(A table of contents is available. This series will remain open for additional posts and the table of contents up-to-date as new posts are added.)
Part One: A Glimpse Ahead
If you’re a fan of works like The Song of Ice and Fire, Dragonriders of Pern, Alanna: The First Adventure, The Black Stallion, How to Train Your Dragon, Julie of the Wolves, and The Pit Dragons, you may already know what they all have in common: creature companions. Some of them are simple, real-world creatures such as birds, wolves, and horses, but others hail from the annals of mythology with dragons, dire-creatures, and in the case of The Chronicles of Narnia, gryphons, unicorns, phoenixes, and even salamanders living deep in the molten lava beneath Underland. In one of my very early–long abandoned–works, a lion side-kick made up an integral emotional support animal and battle companion to one of the characters. The idea of an animal or creature tagging along to provide those super cute moments of connection we savor as humans with our own animals is tempting to put one in our own works. But, just as important as rounding out our secondary and tertiary characters is making sure our creature companions are just as much characters as all the rest.
In this series, I hope to outline the key features of creature companions and their function within literature, aiming toward helping writers ensure they write more than just props. Despite the banner’s impression, this series is entitled “creature” instead of “animal” with the intent to highlight not just the real-world animals we carry in our backpacks and find in photographs, but also the entities that turn up from legend. For the purposes of the series, creature companion will cover characters whose physiology is not humanoid (dryads, naiads, minotaur, etc. are not included); they may be capable of speech (spoken, telepathic, written, or otherwise). It’s a broad definition for a broad topic. My reasoning behind the humanoid delineation is that they are likely to be well-handled by the same creation and development techniques as standard human characters. Non-humanoid characters take a little bit of extra attention in development, particularly with travel, care, and emoting. We’ll cover all those things plus how to make sure they’re holding their own in the narrative.
Next up: Form!