I love mythological creatures. I have one problem with them, though. I see the same ones EVERYWHERE. I read a lot of fantasy and urban fantasy books, and some creatures seem to be staples of the genre. Dragons, elves, fairies, ogres, trolls. They’re usually done well, but it gets repetitive.
When I started my fantasy project, I decided that I wasn’t going to use the typical mythological creatures. I wanted use ones I’d never seen before. Since they were new to me, maybe they’d be new to my readers too, and pique their interest.
I spent days doing research. And while I ended up with a lot of names, I couldn’t find a lot of information about them. There just isn’t much to find about obscure creatures that don’t even exist. Much of the information I did find was conflicting, and often reflected folk legends told across hundreds of years. The good news is, I’m writing a fantasy book. I can make up whatever I want. Using these creatures as a foundation, I can pick and choose which aspects I like, and insert them into my story however I please. So far, only a couple have made appearances: A strix, an amarok, and a thunderbird. They’re all massive, and all predators, and all a bit terrifying. I’ve had a ton of fun using them, but I ran into a problem here, too.
Most mythological creatures are predators. And huge. They’re awesome, but they don’t fit into every situation. I didn’t want to fill my world with everyday animals (deer, squirrels, fish, etc), but I don’t want to try to make them all up, either. That’s when I had another idea.
I call them “animals that don’t sound real but are”. Not very catchy, but it gets the job done. Again, I was looking for animals that most people don’t hear about often, or at all, something to make my story a bit different from everyone else’s. Some of these animals are pretty cool. Some are just plain weird. Here are the ones I’ve used so far: Lamprey-a jawless, parasitic fish; Babirusa-cousin of the pig, with long curling tusks; Markhor-large species of wild goat with corkscrew horns. Again, I’ve tweaked them a bit to serve my purposes, but I’ve had a lot of fun writing them, too.
There’s nothing wrong with writing a story about dragons. Maybe someday I’ll write a story about dragons. But a lot of people use dragons, and I don’t want to be a lot of people.