When I was in my junior year of high school, I advertised to the rest of my intro Theater class that I was a writer, even showing them the printed (but not published) book I had written. Especially back then I was obsessed with being the best, so I wanted everyone to know that I had accomplished more with my life than anyone else had. It’s a harsh way to say I was egotistical, but I’m honestly still like that. I’m just more quiet about it.
But, in light of that, I also love teaching people. It proves to me that I have something other people want, and I get to help people in doing that, which I do enjoy. So I was delighted when somebody in that class asked me for help on a book she was trying to write. Other friends I’ve had that were writers at the time asked how I thought of character names and stuff like that, so I thought it would be a great idea to do a post on how I come up with my ideas.
First, creativity isn’t about pulling things out of thin air, it’s about operating correctly under restrictions. Let me go through my step by step process on how I create a thing. In fact, let me quickly brainstorm an idea I’ve come up with but haven’t give any genuine thought to! It’s an idea for an animal in Nacre Then. A very reptilian bird, few feathers, and a very long beak with a powerful jaw. Sort of small, and dangerous, but perhaps it can be trained. Let’s call this the crocodile bird. (I promise all of the brainstorming ahead was done on the fly for this post!)
Step one: take that idea that you really like, and hold fast to it. This is the meat of your soup. You want to add things to the soup without taking out the meat. Then, you find elements, or details, about the thing that compliment it without changing the idea you already have. It can twist the idea, but you don’t want to lose the main point: reptilian bird, strong dangerous jaw. For an animal in a fictional universe, we’ll need to think about some factors: diet, environment, human interaction, and species interaction.
Step two: fill out those details! I’d imagine a bird with a strong jaw would need a strong jaw. Maybe it eats tortoises! Environment? Somewhere with tortoises, but that could be anywhere. I already have a species of jungle tortoise in my universe, but I don’t want this to be a forest bird. I like this being a desert animal. (Besides, a lack of feathers makes sense with that environment!) Therefore, we’ll need desert tortoises.
Next, this bird probably doesn’t fly in packs. It’s a solitary hunter. It swoops down and grabs tortoises after spying them from above. Since tortoises camouflage a bit, it would stand to reason that this bird would have to have very good eyes. But hold on, that’s boring. All birds of prey have good eyes, right? Let’s pick another sense this bird relies on, just to make it more interesting! This is fantasy, after all, so it doesn’t have to be too realistic.
What if it finds its food based on sound? What do tortoises sound like? Maybe the tortoises look like rocks, and the bird distinguishes food from rock based on what it sounds like when it strikes its beak against the rock/shell? Now we’re getting somewhere! If it’s hitting it’s beak against rocks all day, it won’t need to fly. Therefore this crocodile bird of ours probably doesn’t! It can probably leap to get up on top of rocks, but flying won’t help it find food, so flight would have been naturally selected out of the population.
Hitting its head against rocks all day probably makes this bird nonthreatening for humans, but its strong jaw could have domestic purposes. So they’re probably domesticated in Ketha (my biggest desert nation).
Lastly, we’ll have to name it. Naming a species of animal or plant is typically a lot easier than naming a character, because you can name it off characteristics. I could name it “crocodile bird”, but Kethans probably wouldn’t know what a crocodile is, even if it exists in Nacre Then, so that idea’s out. So, you name the bird based off what it does and what the humans are looking at: a lonely bird smashing its head on rocks. “Moron” comes most readily to mind, but that doesn’t really work. Rockpecker? Stonejab? I like the sound of stonejab, so unless I can think of a better name later, there you go.
That’s all there is to it. I have a ton of ideas like this waiting to be fleshed out, but that’s pretty much my thought process for how to develop things. Typically, you’ll find new questions when doing this sort of thing. What do desert tortoises eat, for example? What rocks do their shells resemble? What specific purposes would the stonejab have for being domesticated? For now, it doesn’t matter. I can table these questions for later, because it’s unnecessary and will lead me to only more questions. I’ll be happy with where I’ve left myself today and brainstorm later tomorrow.
Of course, everything is developed differently. I meant to talk a bit about how I make characters, how I make nations, magic, world events, etc. but that’s not where this blog post wanted to go today, so this is what you’re left with. I hope this was helpful, and if nothing else, my universe just got a little bit bigger today!