How to Nail Mythic Monsters

One of the things we love about the Fantasy genre is all the great creatures! J.R.R Tolkien once said: "...If it does not have dragons, it's not a tale worth telling."Okay, maybe that's a little far, but you get the point, yeah?

 We all have our favorite mythic monsters: dragons, griffins, centaurs, trolls, three-headed dogs, etc. But all too often I find myself beginning to get a little worn out on the same monsters. There are too many people who don't do them right, or rely on the common conception of said monster. Here a few tips on how to nail your mythic monsters:

 First Off: New Monsters :
Your fantastic realm can be huge, so why constrict it to just dragons, centaurs and the like?


The Manticore: Head of a lion, face of a man. Sometimes seen with a scorpion's tail, but this is not a necessary characteristic of the Manticore. Originated in Persian mythology. Sometimes we see them on a coat of arms. They can speak and shoot venomous spines or quills. (For some reason they don't pop up in a lot of fantasy lit.) They would add an interesting aspect to any story.

Cluricauns: These are little sprites or elves from Irish mythology who always appear in the shape of n old man with a flushed face and a white beard. The funniest part is that they are almost always drunk. This goes for a much different impression than the intimidating Manticore, and would probably be great for a comic (albeit slightly obnoxious) little companion to the hero or Main Character. Imagine having something important to do and all the small guy can do is tell stupid jokes that don't make any sense and hiccup. You could also give them a temper and when they try to storm off, trip and fall. There are endless, awkward possibilities!

Giantize them: Sometimes, it's fun to take a normal animal and giantize it. One of my friends had a giant, silver-blue lynx in her story. It grew as big as a horse and one of the characters rode on it. It gave off a REALLY COOL visual and was entertaining to read about. You could try giantizing (yeah, that's a word..) any given animal, even dogs. It makes for an interesting steed--or villain...whatever you want them to do. There are many other types of strange monsters just waiting to be used. It'll only take a bit of research.

 Second: Creating Your Own :
Of course, it’s amazing to think up your own monsters too. There are a few things to consider…
What are the monsters’ strengths and weaknesses? No monster would be completely unbeatable. Powerful? Of course! But every creature has a vulnerability. Even if it’s something as obscure as mistletoe. (Nordic mythology…)
What sort of impression do you want your monster to give off? Comic? Intimidating? Disgusting? Majestic? Obnoxious? How do your monsters react to others of its kind?
 How do your monsters reproduce? We don't really need to get into the details, do we? We know that dragons lay eggs and phoenixes are reborn...that sort of a thing, etc...

 (One author that did this really wonderfully was Brandon Mull in his Beyonders trilogy. Go read it! It is SO GOOD).

 Lastly: Good Descriptions :
We readers LOVE when things are believable. So we're going to want a good impression of the figure, the smell, the sound of this monster. What we DON'T like is a ton of over-the-top description packed into one paragraph. My advice?
 Keep up a subtle description through the whole chapter/story. Adjectives will be your friends here. Think: how does your monster sound when it moves?

For Example:
 "It slithered through the grass, it's bat-like wings close to its body. It made a subtle whistling sound--like air being blown through a pipe..."
 "With every word [the monster] spoke, long strings of drool swung back and forth between it's yellowing teeth..."

 You can spread it out through multiple sentences. It doesn't have to be all in one paragraph. This adds an element of realism that will really make your monsters believable.

Let's Chat!

  1. What is your favorite mythic monster (either classical or rare)?
  2. What do you think is an important aspect to writing monsters?
  3. What book do you think really nailed its mythic monsters?  


  1. My favorite mythic monster is the dragon, (I have to agree with JRR Tolkien on that one ;)
    I think the most important aspect on writing monsters is to make them memorable. In the Percy Jackson books, I can't remember any of the monsters, I don't know if it was their descriptions or just how quickly they were often defeated, but I think you should make them memorable.
    I think Narnia really nailed its mythic monsters(OK, yes, I'm a little bit of a Narnia fangirl, don't judge me!)

    1. YES! Narnia is amazing! I also love how C.S.Lewis wasn't afraid to intersperse tons of different fantasy races in the same places/vicinity. Lots of mainstream fantasy books segregate their races (and that's not necessarily bad) but in Narnia they're all intermixed, and I think it worked wonderfully.

  2. I'll have to agree with J.R.R Tolkien and say dragons, but sea serpents come in second. Dragons are really fun to describe because you could create your own species of dragons and different qualities of dragons.
    Strengths and weaknesses are what make a monster interesting. For example, if you were to have a dragon, which is usually immune to magic and fire, but hate the cold due to being coldblooded, or some don't have very protective scales. They should leave some sort of memory and be unique from the others of its kind.
    I applaud the How to Train Your Dragon books and movies for creating such well developed dragon personalities, strengths and weaknesses.

    1. Yes, How To Train Your Dragon did do a wonderful job! It brought a whole new feel to the dragon field. Those are all excellent ideas!! Thank you! xD


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