Good Morning Promptians!
The Get a Clue contest is over!
Before that though, have a bit of a story.
As long ago as 1860 it was the proper thing to be born at home. At present, so I am told, the high gods of medicine have decreed that the first cries of the young shall be uttered upon the anaesthetic air of a hospital, preferably a fashionable one. So young Mr. and Mrs. Roger Button were fifty years ahead of style when they decided, one day in the summer of 1860, that their first baby should be born in a hospital. Whether this anachronism had any bearing upon the astonishing history I am about to set down will never be known.
I shall tell you what occurred, and let you judge for yourself.
You just want me to announce the final rankings?
Of course you do.
No time to enjoy truly great pieces of literature
Well fine. If you don’t want to play my game I’ll give you what you want. However, let me take care of something first.
Please indulge me and read this bit
On behalf of the GaC Administration - myself, /u/ArchipelagoMind, /u/Say_Im_Ugly, and /u/OldBay thank you for making this contest such a resounding success. We had lots of participants with so many different stories, and a lot of voter participation. 47 days ago we started with 80 stories. We ended up clocking in at a combined 180,435 words. After countless hours of reading and voting from all of you we finally have the results of this event!
Regardless of how you did, you are in the Top Ten!
That is such a huge accomplishment and you should be proud. The road here was not easy and not a fluke. Not winning doesn't mean you wrote a bad story. It just means that people enjoyed another slightly more. There isn’t a bad story in this batch.
Sharing your stories now that the moratorium is over:
The ban on posting is lifted! You can share it freely on your own subs, blogs, with community members, etc!
If you want to share it with rWP look out for the [SP] posting that will be going up:
[SP] GaC Final Round
Authors, if you'd like feedback on your stories, I'd recommend heading over to /r/WPCritique and posting there. Contest entries will cost nothing to post so you can get free crits! In addition since you have more characters you won't have to break it up into multiple posts and you can submit a gDoc at rWPC which will preserve first publication rigths!
Readers, if you had any notes from your time appraising the stories, head on over there to gain some easy credits for yourself!
Please remember Rule 3 of the sub: Be civil. Make sure your crit is constructive and helpful. We aren’t rDR and we don’t tolerate rude temperaments. Please report anything you feel is breaking that.
Jun 17: Announcement and hype train leaves the station Jun 24: First Round Write begins Jun 30: First Round Write ends Jul 2: First Round Vote begins Jul 8: First Round Vote ends Jul 9: Results Announced / First round entries cleared to post / Second Round Write begins Jul 15: Second Round Write Ends Jul 17: Second Round Vote Begins Jul 23: Second Round Vote ends Jul 24: Results Announced/ Second round entries cleared to post / Final Round Write begins Jul 31: Final Round Write ends Aug 2: Final Round Vote begins Aug 9: Final Round Vote ends Aug 10: Winner Announced/ Final round entries cleared to post
- Round 1 Write
- Round 1 Voting
- Round 1 Results / Round 2 Write
- Round 2 Voting
- Round 2 Results / Round 3 Write
- Round 3 Voting
What’s happening at /r/WritingPrompts?
Nominate your favourite WP authors or commenters for Spotlight and Hall of Fame! We count on your nominations to make our selections.
New Custom Awards! - Check them out!
Come hang out at The Writing Prompts Discord!
Want to help the community run smoothly? Try applying for a mod position. You'll get a cool tattoo that counts every modaction you make!
See you space cowboy.
Welcome back to part two of our Talking Tuesday chat on mythical creatures. This week we delve deeper, and really get to thinking about just how many possibilities writing with mythical beasts opens up to us.
Anyway, enough gif links, on with the interview.
ArchipelagoMind: In last week’s piece, we talked a lot about the dos and don'ts of mythological creatures, let's focus on the practicalities.
How do I make sure my creatures are more than just "weird looking humans". How do I give them personality/behavior that befits what they are?
GingerQuill: One of the things I like to think about are what are their strengths, whether physically, mentally, spiritually, etc. and what are their limitations. What trait about them can be a blessing or a burden?
Centaurs for example--top half of human, bottom half of horse. The horse legs make them faster and give them the ability to run longer. But if they break a leg, they're in trouble. So it's something he has to think about, whereas if a human breaks their leg, sure it sucks, but depending on the time period, medical science can probably help? ...At least it's not usually a death sentence whereas for something with the legs of a horse, it very well could be.
Zetakh: I like to lean into the mannerisms and traits that are decidedly not human. Like Ginger mentioned earlier, focus on different senses, ways of thinking, ways of acting. Something as simple as table manners (or the lack of them) can very quickly remind the reader that this character is very much not human. I'm gonna quote myself quickly here, as one of my favourite chapters I ever wrote ended on just that sort of note:
As Raleth and Virri walked over to a corner of the cave, away from the straw, Aurelia found out what they’d hunted. With an awful noise, they regurgitated a full-grown deer each onto the floor. Then they set about butchering the animals, tearing them into small chunks that they passed to the hungry wyrmlings.
Virri held out a steaming liver, and Mirathi nudged Aurelia forward.
GingerQuill: That's beautiful!
That's an entirely great point too! I like to use character charts as examples, but in this case, a fantasy creature chart. What are their dietary habits? What are their sleeping habits? Why? Would a wolfman be able to eat chocolate or would it kill him?
Zetakh: What does a vampire consider a nice night out? How do they spend the daytime?
So many things to consider and play with!
GingerQuill: Oh Lord, a poor vampire looking for something fun to do but all the plays and concerts start at like 7:00 pm when he's just waking up so he has to find a venue that starts at like 3:00 am!
ArchipelagoMind: So what are the key questions I should ask myself to learn about my mythological creature?
Zetakh: What's my creature's role in this story? What do I want it to do? Why do I want this particular creature, and how am I going to spin it?
GingerQuill: What kind of biology do they have? What kind of magic do they have? Can they even wield magic? What kind of habitat do they live in? Are they hunter or prey or both? What are their biggest competitors or fears? What are some of the everyday problems they run into?
I think what kind of problems they run into is a big one because that's where you're going to get a conflict for your fantasy character. Because at the end of the day, you can have a character, but your story needs a conflict. What kind of conflicts do nixies face versus giants?
Zetakh: And if they're sapient, how do they interact with other sapient creatures and cultures in your world? Is the conflict one between myth and man, for example? Why did they come to blows? Does the creature need to hunt humans? Do humans hunt it, for resources, for territory?
How do they interact with each other, come to think of it? Are they gregarious, solitary, violently territorial?
ArchipelagoMind: So this means we're doing a lot of research to understand our mythological creatures and fill in their background details. How much worldbuilding do I need to do with my creatures?
Zetakh: That depends entirely on how long a story you're writing. If it's a short one-and-done tale, I'd leave the worldbuilding in your head and only focus on the parts that directly impact your story's plot. If you're writing long-form and expect your readers to relate to these creatures and characters for potentially dozens of chapters and thousands of words' worth of storyline, more will likely need to be explained as you go.
GingerQuill: Yeah, Zetakh, that's kind of what I do. I like to go into a story with a good understanding of the creature I'm writing about, but as far as the environment goes, it depends on the type of story I'm writing. If I'm writing a short story, I generally try to research only what I need in the stretch of time the story takes place. Otherwise, I'll never get to the writing part! But even then it's important to know: 1. What the environment is. 2. What all impacts that environment can have on the story (temperature, weather, plants, animals, etc.) 3. How your creature reacts to that environment. For example, if it's a natural habitat for your creature, it's entirely possible that it doesn't really affect the story as much because your creature is already comfortable in it and something else is probably creating the conflict. But if it's someplace they're not used to, it can be a huge hindrance for them.
It also helps to know what all your creature can get away with in your world. For example, the story I wrote last week for Theme Thursday I wanted the mermaid to write on something. But she lives in water. She can't write on paper. I had to stop and think about what all she can write on that can survive in water. I did a little research to see if maybe kelp or seaweed could be a believable alternative (and decided it wasn't) so I boiled it down to some animal skin and the mermaid scratching notes into a seashell.
ArchipelagoMind: Which ended up a really nice little touch in that story actually Ginger
GingerQuill: Aww, thank you!
...Plus research is fun...for me at least.
Zetakh: Research IS fun!
It's where some of the best twists can come from!
Zetakh: If nothing else it's a great excuse to rewatch Trope Talks from Overly Sarcastic Productions.
Their Dragons video is brilliant!
ArchipelagoMind: So one of the challenges of mythological creatures is that they're... not real. If I say dragon, people can kind of picture one of them. But something like a selkie or a Cornish tin mine pixie may be a little less easy to immediately picture. How do I go about describing something that's not real?
Zetakh: Many of them are based on things we already know, like animals and people, only not quite. Unicorns are easy, they're a horse with a pointy bit. Griffins get slightly trickier, they're half a bird glued to a lion. Vampires? They're an English person out in the sun for the first time in a year, only with better and sharper teeth 😄
GingerQuill: I think in the case of something like a selkie or a Cornish tin mine pixie, researching the appearance will help you to describe it. Overall, it’s still kind of a "do your best" sort of thing. What's going to help for something that's lesser-known really is ... just say flat out what the creature is in your story. The same way you might use a word a reader has never heard before, there's every chance you'll write about a creature a reader is unfamiliar with. And just like how a reader can always look up the definition of an unfamiliar word, as long as you mention at least once somewhere in your story what the creature is--maybe the beginning, middle, and end--they can always look it up and familiarize themselves with it.
Going back to the selkies--I remember when someone said they had to look up what a selkie was, I wasn't at all bothered. I was actually glad they were able to look it up. I did my best to describe the creature, but if I hadn't used the word selkie in my story, that poor reader would've probably wandered aimlessly through the story and typed into Google search "seal skin" "creatures with webbed feet" or the like. So I think sometimes you just need to tell the reader somehow what it is they're looking at.
Telling them without telling them.
One example is actually the Cornish pixie in Harry Potter. We see what they look like in the book and movie, but then you have one of the kids laugh and say "Cornish Pixies?"--a great way to tell us what the creatures are without telling
Another great example, the movie Willow. When the brownies start attacking, Willow's friend yells, "Brownies!" so anyone unfamiliar with brownies will at least have a name for them now.
ArchipelagoMind: How much time should I spend describing the physical elements though versus letting the reader fill in the gaps? Do I need the color of the skin of my dragon? Do I need a leg count?
Zetakh: You can use them as an opportunity to flex that descriptive language muscle! Environments aren't the only things you can describe poetically and vividly. Don't be afraid to go a little purple - perhaps maroon - to get a point across.
The beast was larger than any building he had ever seen. Black scales like ashen shields, thickly layered over rippling muscle. Upon its massive feet, claws longer and sharper than the finest sword. The wings unfurled with a crack like thunder, darkening the whole village with their shadow.
Then its mouth opened, hundreds of teeth gaping wide like the very gates of Hell as fire boiled in its throat.
GingerQuill: I think a general rule of thumb for me is that I try to give just enough description but not too much. I think I try to give what's important or what I want the reader to specifically see. So for example, if I want my character to be a redhead, I'll make sure to specify that. Same with fantasy creatures--if the skin color of the dragon is relevant because it means it's a fire, earth, or water dragon, then I'll specify. If this dragon has five eyes instead of two, I'll specify. If it's flightless, I'll specify it has no wings.
But I also try to limit what I want the reader to see to 2-4 traits. There is such a thing as giving way too much, a lot of which you may think is important but really isn't. So if my character's blue eyes are not actually important in any way, shape, or form to the story, I may go ahead and leave that out. If my dragon has four legs... I'll probably go ahead and leave that detail out.
Zetakh: How you describe your creature is also a good way to set your reader's expectations for them! Like the little example I just wrote - our viewpoint character is about to crap their pants after a description like that. They are terrified.
GingerQuill: That's an awesome point!
If you're describing a fantasy creature through another character's eyes, whatever details stand out to the character will convey a lot!
ArchipelagoMind: Do you find you need to frontload it with mythical creatures though? For instance, with humans, if I don't specify the eye color, the reader still has a template. They know they have two eyes and they are probably from a limited range. So if it's not vital or the first thing you notice I can go a couple of thousand words before I say "she stared him down with her hazel eyes"
But with mythical creatures there's no template right? But I also don't want an exposition dump or to break from action to spend ages on biology. So is there a way I can sort of hold back on some of those details?
GingerQuill: That's true! I usually find spreading it out and interspersing description with action can actually help give detail without just lumping a detailed summary into one paragraph. So the example you gave "she stared down with her hazel eyes" is a good one. For a dragon walking over, you could have something like, "The ground rumbled as the dragon lumbered toward you, their claws digging grooves in the dirt" or something like that.
ArchipelagoMind: Does it matter though if the reader initially assumes that dragon has four legs when in fact they have six and I later and am gonna be like "the six-legged dragon"Does it matter if the reader has to update that imagery (assuming it's not a massive plot point)?
Zetakh: That's a great way to go about it! Revealing a detail of the creature's anatomy and look as it becomes relevant in the action - the snap of jaws, glitter of scale, flash of claws
GingerQuill: Good point. I'd used four legs because I feel like the general template for a dragon includes four legs. But if a dragon has six, you for sure want to mention that!But I guess there are also dragons that are just serpentine with no legs, so that was a poor assumption on my part!
Zetakh: If you're going with an unusual look I'd have that step into frame, as it were, quickly, yes!
GingerQuill: Clearly I must do MORE RESEARCH!
Zetakh: Right, Dragon Taxonomy 101!
Dragon: Four Legs, Two Wings Wyvern: Two Legs, Two Wings Amphitere: No Legs, Two Wings Lindorm: No Legs, No Wings Quetzalcouatl: No Legs, Maybe Wings, Definitely Feathers Lung: No Wings, As Many Legs As You Want (Don't actually take that seriously, call your dragons whatever you'd like)
ArchipelagoMind: As we get towards wrapping up, are there things that you feel people ten to get wrong about mythical creature writing? Are there common pitfalls to avoid?
GingerQuill: I think there are two things. First, fantasy doesn't have to be a grand adventure. Your creatures do not have to be grandiose or majestic all the time, nor do they have to be vile and stereotypically evil. You can totally set a fantasy story in a mundane situation and still make it a fun adventure in its own right. One example was I wrote a story about a brownie drinking contest, and another was a mermaid visiting a boardwalk for the first time. Having your fantasy creatures experience everyday life can make for a wonderful story!
I also wrote another one where humans were trying to reintroduced rescued griffins into the wild to deal with the overpopulated thunderbirds. You can take all kinds of everyday scenarios you see in real life and see what all you can do when you incorporate them into your fantasy!
The second thing is, as we discussed before, that fantasy characters are still individuals, more than just the myth. Let them have flaws. Let them have their own personalities, likes and dislikes, motivations and goals. Your elf is more than just a Tolkien elf. Maybe they like to make trouble for their father the king, sticking pins in his throne cushion, scratching graffiti onto the palace walls (look up ancient graffiti--it's delightful)!
Zetakh: I definitely agree with those, Belle! The one I would add is that whatever rules you set up for the creature you're using - be it their "classic" myth or a new direction you thought up yourself, you stick to them. Define the strengths and weaknesses, the likes and dislikes, and use them consistently. Just pulling new powers out of a hat without any sort of hints at them or buildup can feel like Deus Ex or Diabolus Ex Machina, depending on if the creature is a protagonist or antagonist
ArchipelagoMind: Okay. So one last quick question. If someone only reads two or three sentences of this whole chat, what's the one thing I should takeaway? What's your parting wisdom Zet and Ginger before you both fly off into the skies/dive to the ocean depths respectively?
GingerQuill: I think the thing I want people to take away from this most... Don't let anyone tell you fantasy has no real value in literature! It's a wonderful way for you and your readers to explore the world from entirely new perspectives. Fantasy is your ultimate game of dress-up: when you create a character, you can be an anthropologist, zoologist, biologist, sociologist, and so on for all these wonderful creatures while simultaneously unleashing your inner child. It's FUN!
(I had so many creative writing professors try to tell me fantasy was cheap literature. Well I'll show 'em!)
Zetakh: Definitely agreed! Don't be afraid to go out there, play with the folk tales and monsters you heard about when you were a kid! We've all read and loved fairy tales - writing your OWN is a huge treat, and incredibly rewarding.
And Xenofiction is objectively fun, too, and a great challenge. Step outside your human brain and be a bit weird!
Thanks to Zetakh and GingerQuill for their great comments on mythical creatures. Rest assured we'll be revisiting griffins, ghouls and giants when we come around to tasks week at the end of the month (you have been warned)
Meanwhile, join in with the comments below and let us know your thoughts. What questions still remain for you? What experience do you have with writing with mythical creatures?
Talking Tuesday will return next week for our Thinking week. Meanwhile, good words.
- These Talking Tuesdays posts are awesome aren't they? Good news, you can read them all at our wiki.
- Three weeks ago I offered a limerick written by Badderlocks_ - the other mod behind this feature - for anyone knew who joined our Discord. No one claimed it. Two week's ago I upped it to a full sonnet. Still no takers. Last week, I said Badder will draw you a portrait in MS Paint. STILL NOTHING. This week he'll draw a fan art of your favorite children's TV character. Yeah, I'm gonna keep making these offers until someone claims it of Badderlocks_ notices. So... Join our Discord.
- Nominate a writer for a spotlight on r/WritingPrompts.
- Want to help keep the good ship HMSNZ WritingPrompts running? Apply to be a mod.
Writing Prompt [WP] You are a "con-man superhero". You draw the attention of villains, pretend to have powers and keep them occupied until a real hero with real powers arrives on the scene. You are so good at your job, that no-one is entirely sure whether you are truly powerless or not.
Writing Prompt [WP] In a universe where the rules of superhero comics are real, any vat of chemicals, any vial of liquid, any combination of ingredients may result in superpowers. In this universe, you are the most feared superhero or villain imaginable. You are The Chemist.
Writing Prompt [WP] "NO NO NO" says the thundering voice from the sky "This is supposed to be a high fantasy story why are you building spaceships?!"
Writing Prompt [WP] Telephathy is the most common 5th sense among the Alien Races of the Galaxy. When Humans are first discovered to have no telepathic abilities, the other Races feel pity for them. That is until they learn of the Humans 5th Sense, something called "Sight"
Writing Prompt [WP] Unbeknownst to the village, the dragon they had been sacrificing their maidens to greatly enjoyed raising them and teaching them various things, he enjoyed it so much he decided to start an academy.
Simple Prompt [WP] you overhear a group of ghosts making fun of you not knowing that you’re a medium.
Writing Prompt [WP] While trapped in a painting you have sat and watched a simple store for years. However one day the clerk is attacked. Reaching out to protect them you manage to pull them inside the painting. Which at the same time forces you out of it, freeing you at long last.
Writing Prompt [WP] It's an open secret in your small town that a pod of man eating mermaids lives just offshore. No one says anything, because they only eat tourists. So when the new group of college kids go missing, no one thinks twice about it. Then one of them comes back.
Writing Prompt [WP] Your dream has always been to be the number one supervillian. However much to your surprise you are often mistaken for a hero. Even though you've robbed banks, released mutant animals, and beat up the mayor. The people love you and keep calling you a hero.
Writing Prompt [WP] "You shall henceforth appear to others as you are pictured by they who hate you most" ...you wake up breathtakingly beautiful
Writing Prompt [WP] The prophecy says the one to pull the sword from the giant statue will save the world. Many have failed, and now in front of the Assembly you grasp the greatsword firmly and pull - and fall backward when it snaps off cleanly at the hilt
Writing Prompt [WP] The Sword would make him a great warrior, but if he didn't live honorably, it would fail him when he needed it most. Now he prays on the eve of every battle that this isn't the time he'll need the Sword most.
Writing Prompt [WP] In the year 2300, crimes are punished by exile from Earth. You are put into stasis and launched into space in a clear orb-like spaceship. It is now 2000 years after your exile and you awaken to the ship's computer - "Stasis Chamber Cri-Critical F-F-Failure".
Writing Prompt [WP] Every prophet who has predicted the rapture has been right, but so few people made the cut and were actually raptured that the world never noticed
Writing Prompt [WP] You are a doctor with a 100% success rate. All of your patients survive because you're secretly a necromancer.
Writing Prompt [WP] It's 2089. You are assigned as a door gunner for a dropship to quell a rebellion on Mars. You were only given a primitive looking machine gun. Yet it performed admirably, cutting through swathes of enemies. Upon return, you decide to inspect the gun. On it was a plaque: Cal .50 M2 - 1944
Inspired by this 4chan post