A New Race

Question: For my high fantasy, I want to create a world populated ENTIRELY by my own races, but I want them to be (for lack of a better word to use in a fantasy) believable. And I don't want to be cheesy or stereotypical, just making a bunch of green dudes who are obvious rip-offs of Orcs and things like that. Do you have any advice on how I could make convincing and believable races (not all of them "civilized") and histories, cultures, religions and/or countries to go with them without being cheesy? Thanks a bunch!


P.S. When I do get around to making languages for them, any advice? even if you're not familiar with conlanging, any thoughts on how the languages should reflect or relate to the people who speak them? Thanks again!

Answer: One very obvious way to find inspiration is through research.

Tolkein, for example, didn't invent elves, dwarves, and goblins. He drew upon history and mythology - as have many other writers before and since. Then he adapted the ideas from these sources to suit his own vision. Elves actually existed in history. They were human beings whose traits were exaggerated in folklore. Tolkein then made elves who resembled the folklore versions.

There are a lot of different cultures with mythologies you can find inspiration in.

Similarly, science fiction writers will draw upon scientific research and speculation when they create alien races and species.

You also may look at research in anthropology or sociology for ideas on designing fictional cultures.

Beyond that, it's the details that create a sense of authenticity. You want to understand all aspects of the culture and portray it consistently. Some writers enjoy making this stuff up rather than doing a lot of research, but it's harder than it sounds to do well.

As for languages, again writers often do their homework, using various human languages as a basis for the fictional ones. For example, Tolkein apparently based Sindarin on an obscure Welsh dialect that's now extinct.

You have to love this kind of research to do it well. And you have to be disciplined not to come down with the world-building disease, in which you spend so much time designing your world that you never get the story written.

Comments for A New Race

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Oct 26, 2012
Good Reference
by: Andrea D Rhyner

I really like the book "World Building" by Stephen Gillett.

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