It has been quite some time since I have posted within the World Building Series, and for this I apologize. I am not sure how many of you actually follow the WBS, but it will be a constant and regular feature on the blog--at least until I run out of topics within the series to discuss.
This post will also link to my post titled Native Americans: Mythical Creatures? in the sense that it is about using an existing idea or representation of something already in existence (in the case of the aforementioned post, it referred to an actual peoples, the Native Americans) as inspiration for a unique creation within your own writings.
This post, however, does not refer to living peoples as inspiration; it instead refers to the worn-out, stereotypic, and now clichéd examples of Races within the Fantasy genre--especially Epic Fantasy, but now even wandering amuck in Urban Fantasy, too.
Too many times I have picked up a new release at the bookstore and, without having to even crack the binding, I can tell you exactly what the characters look like. When Tolkien--the indisputable Father of Fantasy--released his works, the races within the pages became the model of all fantasy novels to follow. Unfortunately. Not that Tolkien's creations aren't worthy of mimicking, because they are, but definitely unfortunate due to the fact that his creations became stagnant when they appeared within the countless works of others. And most of the time, by default, so did the plots.
How boring would going to the museum be if all the paintings were of Mona Lisa--but the engraved plaque under each of the frames bore the name of a different artist? Or every time you attended the Symphony the Orchestra played the same piece--but the program cover announced a different title and composer despite the fact?
See my point?
In the case of the latter example, many composers used the works of others as inspiration for their own pieces--and, in listening, you can definitely hear it--but they did not copy the piece note for note. They borrowed themes.
Do the same for your characters. Not all fantasy stories have to contain elves, dwarves, fairies, dragons, centaurs--dare I mention vampires and werewolves?--but it is okay to model your own races upon these and create fresh and unique--but still fantastical--creatures. I know I have, and that was most of the joy I had while writing.
There are plenty of sources of inspiration for original creatures and characters: mythology, folklore, religion, and even, for example, some of the bizarre but beautiful creatures that inhabit our marvelous planet such as the leafy seadragon (pictured above).
Two of my most treasured sources for creature inspiration--other than the chaos swirling in my head--can be found on my bookshelf. Both books cover all of the sources above; one is a field-guide, while the other is a glance into the symbology behind the creatures.
You can purchase either one by clicking on the images, or by visiting your local Barnes & Noble.
I plan on continuing this specific topic in future posts, expounding upon how to develop your creatures by borrowing elements from the above-mentioned, and other, sources.
Stay Tuned & Happy Scribing,