1. fiveminutestillbedtime
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    fiveminutestillbedtime New Member

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    Creating a new species.. pros and cons

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by fiveminutestillbedtime, Sep 14, 2010.

    I'm looking for tips, advice, pitfalls to avoid, etc on building new races/species/creatures as my main characters. I've been working on something for awhile, the creature, their language, their "world", etc and just looking for anything that'll help me in the process.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't approach my fantasy the same way as others. I let my stories create my worlds, its peoples etc.

    For example I needed a Royal Yacht so the town needed to be near the sea. I needed to get my characters about so they morph into birds. My races/species came about because I started using the four elements, there is a race representing each of them. I used the random renamer on behindthename asking it to give me names from certain cultures one is based on Chinese etc Their descriptions work with the elements to a point. I made the indigenous races immortal unless they reproduce so I could keep people I need to teach my present day people alive.

    Each character has the characteristics they need and their personality suggests. For langauge I just use a smattering of foreign words taken from the same culture as their names.

    My current book needed snow so they are adventuring in foreign lands lol:)

    Let your characters tell you what characteristics they need as you write the story, find out what your story needs them to do.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Basically, research. To create a social structure, it helps to know more than one real world social structure. To create a language, it helps to understand more than one language, and how languages are structured. The same holds true of all aspects of species creation and definition.
     
  4. Horizon Noise
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    Horizon Noise Member

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    In terms of physical creature design, read up on actual animals that resemble the ones you want to write about. Find out why they are like they are and how they are suited to their particular niches in the environment. So if your creatures or aliens live on a world with a thin atmosphere you might give them large chests to accommodate equally large lungs. If the world is dry they might have evolved water pouches. Even little details like predators tending to have eyes at the front of their head rather than at the sides can add to the authenticity of your creatures. Of course you can mix and match at random but the result tends to betray that fact.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Horizon Noise is right. You have to be aware of the environment and the ecosystem the creatures live in, and what role (predator, prey, symbiont, parasite, etc.) they play in it. The creatures have to make sense, biologically and ecologically.

    I suppose you can get away without that if you never show your creatures in their home environment. For example, in the movie Alien we're just presented with a monster, and we don't have to understand how it got to be the way it is. In the spaceship it's a monster; on its home planet, it's just a normal being that fits in its ecosystem.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Quoted for truthiness.

    It bugs when I read a bit of sci-fi and the author presents me with a wildly fantastic creation that is the very pinnacle of imagination... and makes no sense whatsoever to the environment in which it lives.

    Examples from the movie Avatar.

    ~ Not one single creature on the entire planet exhibits anything like hair, yet the Na'vi have beautiful, glossy, lank locks. Why?

    ~ Pandoran fauna exhibits a hexapedal (six limbed) morphology, and yet the Na'vi are tetrapods (four limbs).

    ~ The two different flying creature thingies in the movie, the ones they regularly ride and then the big orange one at the end are obviously very closely related creatures, and again there is a difference in the number of limbs they exhibit. This kind of change is a very profound one from a genetics standpoint and would beg an explanation.


    These seem like small things, but if you know anything about biology or genetics and evolution, they are indeed grand mistakes.
     
  7. viktor
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    viktor Member

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    I think it's also important to allow the aliens to have some kind of human element, insofar as the reader needs one to identify with them.
     
  8. polarboy
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    polarboy Member

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    The first thing I'd recommend asking yourself is, Why are you creating a new species? What storytelling issues and ideas do you want to cover that you can't cover with humans?

    In an sf adventure I submitted last month, I created an amphibious species of humanoids. This meant figuring out how they developed physically (growing from tadpoles into bipedal adults). Then I figured out the tri-leveled meritocracy they follow (for better or worse). I didn't develop a language for them (they learned English for the scenario), but I settled on a structure for selecting personal names for individuals in the society. Then, to help the reader (and me) identify with the species, I created a chracter who was incarcerated for not complying with societal expectations.
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    One pitfall is making the background more important than the story and individual characters.
     

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