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October 12, 2022

            I still see this all the time. “What are some …based on …type creature.”

            First of all, there’s no such thing as realism in fantasy, except some mundane aspects of urban fantasy. Why is it some authors want to stick with certain rules when they create their characters/creatures?

            I suppose it gives their story some legitimacy within the norms of the genre.

            My suggestion is always the same. “Just make something up.”

            While that may sound useless to some, is it really?


            Fantasy is a made up world set in some far off distant place, usually in a medieval setting, or close to it.

            However, as in urban fantasy, the setting can be in present time with real world mixed in.

            It can be steampunk, with turn-of-the-century technology.

            It can be the standard medieval setting.

            Or, it can be something else. The key is that there are certain conventions to differentiate it from science fiction. Sometimes it can be hard to tell.


            The conventions are similar to D&D rules, which is not to say they’re hard-core compliant. The setting is pseudo medieval with swords and old-school tech. The variant is magic (or as I say, magick). Then again, D&D rules were pretty much derived from some variation of Lord Of The Rings, one of the first huge-selling fantasies.

            The key is not everything has to be either D&D or Lord Of The Rings.

            The story can have elements of both and still be fantasy.


            There’s nothing wrong with modeling creatures after the tried-and-true legends. Elves, Dwarves, fairies, so on and so forth. Monsters, the same way.

            This is the sticking point. When a writer feels they have to stick to some convention, such as their story models after Greek mythology or Japanese whatever, that’s where things become complicated. Now the author corners him or herself. They become trapped in a convention. When they go to research say…Greek mythology, they can’t find all the answers they want so they poll other writers on Facebook. Someone may have used so and so that they found in research somewhere else.

            Fine and dandy if you feel you must stick with certain rules.

            However, if you want to be truly original, who says you can’t twist, turn, or add in surprise elements that break the say…Greek mythology rules?

            Why corner yourself with such restrictions.


            The truly original author will likely consolidate a mashup of tropes and their own stuff. Of course, the story is most important, but adding artificial restrictions to what you can make up seems counterproductive to me. More than likely the majority of readers aren’t going to know the difference anyway. Why narrow your focus to those few who actually know the legends.

            Keep in mind this isn’t the same as real-world fact research, which would apply to other types of fiction. What you need to worry about is realistic scenarios or ways to get around the realism, such as magick to compensate for overuse of weapons.

            As for characters and creatures, why restrict yourself to legendary characters and creatures when there’s a wide open world to make up?

            There’s nothing wrong with throwing in conventional characters/creatures. However if you’re stuck, or just want to veer off the path, why not just make something up? After all, it’s fantasy, not a textbook!


            I have to make a confession in that I don’t read much fantasy.


            It’s often way too wordy and nothing happens for thirty to a hundred pages. It’s all just characterization so I like to say that quite often the stories don’t live up to the cover art.

            Now, for when I’ve actually enjoyed fantasy stories, I didn’t sit there and refer to some mythology textbook to check the author, I just enjoyed the story if it got to the point and had plenty of action. While there are those that do, the majority of us don’t and don’t care.

            I’ve read all kinds of stories with fantastical characters and creatures and never cried fowl because the author wasn’t holding to convention. In fact, the ones that bent things were, to me, the most enjoyable and interesting.


            When writers poll their Facebook friends for ideas on characters or creatures, I’m still going to give the best advice:           Just make something up.

            Then you have my attention.

            Happy writing!

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