Updated: Jun 20
Are you into writing fantasy stories but want to be unique and original? Well, I can help you there! Fantasy creatures were invented by human beings centuries ago, either depicted in art or literature before they grew in popularity. Somehow these fabricated creatures made their way into modern literature and media today. Isn't that fascinating? There are even some fantasy creatures that were made up fairly recently such as Gnomes, invented by a Swiss author, Paracelsus in the 1800s, and the Perytons (deer-bird hybrid) invented by Swiss writer, Jorge Luis Borges in 1957. Who's to say we can't make up our own?
There are several classifications of fantasy creatures including human-animal hybrids, Animal hybrids, monsters, and biblical creatures. For more information on these topics, check out my blog: The Guide to Creatures of Fantasy.
Following the blueprints left behind by ancient civilizations that invented and enjoyed mythological creatures, we can easily create our own! Let's begin!
In the history of human-animal hybrids, the popular cross-breeds are human-fish, human-serpent, human-goat, human-horse, and human-birds. There are other cross-breeds such as human-scorpions, human-boars, human-dogs, human-cats and the obvious little human cross breeds (fairies, elves, brownies, imps, gnomes, dwarves, pixies, and sprites).
If you would like to be original, perhaps steer away from what's been done before. Pick an animal that you think would go well when crossed with a human.
Remember these mythological creatures left behind a legacy of character traits. For example, human-goat cross breeds (satyrs) were known for their drinking and playing musical instruments, while brownies were known for being grumpy while doing chores for people in the middle of the night. What are the characteristics of your fantasy species? How do they treat humans or the other species in your fantasy world. Are they good or evil? Playful, helpful, or tend to keep to themselves?
Where do they live? If the animal you chose for your human-animal hybrid lives in the woods, your cross breed will likely live in the woods. What do they eat? Does their animalistic half take over their eating habits? What types of homes do they live in? Are they advanced, wise, or dim-witted? How do others view them? In existing mythology, superstitious people feared creatures such as fairies because they were known to be pranksters. The more details you build around your fantasy creature, the more real they will feel for your readers.
2. Animal Hybrids
Here is where you can get really creative. You can mix as many animals as you want here, as seen in mythological history. If you prefer, you could even add more limbs, heads, or wings. As we see in Ancient Greek mythology there are animal hybrids with multiple heads and limbs, and special killing abilities like killing by looking at their victim.
Depending on the animal you use in your hybrid mix, determine the diet, habitat, and characteristics of this animal hybrid. The most obvious diet for such a menacing beast that we see in mythology is eating infants and children.
In mythology, you will often find monsters as large versions of animals. Like the Kraken that is a giant squid, or a yeti that is a large ape-like creature. There are other monsters with human-like qualities, but are not at all human like ogres and trolls. They have the ability to communicate, though they are large with relation to giants and have their own set of personality traits. Then we have the famous dragons, possibly derived from the knowledge of dinosaurs or the existence of large serpents at the time. As we see in ancient mythology, several monsters have special supernatural abilities, like becoming invisible or breathing fire.
As you create your monster, whether they are large versions of animals that exist today, or a making of your own creation, add special abilities to make them even more menacing and feared in your fantasy world!
4. Biblical creatures
Since this post focuses more on how to invent your own fantasy creatures, we wont be focusing on biblical creatures that have already been invented, but rather how to use them as inspiration. As we see in biblical mythology, there are benevolent forces that tend to help people from the spiritual plane (angels), there are also malevolent forces that torment and hurt humans for the sake of evil (demons). There are also spiritual beings that might not be either good or evil, just stuck between the physical and spiritual world (spirits/ghosts).
Perhaps you can invent your own benevolent spirit, that like angels, help humans in need. Are they a different class of an angel? An angel in training? Are they a spirit on a mission to help your character? Did they once know one another while the spirit was alive? Get creative! What's the spirit world like in your fantasy universe? How do spirit-like creatures interact with those of the physical world? Do your spirits eat? Are they envious of the physical world and all of its pleasures? Is it dangerous in the spirit world?
Note that if you are looking for some spiritual lore that is outside the obvious scope of popular religions today as inspiration, Asian culture is full of fun stories about the spirit world. Their spirits often take the shape of human-animal hybrids, have special powers, and are credited for heroism.
What fantasy species are you creating?
JK Noble | Author | Artist | Philanthropist
Published author of the new YA Fantasy Series, HALE.
Creator of the LMB franchise and the Encourage Literacy Foundation.