So, hello and welcome, once again, to one of my long-as-longcat text tutorials. This one here is going to be on the creation of original species. Unlike my other tutorials, this one is going to be better organized and hopefully make more sense, although, like all my other tutorials, it's going to be more a guide, than anything else. After all, you might not like, or even have to follow, everything I do, though I hope I can at least lay down a good path for you to follow, least you decide you want to follow it at all.
For this tutorial here, I will be using one of my own, nearly-original species, my biological vampires. These are simple characters, more humanoid than anything, and a very good springboard for showing one what developing an original species can do for you, your story, or anything else you plan on using these species on. Along the way, though, I will also be stating things that might apply outside my vampire species, and might apply to your species. Whether you use them or not, that is entirely up to you.
Now, let us continue to the first step of this long-as-longcat text tutorial! Have fun!~
Fantasy, or Non-Fantasy?
This is the first thing you need to think about when considering a new species. The question might seem a little broad, however, it is very, very important. The borderline between a believable, living-breathing creature and a fantasy creation that will only appear in a magical world is a thin, but distinguishable one. The question, fantasy or non-fantasy really pertains more to science-fiction or fantasy-fiction, and how 'real' you want your species to be. Things like symmetry, appearance, personality, actions, and even things right down to the very eye-color and toenails can make or break a project. Think about it like this-- if you want your species to be real, they should, technically, be able to occur and spawn in nature itself. It's understandable to have oddities occur, though there is no species that develops only three-legged animals, at least, not on this planet. It's okay to bend the rules a little, though bear in mind that bending too far backwards will cause your spine to break.
*This is just a little side note, but I find that mixing both fantasy with believable, biological function can really make everything jump off the page. Though in fantasy, undead and magic can occur naturally, I find it more exciting to put an element of realness within the fantasy realm. It makes one think, 'what if magic is real, and this really could happen?' That's what my biological vampire species really is. Instead of being undead, sparkling, blood-sucking monsters that burn in the sunlight, I made them nocturnal, misunderstood, living and breathing creatures infected by a specific virus (a bit more like zombies, but alive, I suppose). In that sense, I can make the reader believe there is the slightest chance that this might actually be able to happen. Whether you want to use this mix is entirely up to you, though, as I know that the opinions between fantasy and sci-fy can vary vastly from person-to-person.
Things to think about
-I'm putting this before 'the world' for a lot of reasons. Symmetry is one of the most commonly occurring things in nature, almost before everything else out there. Think about it. Unless it's a plant, if you were to cut it in half, the other half, theoretically, should look identical. Though this can often vary, between mutations, birthmarks, or just naturally occurring differentiation, things should not have one arm, thee legs, seventeen eyes and an odd number of toes on each foot. Now, if you choose to branch away from the non-scify sorts of things, then tricks like this might be acceptable, though typically, if you want anything to appear real at all, then it should have an element of symmetry.
-Don't try to over-complicate everything. Seriously. Baroque tried this and half the nation hates playing the viola to his song for terribly long. Make it fun, but don't put too much in one thing. I am practically notorious for having an ungodly amount of tropes in one character, and this is a trait I'm trying to lose. If it makes sense, use it-- but if not, then what's the point?
-This is something that is very, very high on the list. The world a species lives in can change them drastically, deciding whether insects, reptiles, or mammals evolve to the dominant species, and deciding what adaptations these creatures have. The world, also, consists of more than separate planets, from Earth, but also the time period of the planet, the weather conditions, and sometimes the other species occurring there. Often, the hardest part about developing a species is looking at the world they live in, and deciding simple things, like 'how do they bathe' or 'should they have teeth'. When you are developing a species, it's the little things like that that will really make your own creature stand out among others, and make them jump off the page, to life, as well.
-Once again, don't try to over-complicate it. It might be good to know how this creature bathes, but if it doesn't come up in the story, then don't use it. Knowing little things like that will help you define your species as a whole, but if it's not something that the other needs to know, don't go off on a whole ten pages describing why your creatures eyes are green. Hell, my eyes are green, and I have no idea why. Do I need to know why, though? Hardly.
-The world is such a broad topic that I'm going to take the rest of this, and leave it here until later. Mull it over for a while, and have us come back to this. In fact, this things to think about section, think about this all the time. These are the most important things to keep in mind. Always keep these things in mind.
-The coolest thing about creating a real-to-life species is that, beyond symmetry, the possibilities are practically endless. Bugs all have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies. The rhinoceros has two horns on it's head, the elephant two tusks, the cow, two horns. Some fish are transparent through and through. And things like squid? Seriously. What the hell is this? Some creatures out there, on our own Earth, are pretty crazy, inside and out.
-Though this is not entirely true (minus plants, viruses, and other things) everything living on this planet has some sort of beating heart, some sort of function to keep them alive. Oxygen and water do it for us. Maybe Hydrochloric Acid and Helium keep your species alive, and maybe some organic, nuclear substance does. Either way, another thing, beyond symmetry, to consider, is biological functions. How does your species digest food? How do they breathe? Sleep? Talk? See? Maybe none of that?
-One last thing to consider, biological factors outside of your species can influence your species. For example, a nuclear bomb could eliminate everything but roaches, and roaches could rise to take over the Earth. The gravity could take a sudden change when the poles flip, and all all the species bigger than a cat become squat and short. Another species could become extinct and upset the balance of a food-chain. I am not exactly saying that evolution exists, and that it needs to exist (a tricky path I will not walk today, with this), though these are still important things to consider, when making a brand, new species.
Culture and Social Factors
-The only reason this is last on the list is because these tend to evolve only after everything else is set into motion. However, there can come the occasional need to put this before other things, such as deciding whether or not your species is a loner, like the solitary tigers and panthers, or if they are more pack-oriented, like apes and wolves.
-When the deciding factors hinge less on environment, and more on time-frames (such as in my soon upcoming species) culture can sometimes endure through the centuries, from little things to eating with chopsticks, to larger things, such as dealing with money and currency. Sometimes, the species will evolve around the culture, such as hunting dogs and horses, or domesticated birds and hamsters. Even humans as a whole have evolved around culture, as we are bigger people, as a whole, than we were two-hundred years ago, and our brains are probably chemically a lot different. Though time usually erodes things quickly, there will always be something left of a civilization that will endure, into the next generations.
The Application of Species
Here comes the fun part!~
Once you've got everything down, thought everything through, it's time to start deciding what this sucker is going to look like, act like, and live like. I find it good to have a base to start off with, such as a humanoid, and then extend from there. With that base, one will, more than likely, have some symmetry to go off of, though if you really wish to not have the symmetry, go ahead. Just remember, don't get too crazy with it!
*The first time I did an exercise like this, I was in a class with an author that was completely off her rocker. The class was on creating your own alien, I believe, and the species that we had to make was some sort of shellfish, based on a swamp-like planet with low gravity, purple water, and a very distant sun. (as an example) Despite the oddity of our creature, the exercise we did was a lot of fun, and I would not be where I am today without those creatures, and that author.
Your World and Them
For simplicity's sake, the species I'm going to be using as the example are both humanoid, and based on Earth. The only difference? Earth is two-thousand years older. Now, considering I derived this species from humans, (and I intend them to have been human, at one point) they are going to be similar to us, though hardly the same. The species I am using are vampires, though I like to call them Biological Vampires, just not to confuse anyone. You can use whatever you like as your base, just don't try to stray too far from the original structure of the being.
A mix of biological factors and the world, this is always, always good to know when your writing a book with an original species. Perhaps, if you're an alien species, that's just how you evolved on your planet. Perhaps there was an outside, biological influence? Let's take a look at my example, and, from there, you can try to determine, what, exactly, made your species the way they are, today.
Biological Vampirism: For my vampires, the story is a bit complicated. Vampirism itself is actually a strain of virus that has evolved, and is transferred through these monsters that crawl from the pits of hell (for serious, though. That's the fantasy part.). The virus grows a bit of a consciousness, and about as much intelligence as a colony of ants has. Once it enters the body it goes directly to the brain, and other parts of the body, forcing a massive mutation of cells. A bit like a body grows a tumor (but on a much faster, more painful rate) the body will mutate and grow wings and fangs, new muscles, and mutate old organs and joints. The basic function of the virus is to keep itself, and it's host, alive, and the only fuel it needs to do that, blood. Thus, the birth of the vampire, basically, a new sub-species of human.
*See there, how I made vampires suddenly as real as is physically possible, via a disease? It sometimes takes a lot of thinking and work, but eventually, you can come up with something 'realistic' as well, at least, something more believable and with more of an explanation than you originally had.
Once you figure out the origins, you can delve deeper into what actually makes your species tick. No matter what your species does, from acid-spitting dogs to six-legged horses, it's always good to make sense of the situation at hand, and figure out exactly what makes them do that. For humans, we function primarily on our brain, and our dexterity. An ostrich, though, needs to be able to outrun a cheetah to keep from being eaten alive.
Here, let me put this in two steps; first, you need to figure out what the creature does to keep it alive, second, you need to figure out how the creature, does that, exactly.
Biological Vampires: Firstly, the thing about vampires is that they need blood. They need it as much as food an water, to keep then alive and functioning. The virus forces them to crave this blood (via access to the brain it already has), and from there, the vampire must get the blood. Any type will typically do, but vulnerable prey, say, the abundant human, is the obvious choice. The vampires, eventually, figure out striking at night is ideal, when everyone is asleep. Flying makes it easier to land on balconies. Their stomach usually mutates to digest the blood they need, as well. Their jaws unhinge at the joint to compensate for a thick neck, and easy access to a jugular. They become nimble, quick, and smart-- and easily compete for land, with the humans.
Effect on Appearance
Once you get the how and why out of the way, it's time to decide the what. After all these adaptations, what does your creature turning out looking like? Sure, the obvious might ensue, that 'they've got wings, they've got fangs' deal, but what more? Because of the way biology works, a lot more can change. A six legged animal won't have two pectorals, but four. A vampires fangs will either have to retract, or, slip into slots in the bottom of their jaws. Lots of these obvious changes often have major effects on the smaller features no one seems to think about.
Biology of a Vampire: Because of their most noticeable, new features, the wings and jaws, vampires seem to alter, sometimes growing, a set of muscles to fit them. A new set of pectoral muscles, longer and thinner, seems to appear under the original pec's, attaching to their shoulder-blades to move their wings. Around their shoulders, muscles to extend their jaws, and to maneuver their wings, can grow. All of this extra musculature and tendons and joints and, well, everything, can make a vampire appear very muscular, very broad shouldered and thick-necked. Their lower half, though, almost seem lacking. Where as they still appear to have normal, humanoid feet and legs, though their upper torso really stands out, almost making some thinner vampires appear top-heavy.
A fun little section I'm throwing here just because. I know I mentioned, stick to symmetry, but oddities do happen. Bi-colored eyes. Five legged frogs. Just Google the people of 'Ripley's Believe It or Not', and you'll see all sorts of, sometimes symmetrical, sometimes not, people. In many stories, the main character will be nothing more than a mutant, given the situation, and sometimes mutants can be used to an advantage, or rather, a disadvantage.
Mutant Vampires: So if vampire is a virus that causes a tumor to grow, can you imagine how many people actually do die from it? Part of the lungs, while vampires are mutating, often will be converted into air-sacks, to make it easier to fly. What if the whole lung were to, accidentally, be swallowed up by this? What if, instead of wings grew from your back, you grew a pair of arms? What if the tumor just raged out of control, and couldn't be stopped? Still, for the amount of mutations that do happen, it is found that those healthy, surviving individuals, can mate together and have a perfectly healthy vampire baby. The virus is transferred, suddenly becoming generational. And those little, 'pure bred' vampire babies, well, they seem to have no problems with their disorder, at all.
Effects on Society
Depending whether or not your new species is nothing more than a domesticated animal, or a whole other ruling race rivaling humanity will affect how drastic their society and culture will differ. They might love socializing together, or be lonesome, yet powerful beings. Their military tactics might be their greatest asset, or they might be the embodiment of peace. Religious leaders or not, their world and the things around them will have a huge impact on how your species acts, and what your species does. This part of the species-making process can be the most difficult, but most rewarding, part of this whole shebang, and, when done right, can really make your already believable, living creature become one step more-- a relatable species.
Asking Strange Questions
Before I get too far into this topic, this is the place where I really like to stop, look back at my species, and ask some really strange questions. Go around your weekly life, and write down everything you do, then think about how your species does it. Really strange things will start to come up, from 'how do they brush their teeth' to 'how do they have sex', and then some. It's the little things that will really make you think, but remember, don't over-complicate it. Just use these strange things where applicable, within whatever environment or story you've got.
Here, I've compiled a small list of questions, just to get you thinking:
-What does their furniture look like?
-What sorts of pets do they have, if any? Are they animal companions, or animal slaves?
-What sorts of eating utensils do they use?
-What do they use for a light source? Do they need to see at all?
-What is their form of art expression? Music? Dancing? Sacrificial rituals?
-Who are their gods? Do they believe in gods, or science?
-What sorts of natural enemies do they have? Are they at the top of the food-chain?
-How do they travel long-distance?
And from there, I'm sure you can come up with many, many more than I have. What's most important, when considering things like this, is to not automatically assume that your creature is going to do something humanly possible, at all. If your species is bird-based, and have no hands to speak of, it wouldn't make much sense for them to use guns in war, would it?
Social Vampires: Because they originated from humans, vampires share many of the same social traits as they do. They live in small, family groups, and can speak in the same languages as everyone else (though those 'newly bitten', will often speak with a lisp). They are very social creatures, and some have even been known to mate with humans, if the situation calls. However, because humans are their natural food-source, a rift has fallen between the two species, and now they are in a state of perpetual-war. Though in most places, they have come to make peace with humans, in small pockets, namely Japan (where my story takes place) Civil War has broke out, causing violence towards species beyond humans. Due to the nature of the vampire, these small conflicts are very hard to control, causing lots of racism, and violence, towards all vampire species. In short, vampires are usually fairly violent, vindictive individuals, though there are quite a few who believe the fighting is pointless, especially with the noticeable decline in the human population.
Society and culture, though tied together, are two different things. Where as someone can be very social, their culture, say, might call for them to avoid growing a certain plant in their back yard. Sometimes, society will influence culture, causing a strong force we like to call the law, though laws are constantly up for debate. When designing a species, it is important to remember society and culture are different to a point, though the two do influence each other quite often.
Vampire Culture: Vampires are a relatively new species, and therefor, don't have terribly much of a culture to speak of, yet. Small things are arising, though, such as the 'three, thee, three', rule: Three days without water, thee weeks without blood, and three months without food. Already, a royalty has been established within several places, small vampire families that consider themselves 'top of the line, not bitten, and pure-bred'. Due to their racism they receive from their peers, they tend to be a haughty, proud race, thinking everything they do is better, and it is not uncommon to find that vampires have written they they can break the law, rebel against everyone else. One thing, though, that is entirely taboo to this race, is the drinking of another vampire's blood. It is not entirely clear why, but even a pure bred will apologize profusely if they mistakenly drink even a half-bred's blood. One suspects that the vampires believe their blood to be sacred. Another thinks that it might be more scientific, and that the virus itself can not ingest blood that is already contaminated. That being said, it is acceptable for lovers to bite one another on the neck in a sensual manner, but not drink their blood. In fact, because a vampire has so many muscles, tendons, and protection around their neck that humans don't have, it's almost redundant to try and bite another vampire, anyways. Beyond their necks, though, the vampires have also made it an unspoken law that vampires should not go out in the light. Though many in the lower classes do, those 'higher up's' avoid sunlight like the plague. The rooms of the vampires often have tall ceilings, and thin windows, if any at all, both to keep the sunlight out, and to keep their wings from brushing against the walls of their homes, as they move about. All in all, their day-to-day life doesn't differ drastically from that of a human, though their beliefs and ideals can reach points of extremes.
Religion and Science
The cool thing about culture is, unlike biology, not everything has to have the most concrete reasoning. Though things without a little backstory can and will fall through, things that might be based off of little folk-tales, myths, and word of mouth can sometimes be respected by an entire population. Sometimes science will fall through without fact, but within my story, not one person understands how a virus can somehow cause the cells within someone's body to mutate so drastically. Just as we don't understand how cancer works today, many things could simply remain a mystery, within your tale.
Another cool thing about crossing culture and science is that you can do it in such a method that the very biology of the species can influence what they do. Because vampires have wings, it is suddenly culturally acceptable to have bigger houses, not to mention it would be difficult to wear just a t-shirt without having to cut holes in the back of it. Because of their muscular shoulders and necks, it's unlikely that you would kill a vampire via decapitation, and probably less likely that you would even be able to feel their pulse in their necks. Night life probably light up across the world, with an entire species grounded to the night. Your species might have a slightly different biology, but, of course, the same effects apply. It wouldn't make any sense at all if your race of unicorn-people wore hats, now would it? This is what I meant when I said your creatures will come to evolve around their own biology, come to grow their own culture around their own world. And, most important, it is remember to apply it only if it makes sense. I know that sounds simple, but there is an unbelievable number of people who can still manage to get that wrong.
Tying Loose Ends
The only real way to ever be entirely sure if your species makes sense, and can survive in the world it was made for, is if you use it. This is only a personal step, but I never actually go in and 'tie up loose ends' whether it be with characters, species, settings, or plots. You might want to finish everything completely before use, but I find that doing that only puts a restriction on a creation that still has room to be magnificent. The trick, though, is not to hold back. If you've got an idea, go for it! If it doesn't work out, set it aside and try to use it at a later date. The species that you just created might not be perfect, might not do everything you want it to do, yet, but they will evolve, with time. They will eventually adapt to the world around them and, like any natural species.
That doesn't mean that you should just fling your creation out into the world, either. Smooth out the little bumps and bruises, and be patient. I cannot stress this enough. Creativity takes a long time, and thinking through all of the possible situations, the coming and narrowing everything down to the one thing you do want to happen, is the hardest, but most exciting part of writing any story, developing any character, making any plot. Once you feel comfortable with your new baby, though, don't be afraid to let them into the big, wide world. After all, what else did you just go though so much work to do!
Beyond that, there's not much more advise I have to add. Take examples from real life, keep it simple, keep it natural, and don't forget to have fun while doing it. If you don't like it, then I can guarantee that no one else will. As you will learn, what makes a good character is one's ability to relate to them. If your species is completely alien, completely different, they might make for a wonderful antagonist, but not such a good protagonist. Still, play around. Nothing is set in concrete, and you can always change something later on. Don't be afraid to change!
Anyways, enough of my ramblings. Seven pages strong and I feel like this is a wonderful stopping point. Hope this helped, and get out there, have a ball!