Okay, now it's time for me to blog again. I was reading this article the other day on how to make your blog better, and one of the suggestions they had was to do pillar articles. That's basically when you explain how to do something in a series of short steps (usually five). This is going to be the first blog where I do that, and the topic will be on researching critters for books.
1. Know the land. Having a new land with exotic creatures is good and all, but what is the land like? What's the geography and weather, the climate and ecology like? It's no good having an animal in a land if you don't know what the land is like. You can't expect a polar bear to be happy in the Sahara, and a camel won't survive in the Arctic. You must have an idea of what kind of ecosystem the animal is used to before you write it in, whether it be prehistoric, modern, or legendary.
2. Make a list. When coming up with a new place for a story, it helps me to know what kind of bestiary the land has in my imagination. When I write down what I'd like to see there, it helps me to know what I need to research and leave the others to the side. This brings us to our third step.
3. Do research. Writing about animals is good and all, but how much do you really know about them? It helps to read about the animals you'd like to write into your story so you know how to make them seem realistically. Suppose you want to write about Triceratops. You can't make it out to be a bloodthirsty monster living in the desert, because no one would believe that. You need to find out what it's home was like sixty-five million years ago, what it probably ate, what it's social behavior was probably like, etc. With creatures that never existed, you should read what you can about them, and try to make them seem believable for your story.
4. Decide what's going into the story. Now that you've done your research, you can decide which critter you really want in your story. Just make sure it'll help with the plot in some way. For example, in my book it was due to the appearance of a Great Lizard (known as Megalosaurus in our world) that caused Josun to head out on his adventures. Once you're sure of what's going to go into the story, you're ready for the final step.
5. Write. Now you can actually do your story. Be sure your critters are as believable as possible, and then put your story down on paper.
This doesn't just apply to animals. It's important to do research on humans if you're creating a world based off ancient societies. If you don't know how things were done in ancient times, you risk doing a bad story.