If mythological creatures are creatures of myth and imagination, then why do we still see dragon after dragon? I’m guilty of it too. Fantasy has a lot of the same thing repeated throughout, and it’s easy to keep repeating it in our own works. Hence, we have a lot of unicorns, pegusi, and dragons.
But why do we keep writing the same things? For one, it’s effortless. It takes less brainwork to insert a dragon than it does to add a snarflump. No one’s ever heard of a snarflump before, and you’re on new, uncharted territory. People might not like it.
But fantasy writers should try to push themselves out of the habit of using the same creatures over and over again.
And, hey, you’re a writer. You literally create worlds and characters and plots out of thin air. How hard can creating a new thing be?
Option One: Mashing up creatures.
Yes, everyone knows what a unicorn is, but have you ever heard of a uniturtle? Storytellers have been doing this for centuries (Manticore, Chimera, Minotaur) and they add something unique.
I did a whole post on mashing up various animals. You can click here to see my bad art. 😛
Option Two: Kill the Cliche
“The gentle white unicorn steps out of the dark forest, and towards the fair maiden. He nickers softly. His long white tail trails behind him. The maiden stretches her hand out to the unicorn. The unicorn rears and charges the maiden. Death is the only thing on his mind.”
Ahem. Yes. I like this. When you put a commonly known being into your story, there are stereotypes that surround them. Your reader will assume that you will continue the trend. When you do something completely different, it kills their expectation and piques their interest. (Hopefully.)
Ice breathing dragons. Sweet and innocent fae. Helpful trolls. Mute Sirens. There are so many many ways you can twist expectations.
Option Three: Employ a lesser-known mythological creature.
I wrote a whole post about this here, so I won’t go into much detail. But, have you ever heard of Airavata? It’s a winged elephant, and Indian in origin. I can safely say that I’ve never seen any winged elephants in the books I’ve read, but I want to see some.
Option Four: CREATE YOUR OWN
I love doing this. Most of my creatures are based off of other creatures (but there’s never a truly original idea).
Examples of mine include:
- Lunix. He’s a mutation of a phoenix. His feathers are pure white, and he has blue eyes. He is unable to rise again after he burned. Legends say that the lunix will guard its dwelling against evil, and as such people go to great lengths to procure them. However, if a person touches one, they will have bad luck.
- Morph. (Awful name I know) A morph is a shapeshifter that can change into a person’s worst fears. When it’s not a different form, it’s a dark, vaguely humanoid creature.
Really, when creating a character you just have to ask:
What does it want? (Gold, flesh, satisfaction of making someone happy)
What powers is it equipped with to get what it wants? (Fire breath, venom, wish granting)
How does it move? (Flight, biped, slithering, etc)
What does it look like? (there are infinite ways to design a creature: horns, antlers, teeth, hair, scales, tails, ears, fins, and on and on forever…)
And, if you want to be symbolic, What does it represent? (Dragons can represent power or destruction, griffons can represent bravery)
If anyone can describe to me what a snarflump looks like, I’d be interested to know.
Have a lovely week filled with magical things! (But not too much magic. Because then you’d be a protagonist for a YA novel, and being in a book is rarely lovely.)