Creative Writing Thursday: Creature Creation part 1

Creative advice

Sorry for the lack of consistent posting, I went to see the Live Welcome to Night Vale show last night. I’ve been having a life these past two weeks but no worries dear readers because that’s coming to an end seeing as I am now going to be returning to my hermit ways and getting back down to work. I actually ended up getting horribly sick right in the middle of all this free time and my friend pointed out that it seemed as though I got sick from the lack of work….Being unproductive literally makes me sick. I would make a Desert Bluffs reference but I’m afraid that might be too obscure and hipstery of me.
Seeing as this is Creative writing Thursday I really wanted to cover creature creation a little more in depth this week. I kind of touched on it a bit on my last creative Thursday post when I did a quick rant about how much I love world building (which I will eventually expand upon). Today I’m going to show you all an example of one of my creature creation templates and explain to you all in my process for it.
I’ll start off with the idea of modifying already existing creatures to suit your world/story seeing as this is the primary method I used for upcoming graphic novel series Tales of Lost (plug).

Species Name: Amanzile
Region: Qiya
Culture: Very hunter/ gatherer culture. Tribal, very secluded. Since being taken into captivity they have lost a sense of identity. They have also been known to be quite hostile towards humans when they feel threatened and seeing as they have been taken from their natural environments it’s understandable. What was left of their way of life is gone and they are now kept as signs of success among the wealthy. It’s considered very fashionable and exotic to have an Amanzile in your fish tank.
Appearance: They vary in fish species. Shark inspired, octopus, clown fish and more. Some are small, they can go anywhere from the 18 inches to 9 feet in length.  Very fish like in facial appearance as well. Gills to breath, don’t function on air at all. They are based heavily on our mythos of Mermaids but they have more of an ape like intelligence, think swimming gorillas but more fishy.

What you see above is an example of the summary profiles I write for all my creatures when I’m first toying with their concept. These are just a few questions that I use to really get my brain moving and thinking of how these creatures are going to look and feel and what they’re going to be like. From this point I usually go into an unedited rant where I take what I know about the creature from it’s summary profile and extrapolate on it. These rants are only ever meant for my eyes only so I they’re usually really rough and casual with little regard to spelling or grammar at all.
Example: So these people are like fish, right? You remember that documentary you saw about the mermaids being real and shit? Yeah well they’re like that but more diverse in shape and such. I like the idea of them having these almost ape/fish appearances and being more animal then anything, yeah that’s cool….
Not gonna lie I just went over it and corrected a few of the spelling mistakes. That’s just a small portion of the way I talk to myself when writing. Not everyone is going to know what “That documentary you saw about the mermaids” refers to, but it’s a good queue for my own memory to grab onto when I am going back over and drawing the final design for the creature.
Okay so going back over to the summary profile, let me explain to you all a bit more in depth about what I have written up there.
Species Name
The Amanzile. I’m going to be honest with you all when I say that I can’t find the notes I had with the exact translation of what words I combined to make this species name. It’s a combination of two words in Swahili, one of which being the name of a river….I wish I could find that god damn piece of paper. All the names of my creatures have an origin that makes sense to me and that I’ve put a lot of thought into. The reason why I chose to have the name inspired by Swahili has to do with the location of these creatures.
Region
Qiya is my answer to an African continent. The name is based on a word related to the etymology of Africa. I really wanted my Amanzile to reside near a continent that was warm and would allow such a large diversity of the species to live off it’s coast. I also wanted each continent to have, at the very least, one creature that was native to it’s area and the Amanzile fit perfectly with the waters surrounding Qiya.
Culture
Quite a few creatures in my world have very well formed and human based cultures, the Amanzile though are more animal than human so I wanted to keep their culture simple. Nothing extravagant beyond the basics of hunting for fish and looking for shells on the ocean floors. I watch a lot of documentaries and there were two that really inspired the culture of these creatures. One of which spoke of nomadic tribes with no contact with the outside and how they had developed their own way of life without the influence of those of us from the rest of society. One tribe in particular was deeply hurt when they tried to make contact with the outside world and now no one can get near their coasts without getting spears or arrows sent their way. The other documentary I watched was about feral children, especially a case involving a young girl named Jeanie(spelling? I’m terrible with names). The way this girl would act with her handlers interested me and I found myself really provoked by the way children like her developed. This idea of a species that had this sort of hostility after having suffered betrayal and cruelty(much like the people from the first documentary) at the hands of humans, but stayed at this same sort of feral development that any human would undergo if raised in a wild sort of predicament really jump started me. Of course it’s evolved since then and taken on a far more wild and less human approach to the Amanzile but I still have to credit those two docs for sending me in the right direction. I always feel sad when writing for the Amanzile though because at the point in time that my comic picks up most of them have been either killed or taken into captivity. They’re one of my favourite creatures I’ve created, and just like some animals in our world, they face extinction.
Appearance
I wanted God damn Mermaids!
I didn’t want Ariel mermaids though, I wanted to try and design a mermaid that made sense. One that might actually exist if given the correct conditions to thrive. Whilst reading up on marine biology(which I discovered I really enjoy but have very little brain power for) I heard of a documentary that covered what it might be like if mermaids were real. I highly recommend it for any fantasy fans out there. All I could think was ‘There they are! That’s the Amanzile!’, well almost. Of course I would modify their design and add in different types just to add more of a fantasy-esque flair onto them but the mockumentary version was pretty damn close to what I had been thinking.

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The documentary is called “Mermaid: A Body Found” and it’s a good bit of fun. I won’t go to far into the biology of these things because then I would honestly take way from the mockumentary. Seriously though, give it a watch. It’s a great example of creature creation.

Point being to all this, I do put a lot of research into my creature creations. I spent many hours reading through mermaid descriptions from around the world and the different legends behind mermaids in my process of building up the Amanzile. I researched fish breeds to draw inspiration from and even watched a few documentaries for inspiration. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.
Want to know about the best part with these guys? I might not even include them in the main plot! They may just end up being a side note in the grand scheme of things, but you know what? I have them now if I ever want or need them. They’re fleshed out and designed and ready to go for any plot that may require their assistance.
Wow, I talk a lot…so sorry. I want to cover my creation process for my original species but I fear that’ll just make this entry one long drone so I’ll tell you guys what! Instead of an angry rant tomorrow I’ll upload “Creation Creation part 2! Original species”.
If you all have any questions regarding the Amanzile or the mentioned continent of Qiya feel free to ask, until tomorrow though guys, stay tobly awesome!

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