Writing Tips: World-Building Predators and Prey


Last week we addressed filling your world with animals. In the broad overview, we covered the topics of creature creation, borrowing, or mixing. Which one works best depends on your story. Check the back-link if you’re just joining us now. This week we’ll dive into the predator versus prey aspect, and why it’s important to do it right.

Predator and Prey Balance:

The balance between predator and prey is something I first learned about in middle school, or as far as I can remember, and it’s something taken for granted in writing. The generic rule is that the prey must be populous enough to support the predators. And if there are multiple predators, then so much the truer. A great example is deer. Depending on the region, they can have multiple predators. A quick google search shows that wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, lynxes, bears, wolverines, hogs, alligators, birds of prey, and humans target deer. To the extent and how depends on the predator. Just as prey has many predators, your predators will have many preys. Wolves are known to hunt deer and elk, but they also hunt muskoxen, sheep, and even salmon. So that was a lot of information. Let’s turn it into writing tips.

Using the Predator and Prey Balance in Writing:

The novel may never specify the predator and prey balance, but it’s a good idea to know for yourself. The number of preys should be enough that it sustains your predators and civilizations, if they consume meat. Exact equations aren’t required, and I can’t remember the one taught to me in middle school, but the food sources for humans and animals should be enough to sustain or show the effects of lack.

In a world overrun by predators, say you have a wolf problem, these wolves will hunt all the food they can, and may turn brazen as their food sources diminish. Your characters would then be facing external challenges of competition for food, defense from prey, and protection of their own food sources. If you have a carnivore like the wolf, you’ll need to consider how to balance the prey population, and how that changes the challenges of your story.

Misconceptions of Predators and Preys:


One of the greatest misconceptions about predators is a constant state of violence. It’s exciting to think of the lion as always on the prowl for the next meal, attacking, eating, and then getting ready for the next. Yet, there are many times the lion conducts other matters of their life and often lounge about. Think about the pictures and videos of cubs playing with their parents. Don’t forget that nothing can survive in a constant state of violence, especially animals.


One trap some writers fall into is writing prey as too willing to become something’s breakfast. While I support the pursuit of the most important meal of the day, few animals will stop and stare at a predator on a kill approach. Rabbits use their speed and maneuverability to duck, dip, dive, dodge, and dodge. Possums play dead. Each adaptive survival method varies between the prey and their predator.

Questions to Consider:

What roles do the creatures you’ve created so far play in your world?

When do your predators hunt?

What survival techniques does your prey use to maintain survival of the fittest?

How do humans, or your alien race, impact the predator-prey balance?

Are your ecological systems out of balance?


The predator-prey balance may not appear detailed in your story, but knowing this will help create strong ecological systems in the world you’ve created. The questions above are only a few, so if you think of any others you’d like to share, add them below. Next week will address vegetation and how plants can be used in your story. Thank you for reading, and as always, stay fresh, my nugs.

Previous: World-Building with Animals

Next: World-Building with Vegetation

4 thoughts on “Writing Tips: World-Building Predators and Prey

  1. Pingback: Writing Tips: World-Building with Animals – Myers Fiction

  2. Pingback: Writing Tips: World-Building with Vegetation – Myers Fiction

  3. Pingback: World-Building Pre-Checks – Myers Fiction

  4. Pingback: World-Building Closeout – Myers Fiction

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