A Writer’s Secrets to Fantasy Creature Creation: The Ehlief

Posted by: Bridgett.

Reader: Where do you get your ideas?

Bridgett: Depends on the idea.

Reader: Okay, well…You have all these weird creatures in your books and short stories. How do you come up with them?

Bridgett: Hmmm. How do I even begin to answer this question? 

Havok magazine 1.3 featuring "Vinesinger"

Havok 1.3 featuring “Vinesinger”

Last week, in celebration of the publication of my fantasy flash fiction story “Vinesinger,” I promised to let Light’s Scribe readers in on one of my secrets to creating bizarre creatures.

So, how do I answer the above reader’s question?

When in doubt, I blame the niece and nephew. 

That’s right. If you encounter a strange, scary, or impossibly weird beast in one of my works, it’s likely all a child’s fault.

Over the years, I’ve been blessed to spend countless hours with my brother’s children. We often filled that time playing Barbie dolls, Legos, Transformers, or stuffed animals, acting out sword fights, building secret bases, or undertaking spy raids to thwart whatever nefarious crimes their parents were unaware of committing.

I confess, I think I’ve enjoyed those activities even more than did the kids. Each adventure we created was rich with story potential and fertile ground for birthing new characters.

Some of the sweetest words I’ve ever heard were spoken by my niece at age four. “Auntie, you have to play with me. You make up the best Barbie stories EVER!”

One afternoon about five years later, we sat on her bedroom floor creating a new story for the characters in my novel, with Barbies as the actors. My niece decided we needed a jungle story this time.

She unearthed a multi-colored fringe hair clip and attached it to the back of a boy-child doll’s pants.

Niece: He’s a jungle creature with a colorful tail. He looks like a little kid, but he’s really a thousand years old and very wise.

Me: His tail is larger than his whole body.

Niece: Hmm. Yeah, it’s supposed to be. They use their tails for all sorts of things. (Like swinging through trees, I later discovered.) All the colors in his tail mean something, and you really wanna stay away from these creatures if their tails are orange. Those are evil.

Thus was born the race of creatures my niece and I named the Ehlief. The name and basic concept were hers, though she remains a bit miffed with me for altering her spelling and a few minor features.

I’ve since added many new aspects to these fascinating creatures, including their culture, type of shelter, religious practices, language, social structure, and even how they reproduce and what happens when they die. The Ehlief and their secluded home became a significant element in the plot of my second novel.

One particular Ehlief, Shara, was born four years later as I enacted a swashbuckling adventure with my niece’s little brother. This spunky, quirky Ehlief refused to conform to the traditional roles of her society, possessing an unusual color combination in her oversized tail. You can read the beginning of her adventures in “Vinesinger.”

Yes, I owe my first official published work of fiction to playing with two adorable kids.

Several other great creatures and plot threads came out of playing with them…or telling them bedtime stories. Perhaps children’s imaginations are so richly “outside the box” because they haven’t yet learned there even exists a “box” into which we are supposed to fit. Thus, their hearts and minds remain open to the Author of all creativity. Wise creatures indeed, children.

Jesus recognized the importance of taking time with little ones.

 One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” Matthew 19:13-14 (MSG)

Many of my writer friends are parents. They, especially those with preschool or homeschooled children, often struggle to carve out time for writing. I’ve experienced this to a smaller degree when my niece and nephew were young, as I spent four days nearly every week babysitting them. What I discovered may come as a surprise to some.

All that time spent with the kids wasn’t actually keeping me “away” from my writing. Those hours were fueling my creativity, craft, and story content. Whether I used specific ideas from our play or not, the children’s imaginations fed my own.

My advice to busy parents, other writers, and anyone in need of a little inspiration or joy…Embrace the madness. Take time to play with a child and see where the adventure leads you!

Your turn to Shed Your Light below…

What is your favorite fantasy or sci-fi creature from literature or film? What makes it stand out in your memory?

About the author:

Bridgett's promo2Bridgett Powers has defied the limitations of impaired vision and overcome a 21-year battle against chronic pain, all of which taught her a profound truth. God shines brightest through cracked lanterns.

Now, she shares that truth through her fantasy novels, picture book, and short stories. A member of ACFW and MyBookTherapy, she also serves as co-leader and writing coach for her writer’s group, operates a proofreading and editing service, and teaches writing workshops.

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About Bridgett

fantasy novelist ~ picture book and short story author ~ freelance editor ~ writing coach

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