As I’ve been thinking about the origins of Secrets of Fathara, my thoughts turned yesterday to the creatures in the story. How in the world did I come up with skrewk, musta frogs, and horva vines?
My snap response would be to say, I have no idea. But really, creatures come out of the desire to create a rich, realistic world and in Mortan’s case, necessity. Mortan is desperate to kill Tika, and will find any way to dispatch her (which means I’m finding whatever means possible to kill her off). So as Tika travels with an unknown assassin in her group, the question becomes, how could an assassin carry a creature on him to use at a later time when the creature would cause the most damage? This is where my problem solving began with the musta frogs and the horva vines. What would be their resting form as they travelled for several days and what would be their potential deadly form? I asked myself if I could create something that seemed harmless in its own environment, but if transferred out of it could cause a lot of damage, and be considered a monster.
A musta frog, for example starts out as a tiny frog, only one inch in size. If allowed to suck on a Human, it absorbs the individual’s lifeforce and begins to grow at a rapid rate. Attempting to kill a musta frog or cutting off body parts only divides them, resulting in more frogs to suck on people and grow larger. The only way to reduce a musta frog back to its original size is to get it to swallow a rock. Unfortunately, people tend to panic when musta frogs grow larger, and they use swords rather than rocks to try and solve the problem, ending up with a musta frog epidemic. All the assassin has to do is wait for them to be in an environment with no rocks. Ginormous frogs and no way to make them smaller.
One of my favorite species, the Vennu, actually comes from my second book, The Veil of Death and was inspired by a picture I saw on the internet of a moss-covered man. When I saw this picture I began imagining creatures made entirely out of plants and covered in moss. Then I asked myself, “What if the forest they lived in had a spell cast on it? And what if their purpose became twisted and evil?” The Vennu still have a caretaking role in the forest, turned swamp, but they feed some creatures to others in the deadly Swamp of Tears.
Creature creation isn’t easy, but it’s certainly interesting and fun when you see how the creatures turn out. I love the twisted Vennu, but wouldn’t want to meet them face to face, nor would I want to get stomped on by a rampaging musta frog. I’d rather admire them from a distance and see what other wonderful and interesting beasts are still lurking in the world of Fathara.
For tips on creature creation see: http://www.springhole.net/writing/create-better-fantasy-and-science-fiction-species.htm