017, 03:59 AM
I use vampires, orcs, and werewolves in my primary Urban Fantasy world because they are so prevalent. In my main Fantasy world, humans are the only intelligent species who evolved naturally, but for as long as humans have been good at magic, humans have been experiementing with shapeshifting into different forms for different purposes.

For all of history there has been a back and forth where sometimes A) a mage who specializes in shapeshifting creates a new species, and this form inspires the storytellers to create mythical characters of the same species, but sometimes B) a storyteller invents a species wholesale, and his stories about this species inspire shapeshifting mages to recreate the species in the real world.

Orcs, for example, are such a recent species – the first experiments started around 1960, the first successes came around 1965, and the first natural orc children were born around 1970 – that everybody still remembers it was the storyteller who inspired the shapeshifters rather than the shapeshifters inventing the species first. More well established species like merfolk, harpies, yetis, and – my favorite – psoglavs (one-eyed Slavic wolfman): nobody remembers anymore ;)


To put it from another perspective, if other alien/fantastic races were to stereotype humans, what would they say? "Oh, my friend Bob is a human. You know how they all tend to be _____." In my SciFi/Fantasy worlds, they wouldn't :D Humans see non-humans as homogenous, non-humans see humans as diverse.

In my SciFi/Fantasy worlds, the urge to sterotype is explicitly described as being a flaw in human evolution that other species see as a mental illness. The Star Trek universe is not actually a Planets of Hats universe, but the stories that take place in the Star Trek universe make it look like Planets of Hats because they are written by humans, and that's how humans see each other:


"All Muslims are terrorists!"

"Actually, there are a lot of good people who are Muslims, a lot of good people who are not, a lot of terrorists who are, and a lot of terrorists who are not. We should treat people according to their own actions, not the actions of others with whom they happen to share one demographic or another."

"You're wrong, there are Muslim terrorists in the world! How dare you say that there aren't any?"

"..."

When we meet an alien civilization someday, the civilization will not be a Planet of Hats, but we will think it is.

In my SciFi/Fantasy worlds: humans think in absolutes, non-humans don't ;)

MasterAlmondo
02-09-2017, 10:50 PM
I love it all! There should be no restrictions in fantasy books. I prefer when a world has its own take on creatures.

I'm reading one with some original fantasy creatures and it makes me look forward to finding out more about them. Suppose from not having read about Cranmore beasts etc before.

Btw I'm currently reading- earthcry: the carfax chronicles