To Create a World: Part 3: Wildlife

8:00 AM

I’m getting back on schedule. Be proud of me.
(And no, I am not about to spend an entire post talking about animals, though I certainly could ...)

Welcome to part 3 of my To Create a World blog post series! If you missed the first two posts, you can read the first one here (on mapmaking) and the second one here (on history).

Part 3: Wildlife

Since we’re building from the ground up here, it only seems natural that we go into what all lives on this mass of earth, starting with wildlife.

NOTE: When I say wildlife, I do not mean just animals. I am talking about everything that lives. Everything. (Well, everything except for humans, because that will need its own separate post.) Animals are a big part of wildlife, yes, but we also have plant life to consider. And there are loooots of plants (and animals) here on earth. So should there be in your world.

Now I'm just going to clear this up right away. You do not need to spend forever coming up with wildlife. In the grand scheme of your story, it's one of the most least important things about your world (I think, anyway).

It might not be majorly important, but it is good to have an idea of what all lives on your world. This is helping build culture, remember. Everything we've done so far has been preparing us for my next (probably massive) post on the People.
 I'm going to get right to it, starting with ...

Step #1: Animals

This is the most fun one, right? I mean, who doesn't love a fuzzy little house pet? Or a giant, man eating lizard?

Animals are important because they add to culture.

(If you are at a loss on how to create a creature, check out Jill Williamson's book Storyworld First. It is a wealth of questions on world building that get the gears turning in your head, and she has a whole chapter dedicated to animal creation. It's incredible. Jill is my world building idol.)

But you don't have to create anything, if you don't want to. You can snag a country full of animals from our world. You can use extinct creatures (dinosaurs, anyone?). You can use creatures from myths and legends.

Look at your map. What exactly does your terrain look like? Do you have lots of jungles? Forests? Fields? Deserts? Farmland? Iceland?

Research what kinds of animals live in these kind of places. (Research is important, guys. Stan agrees, so it's true.)

I'm going to do three for you. First, I'm going to use an extinct creature that once lived in China (since this is the basis of inspiration for my story world).

*a few minutes later* Oh look what I found on the vast web.

Picture found here:
Like, waht even? Isn't this beautiful? Forget extinct animals (i wasn't having much luck finding one, anyway), I'm using this!

See, I could easily name this. I'll use sort of the same tactic I used to name places. I looked up 'dragon' and 'shoot' in Chinese and I'll call it a Qiu-Fa Cobra. I'd say it lives in a jungle-like terrain, so I'll stick it on one of my little islands. Say it can shoot scales (hence the name). That would be cool, right? Like, what if it could rear back and shoot all of them off at once? And then it would go into a deep sleep/short hibernation for a week while its protection grew back.

I'm going to go ahead and show you how this can be used in culture. Say the people on this island love hunting the Qui-Fa. It's a huge sport. They can grow to be up to twenty feet long, for crying out loud! A huge team will venture out into the jungle, wearing special clothes that protect them from its shooting scales. They all swarm on the creature and get it to shoot all its scales, and then they kill it (it could even be a rite of passage for a boy coming of age). They bring it back to their village and have a big feast, where the hunters tell the story of how they caught and killed it to the other villagers. There's lots of dancing and singing and it's a big deal.

See how this builds culture so easily? Like, it's so easy. If you're stuck trying to think of interesting culture, just make or choose an animal and let your creativity run wild.

NOTE: Take care not to directly copy any ideas you see on the web. Someone else put work and effort into that, remember. But pictures like the one above are great for inspiration!  

Alright, that was my first creature. For creature number two, I'm just going to take a panda. Cute panda. Pandas are adorable. They are endangered in China and fiercely protected.

Come on, how cute are these guys?
Picture found here:

So, let's say these animals dwell in the mountain ranges of my land. (oh darn, i can't remember my country's name. UGH. WHERE IS MY MAP?)

(Oops. I didn't name my mountains. UGH.)

Ehem. I know i have no idea what I'm doing.

Okay, these pandas live in the mountains. I could even give them magical properties, so the people of Khamir (that's the name) are afraid to hunt them, despite the temptation of their beautiful, soft skins. Or I could make them tie into one of the religions so that some people worship them, and other people hunt them just to get under the religious peoples' skins. Maybe the people of Tare (the itty bitty country of natives that lies between Khamir and Chenpei) worship the pandas of the mountain range that snakes through their little country, but the people of Khamir hunt them, which would add CONFLICT MWAHAHAHA.


Point being another NOTE: The possibilities are endless.

And for my third creature, I'll use something from myth and legend. Which - DRAGONS GUYS. DRAGONS. Dragons come up a lot in Chinese myths (I don't actually know why). So it only makes sense that they would make it to Khamir. (this is getting long and I already sense I am losing you, so I will hurry along.)

NOTE: When you use creatures from myths/legends, you can use them how they are, but it's fun to add your own spin on them. Take dragons, for example. They're always big, scary, fire breathing things, right? Well, what if most of them are really the size of an average household cat? What if they breathe water rather than fire, making them unable to leave the sea for very long? Have fun with it. Get creative.

ANOTHER NOTE (I'm trying to move on, but my thoughts are everywhere today): Focus on where your story takes place primarily. That's the most important (obviously). You don't want to spend hours on a creature and then realize it wouldn't even live in the city/country that your book takes place in because the terrain is all wrong.


Oops. XP

If I haven't lost you yet, I'm moving on now. I promise.

Step #2: Plants

Animals is probably the biggest (and the most interesting) one, so this will be short.

Plants can be important for descriptions especially. They also play a key factor in medicines, fragrances, and diet (actually, animals play a role in diet too, but you can create lots of cool veggies if you want). Rice is big in China, so I will probably make it a common meal in at least one of my provinces (I'm leaning towards Khamir). Plants are important when you're considering your terrain, too.

In my WIP, plants are a BIG DEAL for many reasons, the main one being that the people of the kingdom my story takes place in made a treaty of peace with the Faeries that had claimed the land first. The Faeries let them live there, but only if they vowed to respect all life and to give up hunting animals for sport and even for food. In return, the Faeries promised to teach them the secrets of the earth, show them new plants and herbs, and nurture their gardens, as well as keep the cold at bay, enchanting it to come only one month out of the year.

I know, I know. I'm a genius.

So, whether they play a big role or not, you should know what kind of plants are at least going to be around your character. Maybe they're traveling and they find some bush of berries. Or they need to get water, but the only available water is from a special flower that sucks up rain water and stores it in its massive petals which make the water taste sweet.

Plants are cool, and they can also help your characters survive. For food, and for medicine.

Step #3: How it Impacts Culture

The next post is going to be huge, so I thought I'd get a head start here.

If you haven't already gotten an idea of how much a single plant or animal can impact your story, here's a scenario.

There is a weed. A weed that only grows in the heart of the mountains, in the deepest most nourishing darkness of their vast caves. A steam rises from the underground rivers, making the caves stiflingly hot and unable to stay in for very long.

Why is this weed special? Well, what if your MC's little brother gets very, very sick? And the only known cure to this rare illness is that weed. That weed that grows in these caves.

BOOM. Story idea.

But what if the problem was even worse? What if there was an endangered mole-rat creature that lived in the caves. And the people that lived in the mountains were very religious, and believed that the mole-rat things were sacred and to be protected with their very lives.

And the endangered mole-rat things are so endangered ... because they only eat a precious few things. One of which being that weed that grows in the caves where they live.

If you're looking for a story idea, or looking to up the conflict of one you already have, adding just a touch of culture, a little critter or plant, can do wonders for you.

I hope you enjoyed this post! I might have rambled a bit, but ah well. Next week is the post I am most excited about! Tune in for Part 4: The People!


Do you like to create creatures? Plants? Does your story feature any odd wildlife? Please share in the comments! <3

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  1. I never got this in depth with my worlds, it's actually fun.

  2. UGHHH THESE WORLDBUDILING POSTS MAKE ME REALIZE HOW LITTLE I SPEND ON WORLDBUILDING. xD Wow I need to work on it a bit before I send it off to betas... Sigh. I've never been good at worldbuilding. :P
    But thank you for making me realize how important this all is! I need to brainstorm a bunch. :P

    1. I'm sure your book is lovely as it is, but worldbuilding will certainly help flesh it out! MESSAGE ME IF YOU WANT TO DO SOME STORMINGS OF THE BRAIN! <3


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