Curious Characteristics of Paranormal Creatures
by Cassy Campbell
Paranormal creatures are a staple of scifi and fantasy worlds. How could a new world seem like a different place if there aren’t fantastic beasts? But I wonder, then, why many new and unusual creatures in stories act like familiar and common household pets.
Have you ever noticed that any animal that befriends a character will immediately act like a cat or dog, wagging its tail or rubbing against the character? Sometimes they even purr, growl, or bark. They may play bow like a puppy, fetch something for the owner, and pant with their tongues out.
Dragons, for example, are often portrayed as cat-like. In the movie How to Train Your Dragon, the main dragon Toothless even chases a dot of light like a laser pointer. He purrs. He eats fish. He lashes his tail before he pounces. He is a large, scaly, hairless cat. If dragons were real, wouldn’t they be much more lizard-like, or at least more alien, than that? In the novel Eragon, a story about a dragon rider and his dragon, the dragon had her own alien culture, thoughts, and actions, which might be one of the reasons the book was such a sensation when it was released. She was a unique and believable character, which was especially important since she had language and thoughts that the reader was privy to.
Maybe this is just a personal pet peeve (pun intended!), but I’ve even seen writers make a horse into a dog, saying that it wagged its tail with enthusiasm, licked the owner’s face to show affection, lay down and cuddled with its owner, responded with snorts and whinnies to the owner’s dialogue, or neighed to warn the owner of impending danger. It’s not as if horses are impossible to meet on this world, and to anyone who has worked with one, it is immediately obvious that they do none of these things. To those who argue that alien species may be very similar to domestic animals, my responses would be: should they be? And would they be?
It seems like lazy writing to cop out and use immediately recognizable characteristics of the two most common pet species on this planet. Some of the most well-done animal characters have none of those things. They are their own entities. In the best possible (fantasy or scifi) world, if there is a beast in the story, it should be there for a reason, and be an integral character. It may take a little more explanation or a bit more visualization to make the reader understand what the animal thinks or the reasons behind its actions, but that extra effort pays off in the realization of the creature as a unique character that adds to the story, rather than being a stand-in symbol for ‘loyal mascot’, ‘animal friend’, or ‘comic relief’. So next time your story calls for a fantastic beast, make it really fantastic!
More About the Author:
Cassy Campbell grew up in the frozen tundra of the Far North. Perhaps not surprisingly, the long dark winters encouraged her love affair with stories from an early age, and one of her favorite things is still curling up under a blanket with a book. She had no idea what she was getting into, but she wrote her first novel and got out of the process alive. Once she realized that she loved to write stories as much as read them, the world was hers (at least the ones in her books), and the rest is history. She currently lives in the much balmier climate of the Not As Far North where she is, at this moment, likely daydreaming her way through her next story.
And check out Darkwalk, a dystopian futuristic scifi with plenty of action, suspense, genetic engineering, and mutant attack dogs, free on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks!
Lace is one of NIA-Teliad’s best agents. But when her partner Parker inexplicably turns against her, she only escapes with the help of a hauntingly familiar stranger named Rogue—a stranger who apparently knows more about her own past than she does. It isn’t until Rogue tells her the details of the past she’s made herself forget that she realizes NIA-Teliad doesn’t want her for what she did, but what she is.
When Rogue finds out what NIA-Teliad is really involved in, things take an even more sinister turn. Fossuel was used up decades ago, and the American Republic has been struggling to stay alive with the few power sources that are left. But Parker’s found the ultimate new power source. All it will cost is human lives.
Now Lace and Rogue have to stop him before more people die to supply fuel to those in power. They’ll have to go against her partner, her agency, and the shadow agency behind it all, the one she forgot existed: Darkwalk.
Lucky for her, she’s a Darkling.
*photo submitted by the author