Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.


Building a better monster

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening.
The moon is a New Moon

Build a better monster and the victims will beat a path to your door.

Well, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but you get the idea. There was a show on Animal Planet of all things that really got me thinking about this. It was called The Future is Wild and it was all about ways that present day animals may evolve in the future. Some of them were pretty far out, but still, they were pretty reasonable. The animal world is full of surprises and quirks, so some really odd things are not only possible but already happening! Of course, they were talking about “real” animals and not fantasy creatures, but, still I think it’s important to pay pretty close attention to the “little details” when I’m building a fantasy monster. Whether it’s a dragon, an ogre, or a demon, they still have to be believable, consistent, and reasonable, after a fashion.
In short, they have to follow the Rules, whatever those rules may be. For something that’s more or less natural like an ogre or a dragon, they have to follow certain so-called natural laws. They eat, which means they hunt and/or gather. Because they eat, they excrete as well. They sleep and mate, which means they need a lair of somekind. Sure, dragons may violate what some of us preceive to be laws of aerodynamics if they fly, though there is some debate on that, but otherwise, they need to act like really big animals.
For instance, since they’re big, they need to eat a lot. That means that they’ll be carnivores. They’ll have to get the most “bang for their buck”, as it were, so they’ll eat meat. Meat provides the most calories for volume. And I figure it takes a lot of calories to fly and breathe fire. But, they may also be omnivores. After all, something that needs that many calories can’t be too picky about what it eats! It just has to get fuel any which way it can. So, its eating habits will determine its hunting habits. Or, even if it has hunting habits at all.
But, what an animal eats can also determine what their mating habits are like. How’s that, you wonder? Well, if an animal needs a lot of food, it needs a pretty big territory and not much competition. So, members of its own species tend to get run off as unwanted competition, including members of the opposite sex. Unless, of course, it hunts in packs. Let’s say our dragon is a loner. What does that mean to its reproductive cycle?
Well, I’d imagine that the poor female gets to lay eggs and possibly tend them. Sort of like what Bakker suspects many species of dinosaur did. But, they could be more like aligators, who lay their eggs and then abandon them to fend for themselves. Aligators mate once a year, according to Jeff Corwin of Animal Planet, and then spend the rest of the year in competition for food. Pretty brutal, but that’s perfect for our monster. The more brutal the monster, the more heroic the dragonslayer.
From those little suppositions and speculations, we can really flesh out a pretty good and believable dragon. But, it all comes from following Mother Nature’s rules. And, of course, doing our homework. Gotta’ know what those rules are if we’re going to follow them. So, stop watching the latest Evil Dead movie and flip over to National Geographic or Animal Planet or the Discovery Channel and see what’s happening in the animal world. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

Keep a lookout for a follow up article on creating more “realistic” demons.
Until then, keep writing!

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