Once you’ve created your world through the PMESII-PT approach, you’ll need to fill the empty spaces. Animals or creatures are part of that filler not addressed by the PMESII-PT world-building model. You may have created some animals as food sources or the Economic portion of your world-building. But in a recent online course, the lecturer mentioned an error often seen in miswritten predators, and I wanted to address animal/creature creation in your world.
To Create, or to Borrow:
The creatures used in any story depend on the setting, world, and other aspects of the story you’re writing. Animals may play no part beyond the meat on plates, or preservation of them if your civilizations refrain from eating animals. The question of creation or borrowing your animals from known worlds will change from story to story.
You’ll most often see created creatures in new Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Post-apocalyptic worlds. Why is this? Because the weather, climates, and physical environment impact what thrives in areas, and what would die on contact. Many of our world’s creatures, okay, maybe all, would die if teleported to Avatar’s Pandora. Many Sci-Fi stories take place in space, and beyond living in oxygen bubbles, it is unlikely to find cats and dogs roaming freely on the moon or Mars. So, what’s the whole point of this conversation?
Create Creatures/animals/sentient life forms that fit your world. The answers you created in the previous world-building posts craft the creatures you need. If you’re creating new companion animals for your protagonist (s) or antagonist (s) then you’ll want to justify their always following nature, or understanding for abandonment (such as Ghost leaving Jon Snow at the Wall). You also want to justify the reason these creatures survive in your world and their origins. As with all the world-building posts, you may not put every detail into your novel, short story, or other writing, but the knowledge will separate your writing from others. Post-apocalyptic worlds delve into areas often familiar to us, but whatever sent this version of the world into chaos may also have caused mutations to the creatures of the world. You can create creatures tied to those of our own world, but then you run into justifying mutations or behavioral changes of these animals.
But Ken, what if my creatures are robots that have taken over, or run, the world? Then you’ll want to dive into your infrastructure, resources, and the requirements to keep them up and running. So long as you can defend yourself and your writing in why the beings you create a function in your world, you’ll be fine.
Borrowing creatures is a little easier in that someone has already put the ground work into their creation, but it offers some challenges. An established creature has rules, behavioral attributes, climate requirements, and everything else considered for a created creature. You won’t be able to set a shark in the forests of the Wasatch Mountains. So, what does this mean?
Whether you’re borrowing the Mountain Lions from the Wasatch Mountains, or the Mumakil from Middle Earth, you’ll need to research the creatures and make sure they fit into the world you’ve created. Your favorite search engine will be your best friend for quick research, but if you’re looking for specialized information, it might not hurt to buy an e-book or visit your local library. Finding their life patterns can be the difference in your readers’ suspension of disbelief. As mentioned earlier, mountain sharks will challenge even your most dedicated readers, unless you make it make sense in your world.
If you want to keep the creatures, though they don’t fit into your realms, then you’ll need to adjust.
Borrowing to Create Anew
In laypeople’s terms, take everything above and mush the clay into your mold. Is there a believable way to get those mountain sharks that roam the woods you desire? Or do you just put some fresh water sharks seeded into a lake somewhere? Maybe you’d like to use the Mumakil from The Hobbit but are worried about copyright issues. Many novels use creatures from other literature and some names are commonplace, like vampires, werewolves, and zombies. But sometimes you’ll want to give your creatures a new name without new features. This goes back to tying it into your world. Maybe the Mumakil would be really cool in your world, but does it make sense for them to be there? Would their size be of benefit, or does their color make sense? These are the kinds of questions to consider as you press your writer’s clay into the story mold.
Creating or seeding animals into your stories can prove as complex as your characters. The way animals interact with your society, characters, and environment drives what details to include. I hope this helps in some initial assessments of your creature creation. Check in next week for a post on the Predator-Prey dynamic and some common errors found in creature creation. If this is the first time you’ve joined a Myers Fiction post, then please refer to the first PMESII-PT post, here.
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