What’s in a Creature?
Three years ago, when I started actively working on the first book in The Gateway Chronicles, The Six, it came into my mind that if I was going to write a successful fantasy series, I had to create at least one new fantasy creature. I felt this was also a big gamble, as it could either read well and people would like it, or it would read cheesy and be the downfall of my books. You might immediately ask yourself, “Why does this matter?” but think about some of the most successful fantasy stories out there. The Lord of the Rings has its hobbits and wargs, The Chronicles of Narnia its marshwiggles and dufflepuds, and Harry Potter its house elves and dementors (just to name a few). Even The Hunger Games, which is not technically fantasy, has its mutations and mockingjays. Creating new creatures helps “people” (no pun intended) a new realm, and not only makes it more enjoyable for the readers (as they discover something new), but also helps them suspend disbelief (crucial for any fantasy / scifi / dystopian / paranormal story). So, while certain stock creatures should also be used —fairies, gnomes, nymphs, etc. depending on the subgenre—new creatures are, I believe, of crucial importance.
I’ve created a few new creatures for The Six, but the one that took the most careful planning was the nark. At the camp on which the stories are based, there is a saying that if you stay out too late, the “night narks will come and get you.” I never knew what these “night narks” were supposed to be, but as I sat down to plan The Six, that was the term that immediately popped into my mind for a new creature. But then, I reasoned, if there are night narks, there must also be day narks, and what’s going to be the difference between the two? And what are they in the first place? I’m also a teacher, and we often say that in teaching, we should start with what is known and move to the unknown. In that, I decided to, at their base, make the narks a sub-type of creature that is already known—elves. And not Keebler elves, but Tolkienesque elves. In that sense, they are human in form but with large pointy ears and tend to be exceptional at performing various tasks. From there, I moved into the unknown. I decided that night narks and day narks were to be two sides of the same coin—or two different personas inhabiting one body. Night narks are awake at night and day narks are awake during the day, and they share information between the two personas in the transition between day and night. Their physical appearance, also, lightens and darkens between day and night. Now, there is much, much more that I could go on to tell you about the narks, but it would be far too exhaustive for a simple guest post, and then you would have nothing to discover for yourselves about them if you are to read my books! All I will say, however, in wrapping this up, is that my gamble seems to have paid off. Of all the elements in my books, the narks were what I was most nervous about, but they have also received the highest praise and the most remarkable comments from those people who have already read The Six. “The narks are awesome!” and “How did you come up with that?” are comments I’ve received over and over. This has only firmed up my belief that the creation of new creatures in a fantasy story is not only highly important for the successful creation of a new realm, but also highly enjoyable for the reader.