First, I’ll start by letting you all know that I don’t have any news since Sunday on the release date of anything. I have found a narrator for Born a Queen, but I’m not going to announce anything until we’re closer to the end. As much as I’d like to say it’d be out quickly after the release of the book, it probably won’t be out until near the end of December.
Now, on to the titular musings!
When I was primarily a reader, I thought it would be easy to come up with dozens of new and unique monsters, to awe and wow the readers. However, as I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve come to realize that making up something truly new is harder than it sounds, and that describing it in a way that actually explains what it looks like is even more difficult.
I think this is part of why authors often fall back on classic fantasy races and monsters. Even if the exact appearance of a troll or its weaknesses may vary based on a series, most readers have an idea in their mind of what a troll is. They can visualize it, and that helps the writer keep the focus on the story. Similarly, we end up with orcs, goblins, dragons, and myriad other races. I know that for some types of monsters I’ll occasionally check to see if there’s a mythological creature at least similar to what I’m going for before making something up.
This isn’t to say that creating new and unique monsters is to be avoided, far from it! I’m just saying that sometimes having the rare truly unique monster in the story can enhance the mystique of the creature, whereas if they’re all unique it can dampen the impact. As an odd example, I’ve had a couple of people ask me what Reyviss from Spells of Old and Halls of Power is, because she’s nothing like the other creatures people have seen.
In the end, though, sometimes classics are useful. A wolf works. A wolf that’s on fire, or made of fire, works well in some cases. Sometimes taking a monster and twisting their powers slightly to make something different is good, too. Like, say, a troll who can heal from anything so long as they have sunlight, so they hide at night. There are a host of things a writer can do. The question is, how does one balance the sense of an alien world with the magical traits common to fantasy with being familiar enough to relate to?
It’s not an easy question, and I don’t have the answer to it. But it’s one that I frequently muse on.