Baby leatherback turtle crawling across the beach in Florida, heading for the ocean 

Questions for developing the biology of a new species or race

Something to remember when developing your new species or races: always remember that your unique race/alien race should not distract from the narrative. It is always fun to experience new and different peoples that can be so similar to humanity while being so different. But you don’t want to create a main species that is so utterly alien that it distracts from your narrative. The details of your race should enhance your story, not needlessly complicate it.

So! With that in mind…

Starting from scratch:

  • What about them says “other”?
  • How are their environmental conditions reflected in their biology?
  • What texture/color is their skin or outer layer? Why?
  • Do they have hair? If so, where and what color(s)? What texture(s)?
  • How many biological sexes are there? How many genders?
  • How many cones do their eyes have?
  • How many limbs do they have? How are they used?
  • How many fingers/toes do they have? How has this altered their number system?
  • Were they the only race on their home planet that evolved to “intelligent?”

For further development:

  • How would it describe its setting?
  • Do they have physical traits specific to their class or caste?
  • What traits do others of their species find attractive? Why?
  • Do they use special tools to enhance or repair damaged/failing physical traits or senses (glasses/contacts, prosthetics, wheelchairs)?
  • What unifying characteristics set them apart from humans? What do they have in common?
  • What dietary needs do they have?
  • Do they use special ornamentation (clothing, jewelry, tattoos) to show rank, occupation, heritage, etc.?
  • How do they relate to temperature or climate?
  • Do they have joints or tendons that move in a way that would seem unnatural to humans?
  • What is their sexual biology like? Is it analogous to ours, or something entirely different?
  • What recreational activities are healthy/positive for their biology?
  • How does their body respond to various types of excitement or emotion?

Creative exercises for species/racial development:

  • If someone were write a wanted poster for a criminal of this race, what features would the notice highlight? Why?
  • What are (or hypothetically would be) the most popular plastic surgeries among people of this species?
  • What is their average morning routine? How do their care for themselves, physically, on a daily basis?
  • Write a short story in which someone of your new species/race attempts to put on a set of human clothes or visa versa. 
  • What is the most popular sport and how is it played? How do the species’ unique traits play into the game, if at all?

Check out the rest of the Brainstorming Series!
Magic Systems, Part One
Magic Systems, Part Two
New Worlds

rayne-archer  asked:

Any tips for creating a race for fantasy? Especially when there is multiple intelligent races in the world? I have the basics down, but my race still doesn't feel real yet. I'm having trouble adding to that, what can I do?


You’ll likely find my recent post Brainstorming for creating new species quite helpful. I’ll also be posting new parts of the brainstorming series in the coming weeks, including culture and civilizations, which might also be of help to you. 

The things that tend to bring depth to your races and their culture are things like entertainment, hobbies, quirks. You can have a race that is really cool on the surface, but in order to connect them to your human readers, to really give them depth, you want to show us how similar or dissimilar they are from our people, in every way. Have you thought about the kinds of food they like to eat? Why? What sorts of clothes they wear and why? How do they treat their children and why?

The “why” is a big part. Finding their motivation for all of the mundane actions (actions we tend to take for granted in our world) will take you a long way. 

Hope that’s helpful.

Happy writing!

I decided to start doing something against my color noobness. And my painting noobness. And my lack of halfway-decent headworld story images. There’s very much to learn, but I already found out some things while painting the above image.

Jabi takes her first careful steps out on the surface of Thaelèssyn, shortly after her calling. It may look like a peaceful winter landscape, but the longer she watches, the more uncomfortable she grows. There’s no life out there - everything died dancing on the Second Wall, the wedding of an impact winter and the Lodger war.


The Brain Scoop:
What is a Species?

When I was in high school, I learned that the definition of a species is two animals that can interbreed and give birth to fertile offspring. Like, dogs are all one species because they technically can interbreed (although, functionally, watching a Great Dane and a Chihuahua work it out might be… difficult), but donkeys and horses are different because – although they can mate and give birth – their offspring (mules) are sterile.

At the time, I thought – well, that’s pretty straight forward. Thanks, scientists, for solving yet another mystery of life. 

Fast forward to a few months ago when I asked one of my taxonomist colleagues to define a ‘species’ for me. The result of that (many hour-long) conversation inspired this video. Turns out, the answer isn’t, at all, straight-forward.