Creature Feature #3

Hi, Gang. Craig with you once again to wrap up this mini-series about creature creation. We dabbled in mythology, Pinterest, artificial intelligence, and a few things in previous posts.

There are times when a creature is just window dressing. It’s a basic monster of some kind. Sometimes the creatures have their own civilization, or groups. That’s where we’re going today. This is kind of Creatures 201, because you’ve gone beyond drooling monsters.

Sometimes they’re the antagonist. If you play around in the speculative fields you’re going to eventually need a little back story for some of them. I’m referring to fully humanized groups. Could be aliens, a military group like my Space Chimp Squadron in an unpublished MS, or a strange religious group. Today, we’re focusing on witchcraft. You can modify my points for your own creations.

Okay, I didn’t create witches, but they serve my purpose today. I tried to avoid low hanging fruit by making them quite different and have received some nice comments on that fact. I decided that the ability to wield magic was a normal human genetic combination. It’s a place to stick a pin, then ponder.

Why aren’t there witches around today? They are, but they’ve learned through thousands of years of persecution to keep a low profile. They try to blend in when they go out, and are mostly reclusive. In earlier eras, every village had a witch doctor, shaman, holy woman, oracle, or something similar. By killing them off over the centuries, it became a very rare human trait.

This helps establish their personalities. They’re cautious and careful not to let others get too close. Groovy. They also live exceptionally long lives.

They need trappings so I decided to focus on houses, cars, and wands. (I like the idea of using three things to focus on.) These are people who would love to be flamboyant and eclectic, but can only do so at home. Most of them drive what passes for old junk cars, something you wouldn’t give a second glance. They aren’t junk and most of them are magically enhanced somehow. The occasional witch has something nicer in the garage (and out of sight) for special events. Beyond witches, I have aliens that are illegal adventure travelers. They add charms to their bracelets to keep score with others of their species.

My witch’s homes are usually somewhere on the fringe of normal. One lives in a modern architectural nightmare, another in an old Victorian. I just created two new witches that live in a converted water tower and a converted barn, respectively. Not way far out, and you likely have some of these near where you live.

Witches should have wands and mine do, kind of. None of them are hazel root twisted things. They are ordinary items that hold certain spells after the witch enhances them. Again, things that might not stand out if someone saw them. One uses an old pipe wrench, another a wooden spoon, you get the picture.

People with magical ability are discovered, then brought into the coven. Most young witches either wind up harming or killing themselves through some kind of magical accident. They also risk making the rest of the population aware that magic exists to either be manipulated or destroyed. One of my characters has a thing for stealing airplanes and going joy riding. Maybe not impossible for a regular teen when it comes to take off and flight. Landing in a remote location and walking safely away stands out.

This character was brought into the coven, then given a mentor. I haven’t shared everything about the witches, because they are not my main characters. I’ve alluded to some kind of quest they go on, and even have a bit of out-study they participate in to learn from a different mentor. Some of that will show up in subsequent stories.

Each of my witches has an on-board natural ability. Other disciplines can be learned with patience and study. I tried to expand beyond the four elements, but they are part of it. I’ve also introduced a weather witch, a garden witch, a gadget witch, and a kitchen witch.

This isn’t meant to be a promotion for my work. It’s also not meant to be a recipe card for you. However, you can steal from this. What is the backstory for how your group sees themselves? What common trappings can you give them? How do they interact, see the broader world, or universe? Are they downtrodden or viewed as gods? Joyous or morose?

You can come up with all kinds of things for a group. I wrote funeral jars into a story once; burial in a garden of body sized jars. What do they drink? How do they gamble? How important are promises or lies? Do they have a union? Are they available for hire?

Some of your alien races, or fantasy races, are going to need some of this. It won’t come up every time, but it’s nice to ponder for when it does.

Consider putting information from all these posts together when you create something new. Combine things readers will understand, look large and small. Consider giving different characteristics to ordinary things. Maybe you need sentient amoebas who invade our bodies. Consider giving some creations a backstory. If they’re mercenary creatures, enslaved laborers, or dockworkers, they probably deserve some explanation. It might be helpful to give them some kind of powers. This could be magical in some genres, or more like a sixth sense in Science Fiction.

I have a science fiction race of creatures who run a huge warehouse. (Not published yet.) They have the ability to never forget where something is. My characters can rely upon them, but couldn’t possibly find anything without them. They’re extremely family oriented, and were originally parasitic on a huge monster. Now they thrive on fried chicken. These guys were created out of my first method of combining animals a reader might be familiar with. (Cockroaches and armadillos.)

Let me hear from you. Have you written something where you needed to develop a culture for your creations? I’ll just be hanging out with the Poodle Girls from the first post. They’re trying to trick the anthropomorphic coasters and I hear a lot of growling and yapping.

43 thoughts on “Creature Feature #3

  1. Hi Craig, you are fabulous with your creature creation and always give them an interesting quirk. When I think of witches, Roald Dahl’s The Witches always stands out in my mind. I also create fantasy creatures for my children’s books but those books are a lot shorter than your The Hat books so I don’t need as much description. Actually, the description is in the illustrations.

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  2. Hi, Craig. I have a story simmering at the back of my mind that involves modern witches. They are an international group. I don’t want to say more as I may get around to writing it and don’t want to give away any spoilers. But some of your ideas might help. Thank you.

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  3. I haven’t created anything as extensive as you have, Craig, but I have developed some creatures and unusual characters that required a bit of world-building. I enjoyed experimenting with that.
    Nice wrap to your series today!

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  4. Great post, Craig 🙂 i like the background you suggest characters need in stories. It makes it that much more interesting to read with those small details and history.

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    • By focusing on three things it really helps me create them. I never want to call those items out directly though. I just include them organically as the story allows. Maybe we never see one of the houses, so I don’t force it into the story.

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  5. You’re so much more imaginative than I am! You amaze me. I did a series of novellas about a witch colony, my Muddy River series, but since I’m a myth lover, I used a lot of the mythical tropes (nothing even close to the stuff you come up with) for them. My magical community has witches, vampires, demons, and anything supernatural, settling in a community near the Ohio River, obscured by Fae magic from human eyes. Every supernatural has been hunted and killed by humans, and they want nothing to do with them. Your creatures make mine feel mundane, but it’s fun to write them. And it’s even more fun to read yours.

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    • I’ve seen too many paranormal characters that are based upon the four elements. I do it, too, but also try to have some other practices mixed in. I have one that’s more of a garden/greenhouse witch. She’s in a finished MS, but it hasn’t published yet.

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  6. World-building is super fun, Craig, and it’s a delight to see how your mind works. As a fantasy writer, I do a lot of this for my characters, human and otherwise. The details adds a lot of richness and depth to a story, even those that don’t directly serve the plot. Great post.

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  7. Ahhh, some of your secrets are revealed Mr. Boyack! I always enjoy your creativty with your characters. Your witches are unique and that’s why I love these characters. You don’t use the usual tropes. I like speculative fiction for this very reason. Thank you!

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  8. I love this glimpse into how your mind works to put together elements to create something new out of the old. You’re right in that witches have been around forever, but out of self-preservation, have pretty much gone underground. However, the internet is changing that and you can find all sorts of witch blogs. Loved this! Thank you for sharing!

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  9. This is terrific, Craig! Writing is a creative process and your creativity is superb. I love the way you take an idea, twist it and then run with – adding more twists as you go. I can’t compete, but I do see how some of this can be applied to other genres. That notion of hiding behind the commonplace, for instance. I’m looking forward to reading your finished versions!

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  10. Pingback: Creature Feature #3 | Legends of Windemere

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