Fiction is full of fantastical creatures. From dragons, to giant worms, to griffins, creatures we can't see at our local zoo have always...

Fiction is full of fantastical creatures. From dragons, to giant worms, to griffins, creatures we can't see at our local zoo have always fascinated us. After all, who doesn't love animals, especially if they have unique abilities?

In my early writing years, I kept my made-up creatures very basic -- copies of Earth animals, with the ability to breathe fire, or heightened senses of smell. But there are so many more things to consider, not just about the animals themselves, but their interactions with people, and other animals.

To try and help you break down what that means, here are some questions to ask when creating fictional creatures!

1) What is their basic appearance? What are the first features that would be spied (eg. a long tail, wings, a slithering tongue, claws)? What colours do they appear in? What covers their outside (eg. feathers, scales, fur, a mix)?

2) What would they be classified on Earth as: mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, etc?

3) How do they communicate with each other? Are they verbal or non-verbal? If verbal, do they rely on pitch, pattern, or sound to represent different meanings? If non-verbal, what parts of the body do they use to communicate?

4) Are they mostly seen in packs, in herds, or alone? What is the reason for this (eg. travel in herds so if hunted, they're less likely to be targeted)?

5) Are they herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores? What plants/meat specifically do they eat? How does their unique form enable them to eat this food? Do they store it? If so, where/how?

6) How long can they last between eating and drinking? Do they get their moisture from bodies of water, from eating leaves, drinking dew, or something else?

7) What environment can they typically be found in (eg. desert, forest, ocean, tundra, plains)? How has this limited or expanded their food sources, or method of drinking?

8) Are they tameable? What features/behaviour make them appealing to be tamed by humans (eg. can be ridden, or do strenuous labour)? What features/behaviour might make them not appealing?

9) Are they capable of killing? What method is this done in (eg. poison/venom, choking, mauling)? What defense mechanisms do they have?

10) After being born, how long does it take for them to be able to stand? How long do they remain with their mothers? Are they born in a litter, group, or alone?

11) What name are they known by, in different cultures? How is their representation different or similar between cultures? Are they commonly seen in art, or stories? (Bonus: what sounds do different cultures associate with them? For example, the Western sheep sound is "baaaa" but the Thai sheep sound is "maaaa".)

What is their history with people? Are they friends, enemies, or neutral? How rare are they? 

13) Are their products eaten by people? If so, is it their milk, meat, eggs, fat, or other parts? What foods are their products seen in? Are they killed/their products harvested in the wild or are they put in farms? How are they treated in this process?

14) Where in the food chain are they located? What fellow creatures do they fear, if any? Are there any animals they have a symbiotic relationship?

15) How has an increase in human population (or decrease) affected their food sources, hunting skills, and nesting/resting places? Have they taken residence among human settlements, or retreated further back into the wilderness?

16) Are there any human sports/games associated with them, eg. hunting? How has this affected their numbers, and what they teach their young about humans?

17) How do they communicate with humans? Are they able to easily sense human emotions and feelings? Do they try and bring comfort, or do they hide when they sense something is wrong?

18) How do their senses compare to humans' and other animals'? Which sense do they rely the most on? Can they see in the dark, smell prey from miles away, regrow their limbs, or something else?

19) Are there any other parts of them that are used by people, such as fur for blankets, claws as necklaces, or fat for lighting, that don't center around food? What uses do they have, and how expensive are they?

20) Do they only have one mate for life, or multiple mates? Are there family/pack loyalties, or once grown up, are these loyalties dead?

More in the Questions to Ask When... series!

Cities      History      Celebrations      Magic
Characters (Backstory, and Interview)
Schools      Monarchies      Religions     Ethnicities

What's your favourite fictional creature (I love griffins!)? Any topic you'd like me to cover in the next Questions to Ask When... series? What creatures are in your story-worlds?
Have a wonderful day! <3

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  1. Love these post, I always used to just create really basic creatures.

  2. Very helpful. Pinning this for when I need it later.

  3. Once again, you are a world-building lifesaver, Melissa. From the Cave has a lot of creature races that wreck havoc for the characters and these questions are going to help a lot with fleshing them out :)


    1. Aw thanks Catherine, I'm so glad I can help you again! :) Oooh I'm intrigued, I'll have to keep an eye out for these chaotic creatures. ;)

  4. These are really good questions! I need to use some of these for my mythical creatures. I think one of my favorite original mythical creatures are thestrals from Harry Potter. Very creative! Also, taking from the question where you point out how different cultures say animals sound differently in Japanese instead of "ribbit" they say "kerro-kerro" and instead of "meow" they say "nya."

    1. Thanks Victoria! :) Oooh yes they're such cool creatures, and she definitely put a lot of detail into them! Oh really? I love to learn different cultures' sounds for animals; it's always so interesting! :D

  5. Ooh these are very useful and great! I honestly haven't created any fictional creatures yet?! I hopefully will one day haha, but it hasn't come up yet. I just tend to use earth-y ones because I put all my energy into my magic systems.😂 But I read a book recently with such interesting cat/human/hybrid people and it was super cool?!

    1. Thank you Cait! :D Haha I feel you, I don't create tons of fictional creatures myself, as I put more work into the magic and political environment. xD Ooh that sounds like an amazing book!