Creature Feature #2

Hi, Gang. Craig with you again today to continue my mini-series about creature creation. Last time we talked about combining creatures to come up with something new. We dabbled with size and a few other things. Today it’s all about:

Anthropomorphism: The attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities.

Keep in mind, this isn’t just for kids. Stephen King wrote Christine. Anthropomorphism has also been around a long time. Puss ’n Boots was a verbal tale before it was published in 1697.

This is a powerful tool in creature creation, because you aren’t limited to animals. In fact there’s no requirement for these creations to talk at all. Maybe you just need a collection of zealot coasters that will knock things over to make sure guests never place a glass directly on your good coffee table.

Artificial intelligence gives our science fiction a bunch of new possibilities now. You can give personalities to all kind of equipment and it’s based upon something readers already know. That security fence around a secret government facility can now come with the attitude of a snooty maitre d’. “Put those wire cutters down or I’ll hit you with so much electricity your children will feel it.” It becomes a Guardian character archetype.

Most of the time, this kind of thing won’t be your main character. They play supporting roles, but can be memorable and fun. Dr. Strange’s cape was the best part of that movie for me and I wanted more of it.

There are a lot of possibilities here, and they don’t have to come across as childish. Maybe your horror story involves a smart house, but it turns out like HAL from 2001 a Space Odyssey.

I introduced a plant as a witch’s familiar in a previous book. I wanted something different than the traditional black cat. It crawls out of its pot and moves around using its roots like tentacles. I’m bringing it back in an upcoming story, too.

Pick something, could be anything, as long as it’s going to enhance your story. Could enhance a top tier character, or your environment. Have fun with it. I am seriously going to be writing one in the near future that includes an anthropomorphic toilet. I’m already imagining my main character fleeing to the gym rather than using the silly thing.

These characters can go anywhere as far as your story is concerned. The toilet will become an annoyance to overcome. I’m working up an animated funerary urn that might be more haunted than anything else. He’s going to be a boastful wannabe hero of some kind. He carries a 1000 year old secret.

My only cautions here are to introduce it early enough that it doesn’t seem out of place later. The second one is to have it serve a purpose. You don’t want it to come across like an author saying look at this cool thing I came up with that serves no purpose in the story. Even my AI cat had a few moments of sage advice to share with my heroine.

Have you ever tried this in one of your stories? Tell us how it all turned out. I’ll be waiting over here pouring more cocktails. The coasters get so butt-hurt if they don’t all have a glass. “Hey! I swear, if you guys knock my phone on the floor one more time you’re all going on EBay.”

63 thoughts on “Creature Feature #2

  1. I did have a grouper fish knowmore than a fish should, but though I do a lot of slipstream, I don’t do much anthropomorphism. By far the biggest use of this is animals (toys, whatever) that act and speak like humans. Disney built an empire on these kinds of stories, though many were rooted in Aesop’s fables.

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  2. That was a fun post, Craig. I especially got a chuckle out of the end with the coasters, LOL.
    I haven’t ever written one of these characters, but I’ve read several books where they come into play. These are all good tips!

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  3. I haven’t taken an inanimate object and brought it to life, but I did jump ahead to the year 3935 in Eternal Road to discover that AI had solved the world climate change problem. It was fun writing that stuff. Your points to keep in mind in this process are worth noting. Thanks, Craig.

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  4. I don’t think I’ve ever animated something inanimate, Craig, but your post has me thinking…. That would be super fun and fantasy has plenty of room for that kind of creativity. Great tips too about keeping it relevant and not just a gimmick. Great post. Now I need to go think about how to incorporate it into my next story.

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  5. This was fun! I don’t use this technique in any of the books I write, but I played with it in a short story or two. Never as much fun as your ideas. Can’t say I ever want to meet a toilet with an attititude:)

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  6. I think the only thing that I’ve ever written remotely like this was for the “if walls could talk” prompt on Vocal. You do a wonderful job with this kind of thing.

    And I agree about Dr. Strange. The cape is my favorite part, too, and I always want more.

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  7. I’ve never written anything using ideas like these, Craig, but that doesn’t mean I might not do so in my next story. This was a very interesting post, and I’m saving it for future reference, should Rabbit discover something that has anthropomorphic abilities. Who knows? Anything can happen in those North Carolina mountains, and now I’ve got all sorts of ideas running through my head. THANKS!!

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  8. You make it sound like so much fun, Craig. The closest I’ve come to using anthropomorphism is referring to walls talking. I don’t have the same creative imagination that you possess in spades. I wish I did. Great post with great examples! 😊

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  9. The examples you give here have made my day! My favourite is the security fence! Mention 2001 and it’s HAL that instantly comes to my mind. Christine was another great example of an ‘inanimate’ object that was terrifying. The ones you’ve used today are used for comic effect as much as anything else, although I can see how they can form an important part of the plot. Your root monsters almost upstaged your protagonists in Lanternfish and are wonderful creations!

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  10. This sounds like a lot of fun, Craig. I have a sentient sword in my Wolves of Vimar series. It doesn’t talk, but vibrates when danger is around, and can only be wielded by one person. (It chooses who its wielder is.) If anyone else tries to pick it up it variously becomes extremely heavy so noone can lift it, so cold it gives frostbite, burns the person or becomes covered in thorns. I haven’t thought of any more things yet!

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