Today’s blog is about animals, another important part of world building.
Unless you are dealing with contemporary Earth, thinking about animal life is important. Different environmental pressures changes the life that thrives there. We know there there are dozens, even hundreds variations of any species. All my prior blogs were a setup to this blog, because they change the animals living in them.
Luckily, here’s a template for fauna you can fill out. Get right into it. The more detail you can put into your world, the better it will get.
First, if you’re going to get it right, you need a writer’s notebook. Yes, you need a writer’s notebook. If you’re a writer or game dev, a note book is essential. Once a week, go to a different habitat near your area and describe all the plants and animals there. You will start to see the diversity of life around you. And you need to create the exact same feeling of diversity when you are creating your world.
Look at food webs and food chains – what eats what? How does animals avoid being prey? How to predators ambush their prey? Does the animal have any special needs – like needing to be in water?
If you can’t do that – get text books on zoology, or visit zoological website. The more time you take to define animal species, the more engaging your story will be.
Both Pitch Black and Riddick was all about the animals in the world. You need to get into that level of world building to ensure it works.
You want to define predators, sapients, livestock, pets, and herbivores.
While it can be interesting to make anamorphic animals to tell stories, they must have a culture. We all want to connect with something that resembles us on a mental and emotional level.
Sapients can look like anything, but the way they have to act like us. In speculative fiction, there are so many examples of ‘Demi-human’ life. Asari from Mass Effect, Vorlons from Babylon 5, Elves from so many sources. Despite their obvious physical differences, there are commonalities in their behaviours. That allows your audience to connect with them.
They must act in a way people can understand and empathize with them.
Maps of Meaning is a university level thesis, and well over 1000 pages. But you will see the world in a much different light when you read it. There are so many complex ideas on how people behave that you will start to understand people.
While these books are about humans, you can incorporate these ideas into your world as well. All Sapients, by their very nature, will seek meaning. It’s inevitable, we all need to make sense of the world around us. If your race can learn, rationalize and reason they need to find some kind of meaning.
Now that we have our sapient race/races all defined, the next big thing will be herd animals. Food is essential for life, so your sapients will keep some kind of animals for food and food production. Humanity has dozens of kinds of farm animals – sheep, lambs, goats, cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, horses, lamas and many more. Larger animals once provided the dung that kept the soil fertile and plowed the fields. Other animals, like horses, were a means of transportation.
You need at least two kinds of livestock for your world building, and the more the better. Sapients find uses for animals to make their lives easier.
What kinds of farm animals does your sapients keep? Do these animals change from race to race? Area to area? Culture to culture? Are there religious rules for some animals and not others? Does your culture provide protection to livestock? What are the culture’s attitude towards farm animals?
In the Orcish world, they keep Cows as livestock. Any other smaller mammal is too small for food. They also hunt for deer and other larger animals. Their large lungs and huge muscles burns a huge amount of calories. They only want the biggest sources of meat possible.
They also keep chickens for eggs. The chicken farmer usually keep dozens on each farm – so they can have a large amount of eggs to feed their people.
They don’t hunt or keep smaller animals as food sources.
One of the best ways to humanize your sapient culture is to have pets. Once humans start domesticating animals pets were the next logical conclusion.
We used to use all modern day pets as hunters, pest control and herding. And working animals would need the affection and praise from their owners. This hasn’t changed much.
Not to mention cute dog breeds like Shitzus, like Calvin Klein here, or space hamsters!
The only time you shouldn’t have pets in your world is if you are making a point. In Tales from Trinity City, the city can’t afford the resources to allow people to have pets. There is not one dog, cat for fish in a fish bowl in the entire city.
What kinds of pets does your sapients usually like to keep? Are pets for nobles or for all people? Why was this animal first domesticated? Are they still used for that purpose? Are there certain kinds of animals better as pets in one region as opposed to another? Some dogs are great city dwellers, and others need the wide open spaces.
Sapients like keeping pets, for utility, relaxation and recreation.
The Orcs from the new world have bred a new type of wolf. It is much larger, with larger lungs – which they call Wolviens. Not only can they ride on these animals, they enjoy rough and tumble play with each other. A Wolvien is a present given by parents to their adolescent children on their 14th birthday. This Wolvien helps them develop the strength to become powerful warriors.
Wild Animals are also an important part of world building. Sapients will have very different kinds of relationships. They like to avoid dangerous animals, observe and even keep non-dangerous ones. You need to know what kinds of animals are around your culture.
The best way to learn what those may be is going to a location like your story is set in and document what you see in a note book. Take pictures with your phone, write down what you see in that notebook. If you know what kinds of animals live in what kinds of habitats, you have a solid foundation for your setting.
But you need to think outside the box too – looking at life that may exist somewhere else.
One of the coolest parts of the movie Solider was venomous snakes that lived in the desert junk world. In one brutal scene, the protagonist tricks an enemy soldier into falling into a snake pit. The snakes destroyed the guy, dozens biting him as he died in agony.
It’s not like speculative fiction doesn’t have all kinds of nasty animals that can make a story. Both Pitchblack and Riddick had dangerous animals that the protagonists had to escape. Man vs Nature is a great type of story.
What about dangerous insects that have a huge gestation cycle. Millions of eggs hatch once every 20 years. The larva go out and feed off the blood of other animals, and millions need to feed to mature and reproduce.
Imagine the kind of story where the villagers need to run for their lives as a blanket of living death spreads out.
Getting the zoology of your world done right is important. It can lead to all kinds of interesting stories that will entertain your audience. Getting a notebook can help you fill in all the gaps in your world. Knowing about insects, amphibians, fish, birds, reptiles and mammals will help your world. That way you can think of the same kinds of things in your story.
Because your world doesn’t have Mosquitos, no it doesn’t. The Gods have blessed the world, it doesn’t have blood suckers like that!
Asking what kinds of species inhabit one region to another? What kinds of animals does your sapients use for food, for pets, for protection?
Thanks for reading my blog.
If you have any comments or questions – feel free to use the comment section below.
And share this on social media. Sharing my memes and graphics on Pinterest gets my blog out there. I get a big chunk of traffic from there.
And connect with me on Twitter!
Have a great day guys!