Thursday, May 3, 2018

Worldbuilding: Imaginary Creatures

Fantasy and Supernatural stories are full of angels, demons, dwarves, elves, fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, gremlins, halflings, hobgoblins, orcs, ogres, trolls, vampires, witches, and warlocks.

Cave-dwelling Gollum is a favorite of mine from J. R. R. Tolkein's The Hobbit.

Alice in Wonderland had the hookah-smoking Chesire Cat and perpetually rushed White Rabbit.

In Frank Herbert's Science Fiction novel Dune, there were giant sandworms that gave me nightmares.

J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series has too many to list fascinating creatures: thestrals, Hippogriffs, dementors, and ridgeback dragons. Hagrid had a menagerie including boarhounds, giant spiders, Fluffy the three-headed dog, and blast-ended skrewts. The offshoot movies Magical Creatures and Where to Find Them are populated with the niffler, obscurus, bowtruckles, and doxies, to name but a few of the enormous list of magical creatures.

In my realism-based series, Mythikas Island, I kept the threats my girls faced within the realm of possibility. But I did have fun giving my spin on one "legendary" creature, the griffin. During the journey, the girls have been telling campfire tales to unnerve each other.

Excerpt from Book Three Aphrodite:

Athena turned on her heel, reaching for her spear. “I’m going to shut those birds up permanently.” The male pheasant fanned his tail, sensed danger, and folded it away. The caw came again: louder, longer, closer.

A bird with a wingspan of two people placed end to end landed above the overhang then pivoted until he faced us. Diana backed into me. “That isn’t a pheasant.”

The bird’s legs were as thick as a man’s forearm, the claws massive enough to encircle my neck. The feathers were black and eyes blacker. A sprout of pale feathers fanned back from its crown like a horse’s mane. Its beak was broader and sharper than a normal bird’s. Athena held her hand out to Diana for her spear.

“I think it’s your griffin,” I said to Persephone.

The bird fluffed his wings. A single feather floated down, larger than the pheasant’s tail. The pheasants scampered amid a flurry of alarm. Diana sent the spear spiraling in the direction of the griffin. It landed shy in the streaming waterfall and bobbed to the surface in the pool.

Athena shrieked. “You missed!”

“Sorry,” Diana said.

 The griffin shifted on his perch, emitting its unnerving squall. Persephone issued a harsh, brittle trill. “The stories got it wrong. A griffin only has two legs.”

Creating imaginary beings for your story can make it stand out from the rest. Your descriptions should bring them to life. The creatures can be cute or deadly, interesting or outrageous, based on others that exist or completely new. You are the artist and animator and the only limits are your imagination.

What are your favorite fictional beings? Have you created a unique creature for your story world? Tell us about it in the comments.

For more tips on world building check out the newly released Story Building Blocks: Build A World Workbook.

To read more:

How To Create Own Magical Creature

3 Steps for Creating Realistic Fantasy Races and Creatures

How to Describe A Fantasy Creature

Tips for Writing Mythical Creatures

Greek Mythology Bestiary

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. I just finished reading a book that's sci fi and has some brilliant aliens which seem very much like fantasy creatures. These Jadderbadians in "A Once-Dead Genius in the Kennel of Master Morticue Ambergrand: From deathbed to pethood and beyond in Earth's far distant future" by R. Gary Raham are my current imaginary creatures. Sci fi requires world building skills similar to those in fantasy and other paranormal novels.

    1. I mean "current favorite imaginary creatures."

    2. Love the term "jadderbadians." Naming them is part of the fun.

  2. Cool post, Diana. I'm afraid I write plain, old earth-bound stories, so my animals are familiar to most readers. While this may not require the physical description of a fantasy or sci-fi piece, it does allow for the exploration of other qualities such as loyalty, tendency toward aggression, peculiar habits, and so forth. I have edited some fantasy books, and I must say that the descriptive talents required of the writers far exceed anything I will ever write. You are to be commended for your skill in bringing such unique fauna to vivid life.

  3. I envy your imagination when it comes to things mythical, Diana. I don't have it. I can create an evil human or a saintly one, but nothing like you do. Brava.


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