Mar 20, 2015

1/2 a Cup of Fantasy And a Whole Lot of Creature

In a post not so long ago we looked at the history of mythical and fantasy creatures in novels. Today we are going to take a trip through how you introduce a mythical race into your own novel.
We start, as with most things, by answering questions.
Why? Where? When? What? How?

Why do I need a mythical creature?

If your answer is because I want one, then you shouldn't add a mythical creature. I wanted to add two specific mythical creatures to my novel because I wanted them, and guess what? They both got cut. Make sure that adding a mythical creature will further the story. They need to have a place and purpose as much as your MC.
Speaking of Place...

Where will your mythical creature be?

What part of your fantasy, or contemporary, world will your creature live in? Where does the hero need to go to meet him? I have had to redesign how my hero meets the mentor character and his mythical pet a dozen times, because the story is always changing and then I need to have someone kidnap her. It's crazy, but I've now devised over a dozen ways she meets my mythical guide creature. You only need one, of course, but as your story changes, you may need to get around a giant gorge that wasn't there before. Always keep the location of your creature in mind.

When will your character meet the mythical creature?

Before, during, or after the climax? Is the meeting the climax, or a key part of it?
The events surrounding the meeting, and how close it is to the climax, determines when the character has to meet him, and what level of character development he has reached. This gives you a timetable for how long it should take to reach his cave, and how many times your character can get in a bar fight on the way.

What will your Mythical creature be?

An evil dragon that's as likely to fry your hero as smell him? A magnificent mermaid with a tool for the hero's quest? A griffin that's sole duty is to protect your MC... until his will is stolen by a sorcerer?
Having answered all the preceding questions, you should have a good idea what your creature needs to be, and what role he must fill. His role defines what he has to be. If you need a wicked sorceress who flies down on the hero from above, you don't want a unicorn. If you want a gentle soul to guide the hero in his quest to an island paradise, a mermaid is just the thing.
Make sure the creature fits the role.
But of course, if you want to be original, come up with your own! Who's to say your firebreathing mentor has to be a dragon? You could make it a phoenix, or some new kind of creature, like a fire breathing tiger. Always look for the new, or old and forgotten. Poor griffins and unicorns...

How does your MC meet the mythical creature?

Now that you've figured out what purpose your creature fills, and what he is, you can decide whether he nearly eats the hero upon introduction! The meeting of the hero and the mythical creature is of the utmost important. Eragon had a dragon hatch in his closet in the middle of the night. Lucy meets a faun with an umbrella in a snowy wood in her wardrobe. Make sure the meeting is gripping, and perhaps foreshadows their future relationship, Either friend, betrayer, or enemy.

And that's it.
Of course, there's a lot more you can do with mythical creatures, and you don't have to add just one. However, make sure each creature has a purpose, even if it's just letting the MC know they're not in Kansas anymore, otherwise cut it.

I hope you have fun experimenting with your mythical creatures!

What's your favorite role for a mythical creature? Do you count talking horses as mythical creatures? Do you love Burger King? Let me know in the comments below. 

G.M. Brown

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