What Kind of Animals Populate Your Fictional World by Traci Kenworth

What Kind of Animals Populate Your Fictional World?

Traci Kenworth

Big or small, wide or narrow, what kind of animals populate your fictional worlds? Do you draw only from the normal, everyday world? Or do you go deeper? Do you take animals from ancient times? Or more modern ones? Is there a bit of a scientist in you, that you design your own masterpiece? Or is it more of an artist’s brushstroke that creates the imaginative unicorn or Pegasus?

Whatever your preference, let’s dive into a bit of the animals that have won our admiration over the years. From Clifford the Big Red Dog to Scooby Doo, Garfield to Sylvester, and Donald to Daffy, they’ve all captured our hearts. Now, let’s talk about some animals a bit more real. There’s Old Yeller, of course. The tragedy of Stephen King’s Cujo. Morris with his slyness in the commercials. Grumpy cat on the internet. They’re all famous.

What makes them that way? Snapshots? Expressions? Attitude? More? I’d go with the more. It takes something extra to snag the day. Boring won’t do. Unless you’re Grumpy, but that’s beside the point. Think of The Black Stallion from Walter Farley’s books. The magnificent stride of that creature, the gorgeous curve of his neck, he was a divine horse and the film makers captured that perfectly.

Those books when I was a child kept me reading. I enjoyed reading about his adventures as well as The Red Stallion’s. Then there were the ponies from Chincoteague. Each year they took a swim to see if they would become adopted. I loved animal stories. Oh, I enjoyed detective novels of the day as well too, but the animals were where it was at.

 I’d venture to say that still hasn’t changed. Children adore animals. Cute, fluffy ones.  Friendly ones. Not to mention, interesting. And it’s not just children. We adults like animals in our stories. Even if they’re the opposite of cute and fluffy. As well as friendly. Animals can lend an edge to a story. They can be both the victim and the aggressor depending on how things go.

So, the only thing left is: do you choose an animal already known? Or do you make up something completely new? I guess it depends on your needs. And your story. What type of genre is it? With horror, you could really go either way. A story a bit more grounded might need an animal more known in existence.

When I do have to make a new animal for a story world, I start by pulling a basic frame from the animals we know of in this world. Then I add to their characteristics. What I want them to be able to do or not do. For instance, marine life has a lot of possibilities. There are creatures of nightmares down there. If we bring their frame into the light and then build off that, we’ve got a beginning to where we want to go.

I then add qualities: visible or some type of cloaking? Thin skin or armor? The ability to breathe on land or only under water? Their environment. What they eat. What they don’t. Their limits. I’m sure this is how most other authors get their ideas. Dragons, after all, had to be drawn in. As did the alien creatures that drop into our atmosphere now and again.

The point is: you can do almost anything you want. You just have to find a basis to make it believable. A lot of times, basing a creature on one in existence is the foundation to bringing them about. How do you go about creating the animals that populate your story worlds? Do you use animals already in existence to work off of?

Happenings: Over the holidays, my oldest sister had Triple-Bypass Surgery. She’s doing well. recovering at home. I’d hoped to be able to help her at home with things but then I came down ill. I don’t know what this is, I have. It’s just awful though. My head rages with a headache. That was the second symptom in three days. Today, my nose started becoming in need of tissues. I had to cancel my hair cut which I was looking forward to since it’ll be my birthday soon. I still have to drive the kids to work despite the ice and the cold rain. I just want to stay under the covers.

Here’s some things around the web you might like:

  1. Writers in the Storm https://writersinthestormblog.com/2023/01/make-flat-characters-genuine-in-8-sort-of-easy-steps/ Have you been told you have “flat characters” in your story? Reel in your emotions and re-examine your characters. Does your character have little to no internal life? As your character moves through the story, does she overcome nearly every obstacle? Does she have a crystal-clear need? Is she unchanged at the end of the story? If even a few of your answers are yes, you probably have a flat character. Is that a problem? Probably. Flat characters are usually uninteresting and unmemorable. Got flat characters? Don’t worry. You can take your flat characters to genuine in 8 (sort of) easy steps. 1. Diagnosis: Flat vs Round Characters What Does Flat Mean? If you guess flat characters are the opposite of round characters, you’re right. But let’s take it a step farther. Typically, when a reader says your characters are flat, they mean the characters don’t feel real. They want to read about realistic characters, people like themselves or people they know. Writers often call realistic characters round characters. A round character is a character who has multiple-dimensions to their personality. In real life, we humans are a complicated bag of emotions, contradictions, and quirky bits. Our relationships with others are just as complicated as we are. We often make a whole range of mistakes in relationships, jobs, and every other aspect of our lives. In order to write a “simple” story, authors must be certain their characters come across the page as just as complicated, even if not all those bits show up on the page. So the first step in diagnosing flat characters is to see what IS on the page. I always compare the flat character versus the round as the round being more of a “mess” like most of us. All our past mistakes, all our present conflicts, all our future wishes and desires rolled into one go into the round character. The feel more “real.”
  2. Tel Aviv Feral Cats https://telavivsferalcats.home.blog/2023/01/17/what-surfaces-do-cats-not-like-to-walk-on/ There are surfaces cats don’t like to walk on, for different reasons. If you don’t want your cat to go in the kitchen, for instance, you can put material cats won’t walk on to keep them out. Or if you want them out of your bedroom when you sleep. This post contains Amazon affiliate links and links to other posts. What material do cats not like to walk on? What won’t cats walk on? Let’s break it down to sound, texture, and smell. Sound Aluminum foil makes too much noise for the cat’s sensitive ears, and cats are famous for their noise phobia. Cats hate walking on aluminum foil and may run when they see it. Texture I love learning about cats and their behavior. They are such interesting creatures.
  3. Staci Troilo https://stacitroilo.wordpress.com/2023/01/18/last-drive-howell/ Ciao, amici! I’m so happy to host today’s guest. He’s funny; I’m not. (Well, I think I am, but my kids would argue otherwise.) He’s retired; I would love to be. He’s a gentleman and a scholar; I… used to teach, does that count? But we have a lot of things in common, too. We both have ties to Pittsburgh. We both contribute to the Story Empire site. We both have dogs that bring us endless joy. And we both love the written word. (Okay, that last one applies to anyone reading this.) I’m a firm believer in focusing on what builds bridges, not in what keeps us on our own islands, so of course I gravitate toward our shared interests. And one thing that really interests me is his latest book, The Last Drive, a sequel to Eternal Road: The Final Stop (which I loved). Please join me in welcoming John W. Howell to the site. Take it away, John!
  4. Nail Your Novel https://nailyournovel.wordpress.com/2023/01/17/the-sound-of-a-typewriter-brings-me-happiness-historical-fiction-and-non-fiction-author-cordelia-biddle-authorbiddle/ When Cordelia Biddle was nine years old, a schoolteacher told her she could never become an author. Cordelia has proved that teacher everlastingly wrong with two works of non-fiction, five Victorian mystery novels and two standalones. Also, 12 murder mysteries written with her author husband. Her latest release is They Believed They Were Safe, set in the 1960s, published at the end of 2022 by Vine Leaves Press.  Just goes to show: never tell anyone they can’t do something!
  5. Writers Helping Writers https://writershelpingwriters.net/2023/01/5-ways-to-approach-your-novel-like-a-trial-lawyer/ So much about good storytelling mirrors the way a lawyer might lay out the case for their client.  Our job as writers is to select events and characters that reveal the protagonist we hope the reader will see. In effect, we are manipulating scenes so that they present our protagonist’s inner development at any given point in the plot.
  6. Books and Such https://teripolen.com/2023/01/17/the-bandit-queens-by-parini-shroff-bookreview-crimefiction-darkhumor-tuesdaybookblog/ Geeta’s no-good husband disappeared five years ago. She didn’t kill him, but everyone thinks she did–no matter how much she protests. But she soon discovers that being known as a “self-made” widow has some surprising perks. No one messes with her, no one threatens her, and no one tries to control (ahem, marry) her. It’s even been good for her business; no one wants to risk getting on her bad side by not buying her jewelry. Freedom must look good on Geeta, because other women in the village have started asking for her help to get rid of their own no-good husbands…but not all of them are asking nicely. Now that Geeta’s fearsome reputation has become a double-edged sword, she must decide how far to go to protect it, along with the life she’s built. Because even the best-laid plans of would-be widows tend to go awry. I was undecided about downloading this book when I received a NetGalley widget, but the description was so appealing and original I couldn’t resist.
  7. Life in the Realm of Fantasy https://conniejjasperson.com/2023/01/18/the-physics-of-packing-tape-amwriting/ I had one of those horrible realizations this last weekend. Sure, I know on one level, I will officially be a septuagenarian this June. As anyone who knows me will tell you, it’s a miracle I survived the blender years to arrive at such a landmark in life. But what I realized is this—my father would be turning one hundred. Our two oldest daughters will be turning fifty. Our two sons are in their mid and late forties, and our youngest daughter, the baby, will be forty. Now those are the numbers I find hard to assimilate. It mystifies me even though every aspect of our lives emphasizes that Grampa and Grandma are sliding into the high end of life, hurtling toward the golden years like a comet into the sun. And these days are golden, despite the minor inconveniences of life. Greg’s Parkinson’s is manageable with medication and an intensive physical therapy regime. If you or someone you love has Parkinson’s, LSVT Big therapy is a miracle. But it does require true dedication and daily efforts. Fortunately, my husband is highly determined. Physical Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease | Johns Hopkins Medicine Believe me, I know the demon of packing tape, lol. And will have to deal with it again sometime in the future.
  8. Roberta Writes https://roberta-writes.com/2023/01/18/roberta-writes-tanka-tuesday-poetry-challenge-poetry-tankatuesday/ This week’s poetry challenge is to write a senryū as per Colleen Chesebro’s commentary below: Senryū is a Japanese form similar to haiku: three lines with a s-l-s syllable count up to 17 syllables.
  9. Syl’s 65 blog https://syl65.wordpress.com/2023/01/19/thursdaythoughts-billy-idol/
  10. Writers in the Storm https://writersinthestormblog.com/2023/01/answer-these-six-questions-to-know-if-you-have-a-story/ You’ve just come up with what you believe is a brilliant new idea for your next short story, novel, or screenplay. You sit down at the keyboard, stretch your back, crack your knuckles, and flex your fingers. You stare at the screen for the next twenty minutes or so waiting for inspiration to hit. When it doesn’t come, you begin to question the life choices that led you down the path of becoming a writer. This leads to doubting your original premise and asking yourself, “Do I really have a story worth telling or not?” Whether it’s our first tale or our thirtieth, we’ve all been in this position. So, how do you answer the question? A great place to start is with the Six Essential Questions from screenwriter Glenn Gers. Not only will these six questions help you evaluate your story idea but elevate it as well.
  11. Chris the Story Reading Ape https://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2023/01/20/need-a-writing-buddy-find-one-right-here-by-k-m-weiland/ Some of the questions I am asked most frequently are, “How can I find a writing buddy? Where did you find your own critique partners? Help! I need beta readers!” And, yes, as you may have noticed, that last isn’t a question so much as a desperate plea for help. I noticed too! Need a Writing Buddy? You’re Not Alone! Writing is a solitary life, which means it’s especially nice to send out a ping and hear a friendly echo in return. It reminds us we’re really all in this crazy adventure together. Even more specifically, writers need the help of one another. None of us is able to edit our own work with complete objectivity. To take things to the next level, we need the critique and encouragement of other writers—people who know what they’re doing and who are as passionate about the same type of stories as we are.
  12. https://rosieamber.wordpress.com/2023/01/20/%f0%9f%93%9aa-newadult-opposites-attract-romance-rosies-bookreview-of-saving-toby-by-suzmcklink-contemporaryromance/ Saving Toby is the first book in the Finding Me contemporary series. This story is also a new adult opposites attract romance. I had previously read book three in the series, although the characters aren’t linked, it is the subject matters that relate to the series.
  13. Story Empire Blog https://storyempire.com/2023/01/20/writing-the-end-part-iii/ Some new twists here I haven’t heard of! Check out! Sorry, I lost the paragraph I was gonna put here to introduce it.
  14. Smorgasbord Health Magazine https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2023/01/19/smorgasbord-health-column-2023-the-body-our-greatest-asset-the-brain-dementia-and-alzheimers-disease-by-sally-cronin/ I have featured this series over the last ten years on a regular basis for new readers who might have joined the blog. Our bodies are are greatest asset. It has a long road ahead of if from birth, through the teen years, work life, parenthood, middle age and then into our 70s and beyond. At every stage of our life healthy nutrition is essential to help the body develop and remain as disease free as possible. I appreciate that many of you may have read this series before three years ago, but I hope it will be a reminder of how amazing our bodies are, and simply eating the right foods, exercising moderately and not doing anything too reckless…will go a long way to enjoying later life to the full.

9 responses to “What Kind of Animals Populate Your Fictional World by Traci Kenworth”

  1. Sorry you are under the weather Traci and hope no more than a seasonal cold.. wise probably not to go out. I hope your sister makes a good recovery as I know that operation is not trivial… thanks for the mention and keep warm and take care of yourself. hugsx

  2. Thanks for including a link to my post, and for all the other great links.

    As for me, I have a lot of dogs in my stories, and I’m about to have a cat. I haven’t made up a creature yet, but it sounds like fun. And you gave a great blueprint of what to consider if I ever do.

    Hoping you feel better soon. It’s awful having to care for others when you need care yourself. (Stay under those covers between trips to the school.) I hope your sister recovers quickly and completely. Take care!

  3. I love animals, Traci. They make our real world more interesting and they can add a lot of humor or tension or adorability to a story. Making up different kinds of fantastical creatures is fun, but it requires fleshing them out to make them real and you do a great job of stressing that point. I’m sorry that you’re feeling ill and hope you have a speedy recovery. Same with your sister after her major surgery. And thanks for sharing my Writing the End post. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it. Hugs ❤

    1. Thank you, D. We are both doing better now.

  4. Get well soon, thanks for sharing.

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